International Students and Employment Issues during COVID-19 Pandemic

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VicWISE principles

Our mission statement:

“To help International Students unlock opportunities for Employment”

Our Principles

  1. VicWISE believes that International Students in Australia should be respected as people who contribute culturally, socially, diplomatically and economically to the wider Australian community.
  2. VicWISE believes that the well-being of international students is absolutely crucial during the Pandemic. International students are largely young people and could often be particularly vulnerable and isolated. To be employable now, and in the future, both their physical and mental health is paramount, and they need clear pathways now to the support on offer from institutions, community organisations and the OSHC. International students must be aware of and contact these organisations to support their well-being.
  3. VicWISE believes that the primary focus of international students should be that of maintaining their status as students, and that they would like to complete their studies to the best of their ability.
  4. VicWISE recognises international students might have vastly different circumstances and that no statement will cover all students. In cases where students are struggling, we would encourage them to talk to their institutions or organisations.


VicWISE understands that international students have to continue to enhance their employability even during the pandemic. This means that any networking, research or work integrated learning (WIL) needs to be accessible virtually. There are key resources online where students can continue to develop their professional and personal development (see resource links below). Like all members of the wider community International students will need to grow and adapt to the changing work environment.

Work Integrated Learning (WIL) (including internships, research projects, project- based placements)

VicWISE recognises most industries are currently struggling under the pandemic to maintain viability. This is a universally difficult economic situation thereby increasing challenges in all aspects of employment. 

With respect to WIL, it is essential for international students to understand the limitations that host organisations are under, and the importance of maintaining good relationships with potential employers post-pandemic. Institutions are working to support all students to ensure the continuation of WIL where feasible. The following are some resources that are good starting points for students, to look beyond internships:

For employers, offering virtual or remote WIL may be an exciting new opportunity. VicWISE recognises and appreciates that many employers are already doing this. For employers that are starting to explore this opportunity, there are resources available to help set these up:

Part-time Work & temporary change in work rights for some student visa holders.

VicWISE advises students to make sure that they have a manageable balance between their full-time study and part-time employment. 

VicWISE recognises some employers have been approved to employ international students temporarily for more than 40 hours/fortnight across different sectors.

VicWISE suggests that excessive part-time work can have long term implications for course success and long-term employability. This article on working part-time during the pandemic lays out the various factors to consider.

Support from Educational Institutions

VicWISE recognises that many larger institutions have various forms of support for international students. VicWISE recommends that smaller educational institutions that have yet to provide support, need to urgently be more pro-active in practical support for international students (e.g. extensions for fee payment where relevant, payment plan options).

Virtual Professional Development

VicWISE encourages international students to explore all the professional and personal development opportunities on offer. For example, students could take advantages of resources such as LinkedIn Learning, Khan Academy, Google Code Academy, amongst other resources. VicWISE will start to run Virtual Professional Development workshops for students. Please check the following platforms for information on VicWISE:

Employer Relief Fund

VicWISE would recommend that economic modelling be done to research the viability of the Employer Relief Fund being applied to Australian employers who have international students as part of their workforce.

Call the dedicated coronavirus (COVID-19) hotline on 1800 675 398 (24 hours, 7 days a week) for advice.
For any enquiry, please leave us a message.

Published: April 2020