Frequently asked questions on this page:
Where students under the age of 18 are not being cared for in Australia by a parent or suitable nominated relative, registered providers ensure the arrangements made to protect the personal safety and social well-being of those students are appropriate.
This standard clarifies the requirement that appropriate accommodation, support and general welfare arrangements be in place for the period that the student will be under 18 years old while in Australia. The provider must nominate the dates for which it will be responsible for these arrangements and for monitoring any changes to them.
Under Migration Regulations, the provider must nominate a period of at least the Confirmation of Enrolment (CoE) plus seven days in order to satisfy DIBP provisions for appropriate welfare arrangements.
Where the registered provider has taken on responsibility under the Migration regulations for approving the accommodation, support and general welfare arrangements for a student who has not turned 18, the registered provider must:
nominate the dates for which the registered provider accepts responsibility for approving the student’s accommodation, support and general welfare arrangements using the specified PRISMS pro forma letter
advise DIAC in writing of the approval using the specified PRISMS pro forma letter
have documented procedures for checking the suitability of the student’s accommodation, support and general welfare arrangements; and
advise DIAC as soon as possible in the event that the under-18 year-old-student has changed his or her living arrangements or the registered provider no longer approves of the arrangements for the student using the specified PRISMS pro forma letter.
Where Standard 5.1 applies and the student is under 18 with a student visa that covers multiple courses, the registered provider with whom the student is currently enrolled is responsible for approving arrangements for the student’s accommodation, support and general welfare during that nominated period.
Where Standard 5.1 applies and the registered provider terminates, suspends or cancels the enrolment of the student, the registered provider must continue to check the suitability of arrangements for that student until:
the student is accepted by another registered provider and that registered provider takes over responsibility for approving the student’s accommodation, support and general welfare arrangements
the student leaves Australia
other suitable arrangements are made that satisfy the Migration regulations; or
the registered provider reports under Standard 5.1.d that it can no longer approve of the arrangements for the student.
To demonstrate compliance, a provider may need some of the following as evidence:
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Please note: The principles in the examples below can be applied to all sectors.
Does the provider need to ensure that the student has a legal guardian in Australia?
There is no requirement under the National Code 2007, the ESOS legislation or DIBP to have a legal guardian.
If a parent arranges for a younger student to stay with a family friend who is not a permanent resident, can the provider approve those arrangements?
Yes – if the institution approves the student’s welfare arrangements by signing the CAAW letter. If the person providing care is not a permanent resident, the provider must have evidence the carer was allowed to stay in the country at least until the end of the care arrangements. DIBP strongly recommends providers ensure they approve of carers that are:
Older siblings younger than 21 are generally not considered to be appropriate carers.
What relatives will DIBP approve for a younger student to live with while studying in Australia? What should the provider do to ensure that the person the student claims to be a relative really is a relative?
DIBP has a list of relatives they consider appropriate carers. They must be one of the following:
They must also:
The provider does not have to be concerned if the ‘relative’ is genuine because DIAC will use its own processes to determine the authenticity of relationships in the arrangements it approves. The provider is not obliged to follow up on arrangements put in place by DIBP. However, the provider has a duty of care to contact DIBP if they became aware the student was not being well looked after.
For further information on requirements, please see the DIBP website.
If the provider signs the CAAW letter they place a student into, or approve of, arrangements they consider suitable, taking into account the provisos already listed.
If under-18 students are living with relatives approved by DIBP, do providers need a contract with their carers?
No. Students either have their own care arrangements approved by DIBP (which does not involve the provider) or care arrangements approved by the provider. If the provider does not approve the welfare arrangements (by not issuing a CAAW letter), they have no obligation to have a contract with the student’s carer.
What duty of care does a provider have for students over 18?
Normal duty of care arrangements applies for students over 18. This will partly depend on your institution and you may need to research this issue. If there is a particular case you may need to seek your own legal advice.
If responsibility for an under 18 student expires one week after course completion, how does the provider ensure the student leaves the country?
DIBP will issue the student visa according to the dates nominated on the CAAW letter. If the student does not go home, or does not change their visa type, e.g. if their parents visit, they will be in breach of their visa. The provider should discuss the conditions of the approval of welfare arrangements with the student at an appropriate time, but they are not responsible for ensuring the student leaves the country.
