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International Students: What Are Your Rights At Work? (English)

This fact sheet provides an overview of the minimum employment rights of international students who live and work in Victoria.

Note – This factsheet is currently under review given recent announcements in the Federal Budget 2021.

Do you have any work rights as an international student?

Yes, international students have the same minimum rights and protections under the law as resident workers. That means that you are entitled to the same pay and minimum conditions of employment as resident workers.

The only difference is that, as an international student, you must be mindful of the limit on the number of hours that you can work while your course is in session.

Can your employer force you to work more than 40 hours a fortnight?

If your employer asks you to work more than 20 hours per week or 40 hours per fortnight, you are entitled to refuse. Employers who knowingly make international students breach their visa conditions face fines and criminal charges under the Migration Act 1958.

Further, Australian employment laws make it unlawful for an employer to punish you in any way (eg dismiss you, demote you or cut your work shifts) because you make a complaint or inquiry about your employment. If this happens to you, contact the International Students Work Rights Legal Service.

Know what type of worker you are

Before you start working for a person or a business, it is important that you understand what type of worker you will be. The two main types of worker are called employee and independent contractor. You are either one or the other – you can’t be both. Employees generally work for an employer who controls:

  • what work is to be done;
  • how the work is to be done; and
  • when and where the work is to be done.

Employees are entitled to minimum pay and other conditions. Independent contractors, instead, run their own business. They have an ABN (Australian Business Number) and they get paid after they issue an invoice for the services they have provided. They generally use their own tools and equipment to get the job done.

You could also be a volunteer in a not-for-profit organisation (eg a charity), which means you have agreed to do some work for free (without getting paid). Or you could be on a vocational placement, which involves doing work as a requirement of your course. You will not be paid for that vocational placement.

Other topics covered in the full fact sheet

  • If you are an employee: are you a permanent or casual employee?
  • Tax obligations
  • Minimum pay
  • Can you agree to an hourly rate that is lower than the minimum wage?
  • Trial work – can the employer ask you to work for free?
  • Payslips
  • Can your employer make deductions from your pay?
  • Other rights

For more information about work rights for international students, download the full fact sheet.

Need legal advice?

If you would like to make an appointment for free and confidential legal advice about your work rights with the International Students Employment and Accommodation Legal Service, please contact the Study Melbourne Student Centre by calling 1800 056 449 or emailing info@studymelbourne.vic.gov.au.

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