Is the homestay provider or education provider responsible for a student who is absent from the homestay without notice?
Once an education provider has nominated dates for which it will approve care arrangements for an under-18-year-old student, the responsibility to approve arrangements continues throughout that period. The education provider’s arrangements with the homestay provider could include a requirement that the homestay provider notify the education provider in the case of a prolonged or unexplained absence.
Student is missing
Johann is 16 and is currently in Australia studying desktop publishing at International Media College. He is living in a homestay situation that has been approved by International Media College. Over the last few weeks, he has started to be absent for extended periods from homestay. One Friday night, he told his homestay parents that he would be going out late and would ring if coming home later than 2 pm Saturday.
By Saturday evening, Johann had not returned home and had not made any contact. His homestay parents had been unable to contact him on his mobile phone. They rang the International Student Co-ordinator at International Media College to tell them Johann had gone out on Friday night and had not returned. The International Student Co-ordinator was obviously concerned by this, thanked them and advised that the college would invoke its critical incident procedure.
In accordance with its critical incident policy and procedures, International Media College rang Johann’s parents and the police of the Johann’s disappearance and continued liaising with police and/or other state authorities to locate Johann.
Can a student arrive in Australia in time to holiday or visit friends prior to the course start date?
Yes, providing welfare arrangements have been approved by the provider.
Student wishes to arrive to Australia before course is due to begin
Ciara has always wanted to visit Australia, and her parents have finally agreed to let her study the final year of her secondary education here. She contacts an education agent who helps her to find a school that looks suitable. The school has a number of other international students and is aware of its responsibilities to approve appropriate accommodation and welfare arrangements for Ciara. Although the school term is due to begin in February, Ciara thinks that it would be perfect to spend two weeks at a beach in Australia before classes begin. Because she is under 18, she has negotiated with the school to extend the approved care arrangements to allow for the extra two weeks before course commencement. The school has let DIBP know the period that the approved arrangements would cover via the CAAW letter. The school has nominated 14 days of approved care arrangements both before and after her course.
Ciara’s visa has been granted one month before the commencement of the approved arrangements. If she travels to Australia before the date nominated by her provider on the CAAW, she will be in Australia without adequate welfare arrangements and therefore in breach of student visa condition 8532. Ciara is happy to wait to come to Australia until the agreed 14 days before her course begins. Her parents are satisfied that the accommodation and welfare arrangements that the school has approved will provide a safe experience for their daughter.
Can a provider use an accommodation agent to arrange suitable accommodation for its students on the provider’s behalf?
Yes, as long as the arrangements the agent sets in place are acceptable to the provider and meet the requirements of the National Code. The provider remains responsible for its obligations under Standard 5.
What does the acronym CAAW stand for?
CAAW – Confirmation of Appropriate Accommodation and Welfare – is the DIBP proforma letter downloadable through PRISMS. Providers use it to create a CoE for a younger student aged under 18. Once the CAAW is created, providers have the option to change or advise DIBP if they do not approve care arrangements.
Can providers generate the CAAW letter off PRISMS without creating the CoE?
No. A CAAW letter is created with the CoE as the details of the CoE must be included in the CAAW. The CAAW cannot exist without the details of the CoE. If providers need a pre visa assessment they may state they will approve welfare arrangements within a given timeframe when they send the student a letter of offer. The welfare approval dates could be agreed when the student accepts the letter of offer. The CoE and CAAW could then be created.
Can you clarify start and end dates on the CAAW? How can the gap between ELICOS or Secondary School and Tertiary Education be managed so as not to disadvantage the student?
When nominating start and end dates on the CAAW letter, the provider needs – at a minimum – to nominate dates to cover the course plus seven days at the end.
Providers can also approve arrangements for students to cover the gap between ELICOS or Secondary school and a tertiary course. Some ELICOS providers arrange with homestay families to provide accommodation for students over the break. The provider has a responsibility to ensure the student is in appropriate care for their age and situation and to have a checking mechanism. This could be a fortnightly call to the homestay to check the arrangement is continuing.
If the student is planning to go home, the provider may still issue a CAAW letter to cover the period (agreed with the student and his/her family) the student will be abroad. This arrangement will mean the student does not need multiple visa applications and should benefit both the student and provider.
Another option is for the providers in the package arrangements to agree among themselves to cover the gap by approving the students’ welfare arrangements. Care arrangements may be approved at the discretion of the provider. Obviously, exercising good judgement in this area will minimise future fallout.
Once the provider has approved care arrangements, the student must maintain those arrangements. If this does not happen, the provider should notify DIBP they are no longer able to approve the student’s welfare. This will be a breach of the student’s visa and the student may lose their visa and be subject to a three year exclusion period. Clearly, it will be in the interests of both the provider and the student to ensure that adequate arrangements are in place before the CAAW letter is issued.
There is no reason to disadvantage the student if expectations have been clearly communicated.
If a student gets a package visa for ELICOS and high school, students usually have a long break between finishing English and starting school. What end date should the first provider put on the CAAW letter?
For a student visa the maximum course gap is two months. An under-18 student will not get a visa to cover a package if no welfare arrangements exist for the gap between their courses. The provider must decide if they will approve the student’s welfare arrangements. If a package course works for the benefit of all parties, providers can agree between themselves to approve the student’s welfare arrangements in the gap period. Some providers negotiate arrangements which will allow the student to stay in Australia.
The provider must meet the minimum requirement to nominate dates, which cover the length of the CoE plus seven days at the end. The provider has discretion to take on further welfare arrangements if they wish.
How do providers advise DIBP of changes to students’ accommodation arrangements?
Proforma letters downloadable through PRISMS allow providers to:
Whose responsibility is it to help an under-18 student extend their visa?
The person ultimately responsible is the parent or legal custodian; however, there is nothing preventing the institution flagging the need for the visa to be renewed and assisting the student in the process.
What happens when an under-18 student who is about to complete his or her course wants to continue studying in Australia?
The under-18 student will need to lodge a new student visa application and will need to show DIBP that he or she has adequate welfare arrangements in place at the time of lodging the new application. These arrangements must extend until the student either turns 18 or the new course ends, whichever happens first. Please note that students with the ‘No further stay’ condition (8534 or 8535) on their visas may not be able to apply for a further visa onshore.
Student finishing course wants to enrol at a new provider
Maria is 17 and studying at the Capital College of Creative Communication. She only has two weeks left until she finishes her Certificate IV in Advertising. Her visa is due to expire one week after she finishes her course, as this was the period Capital College nominated to approve welfare arrangements for Maria.
Maria has approached another provider, Superior Communication Academy, to see if she can enrol to study their Diploma of Advertising when she has completed her current course. The academy agrees and, after she pays her deposit, it issues her a CoE to begin in eight weeks. It has also agreed to approve welfare arrangements for Maria from the start date of the CoE.
Maria goes to DIBP to lodge her new student visa application to study at Superior Communication Academy. DIBP advises Maria that it will not accept her application unless she can show that she has adequate welfare arrangements from the time she lodges her new student visa application until she completes her new course. At present, there is a gap in welfare arrangements for Maria: her current arrangements are due to finish when her visa expires and the new welfare arrangements with Superior Communication Academy will not begin for eight weeks (or five weeks after her visa expires and current welfare arrangements cease).
Maria approaches Superior Communication Academy to see if it will extend the period for which it will approve welfare arrangements to cover the gap between courses. As this is five weeks before Maria’s course begins, Superior Communication Academy does not have any places available at the homes it has approved and is not able to offer to extend the period for which it will approve welfare arrangements.
Maria’s parents cannot come to Australia to take responsibility for her during the gap period, so she asks Superior Communication Academy if she can stay with her friends. Superior Communication Academy assesses the arrangements and is not prepared to give approval. Maria considers other options. She could approach another provider and enrol in a course with that provider if it was willing to approve care arrangements to cover the gap between courses or she could leave Australia and lodge her new student visa application offshore. Maria decides to return home.
If a student arrived much earlier than expected, does the provider have a duty of care during that time?
The provider is only responsible for approving welfare arrangements for a student for the dates they have nominated on the CAAW letter. Unless the student has other arrangements in place (which have been approved by DIBP), e.g. they may be accompanied by a parent, the student will not be allowed to travel before the start date on the CAAW letter.
Should younger students be accompanied by guardians when they travel daily to the institute?
There is no legal requirement for a student to have a guardian. Arrangements for travel to and from the institute depend on the situation. The provider may approve arrangements which they deem suitable. Good practice would be to apply the same arrangements that are appropriate for domestic students of a similar age and apply some extra precautions, e.g. a buddy system if there’s a chance the student could become confused or lost.
Agreements can be set up with parents about responsibility for the student’s unsupervised travel. However, the provider is still expected to exercise a duty of care and approve arrangements that are appropriate for the age and capability of the child. These arrangements need to be supported by accurate in-school record keeping so records of tardiness and attendances are accessible to those responsible for the student’s travel.
What should a provider do if the student is unable to get flights to match the dates on the CAAW?
The visa start date depends on the dates the provider puts on the CAAW letter. A student cannot travel to Australia prior to the welfare arrangements taking effect. The provider should discuss the CAAW dates with the student before they issue the CoE and CAAW letter. If the CAAW letter has been issued and the student cannot get a flight within the nominated period, a new CoE and CAAW letter must be issued and the student must apply for a new visa. If the student travels to Australia before their welfare arrangements are due to commence, they will be in breach of student visa condition 8532 and may have their visa cancelled.
What stops a student from taking a short holiday before arriving where extra days had been included in the nominated dates of the CAAW?
If a provider undertakes to approve welfare arrangements for a student they must communicate what this means to the student. The student must be clear about their obligations and the provider’s expectations. The student must maintain the approved arrangements as a condition of their enrolment with the provider. However, the student can negotiate with their provider to include a holiday before settling into their accommodation. The provider must agree to this arrangement.
What happens when a student is applying for a student visa offshore and two or more providers are unable to agree on transfer of the accommodation, support and general welfare arrangements for under-18 students?
If two or more providers are unable to agree on accommodation, support and general welfare arrangements and this results in a gap in care arrangements, the student will not be granted a visa that covers the course with the second or subsequent providers.
If providers cannot agree to provide accommodation, support and general welfare arrangements for the entire period between courses at different providers, can the student make alternative arrangements?
Yes, if one of the providers approves the arrangements or if the student puts in place welfare arrangements that satisfy the migration regulations, such as reside with a parent, legal custodian or suitable relative.
Alternative welfare arrangements between courses
Azeema is 16 and has chosen to study a package of courses in Australia. She has been offered places in an English Language Intensive Course for Overseas Students (ELICOS) course at The ESL Institute and then the Diploma of Information Systems, her principal course of study, at DB Global. The ESL Institute has issued a CoE and nominated the period for which it will approve Azeema’s welfare arrangements. This period covers the length of her ELICOS course plus seven days.
There are a few weeks between the end of the ELICOS course and the start date of her diploma course. As under-18-year-old students must be provided with appropriate accommodation and welfare at all times while on a student visa, DB Global and The ESL Institute have agreed on a date for DB Global to take over approving the accommodation and welfare arrangements for Azeema. DB Global has issued Azeema her CoE and nominated the period for which it will take on responsibility for approving her accommodation and welfare arrangements.
One week after Azeema begins her ELICOS course, DB Global contacts The ESL Institute to explain that it has made a mistake. Although it can approve arrangements for the duration of her course plus seven days, it can no longer approve arrangements during the period between her ELICOS and Diploma courses. DB Global has asked if The ESL Institute could extend its coverage until DB Global is able to take over. The ESL Institute is not able to assist.
Because DB Global has nominated dates for which it would take welfare responsibility for Azeema, it is aware that it must approve an alternative arrangement for her. DB Global contacted all its other approved homestay providers but there is no space available for Azeema. DB Global has also informed Azeema that she is welcome to propose alternative suitable arrangements that it may be able to approve. Unfortunately, Azeema could find no other arrangement of which DB Global can approve.
Azeema contacts her parents to explain the situation and to ask if they are able to come to Australia during that period and be responsible for her welfare. Her parents agree and begin their preparations. As Azeema’s parents will only be staying for a short period of time, they make tourist visa applications to DIBP. In this case, their visa applications are successful. When Azeema’s parents arrive in Australia, they will rent an apartment and DB Global will be happy to approve Azeema’s welfare arrangements.
The Migration Act 1958
Student visa conditions 8532, 8534 and 8535
Education providers' roles and responsibilities
For further information, please visit the AEI and DIBP websites .