What is an exchange student?
Exchange students are international secondary students who:
- are undertaking an exchange program of between 29 days and one year, arranged by a registered school or an organisation approved by the VRQA as a student exchange organisation
- hold a subclass 500 student visa; and
- present an Advice and Acceptance of a Secondary Exchange Student form (AASES form) to the school on arrival.
For more information about VRQA approved student exchange organisations, see:
What are the citizenship requirements for participation?
To be sure that student visa requirements are met, application forms for inbound and outbound student exchange program participation must ask for every citizenship held by the student.
Inbound exchange students
Students living overseas who hold Australian citizenship cannot participate in secondary student exchange programs to Australia.
Inbound exchange students must enter Australia on a Student Visa (subclass 500) issued through an AASES form. Australian citizens are ineligible for an Australian visa.
Australian citizens attending school overseas have a right of entry to Australia and are eligible to enrol in Victorian Government schools at any time. Their parents can arrange a period of school enrolment in Australia through another mechanism.
Student exchange program applicants who hold multiple citizenships (other than Australian citizenship) must clearly state which passport they will use to enter and exit Australia.
Applicants must declare all nationalities they hold in their application for an Australian student visa.
Outbound exchange students
Outbound exchange students who have Australian citizenship must travel as an Australian citizen only, and only use their Australian passport for exiting and entering Australia.
Students who hold Australian citizenship may be refused entry to Australia if their Australian passport is lost, stolen or expired – even if their other national passports remain valid.
If an outbound exchange student is an Australian permanent resident (that is, not a citizen) the student must travel on the passport of the nationality under which they were granted their Australian permanent residence visa.
An SEO may choose to require its outbound students to only travel with their nominated passport during the exchange program.
Can a parent of a student at my school arrange a private exchange program for their nephew overseas, and enrol the child as an 'exchange student' at my school?
No. Parents, schools, clubs and organisations that are not approved by the VRQA as a secondary student exchange organisation (SEO) cannot arrange 'private' student exchange programs into Australia.
Parents and organisations seeking to enrol international students holding visitor visas in Victorian schools may seek enrolment for short periods up to 12 weeks of tuition, but:
- must pay tuition fees if enrolling in a Victorian government school (for further details go to the International Division of the Victorian Department of Education and Training)
- may be required to pay tuition fees if enrolling in a Victorian Catholic or independent school (for further information contact the school directly).
Note: Only international students participating in exchange programs provided by VRQA approved SEOs are 'exchange students'. For more information, see:
Does a principal need to seek approval to enrol an exchange student?
No. The Victorian Department of Education and Training supports the secondary student exchange program.
Schools just need to check that the request to enrol an exchange student is from a VRQA-approved student exchange organisation.
Is a school obliged to accept an exchange student?
No. The decision to accept or decline an exchange student is at the principal's discretion. Principals may consider issues such as availability of student places, appropriate timing of the program, support required, and whether resources are available to ensure that a satisfactory program can be offered.
How do I know if the organisation that is proposing the exchange is approved?
If you have concerns about whether an organisation is approved, please contact us on (03) 9032 1539.
For more information about VRQA approved student exchange organisations, see:
Who is responsible for an exchange student's accommodation and welfare?
The school is responsible for the exchange student during school hours, as well on school activities and excursions, as per their obligations to all enrolled students.
The SEO is responsible for arranging suitable accommodation and support, and for the general welfare of the exchange student throughout the program, including during school holidays.
All VRQA-approved SEOs are required to have local coordinators in Victoria to support exchange students and liaise effectively with schools. Schools should keep a contact number for the student's local coordinator for use in an emergency.
SEOs are responsible for recruiting, selecting and screening local host families for exchange students, and for monitoring and supporting students and host families during the exchange program.
What is an AASES form?
AASES stands for 'Acceptance Advice for Secondary Exchange Student'. The form is the official student exchange visa/immigration document. It is generated by the VRQA and issued to each exchange student through their SEO.
The AASES form is used for the processing of student visas and for the enrolment of exchange students in Victorian schools. Without an AASES form a student cannot be considered a bona fide exchange student, and should not be enrolled under this category.
The principal must complete and sign Part D of the AASES form. A copy of the completed AASES form must be kept with the student's school file, and a completed and signed copy returned directly to the SEO.
The AASES form is evidence that the student's parents have authorised their child's participation in the exchange program and enrolment at the school. It also confirms that the SEO has accepted responsibility for the welfare of the exchange student while they are in Australia.
All AASES forms issued by VRQA bear the VRQA logo and a unique AASES number (e.g. V14/1234).
What is the process for accepting and enrolling an exchange student?
An SEO will contact a school to request permission from the principal to enrol an exchange student for a specific exchange program (advising of the proposed start and end dates).
Where a school agrees to an enrolment for that period, the SEO will provide the relevant information about the exchange student, the student's host family in Victoria and the contact details for the organisation's local coordinator.
On arrival at the school, the exchange student (and/or the representative of the organisation) will provide a copy of the student's AASES form (Acceptance Advice of Secondary Exchange Student).
The school completes Part D of the AASES form, keeps a copy of the AASES form on the student's school file, and provides a copy to the exchange organisation.
Do exchange students pay fees?
No. Official registered exchange students are treated the same as local students by the Commonwealth, state and territory governments.
Exchange students only pay any local school levies or charges relating to special subjects, school materials or resources that the student will keep, or any fees associated with school camps or excursions. These fees or charges should be discussed with the SEO before enrolment.
The exchange student has a 'Student Visa-Subclass 500' - aren't they regarded as fee paying students?
No. The Department of Home Affairs issues subclass 500 student visas to both full-fee paying international students and secondary exchange students.
The AASES form is proof that a student is an official exchange student.
Are exchange students eligible for student travel concession cards?
Yes. In Victoria, official exchange students can obtain Victorian student transport concession cards in the same manner as local students. This entitlement does not apply to full-fee paying international students.
Who can I contact if I have an issue with a student exchange organisation?
If you have a concern that cannot be resolved directly with the organisation, please contact us on (03) 9032 1539.
My school has an overseas 'sister-school'. Do I need to become a VRQA-approved student exchange organisation to host students from our sister school?
No, not if the students from your 'sister-school' are undertaking a short-term cultural visit to your school, and hold a visitor visa for Australia.
In a Victorian government school, this visit must be less than 28 days.
In a Victorian Catholic or independent school, this visit must be less than 12 weeks.
Schools that have an established 'sister-school' relationship with an overseas school may wish to seek approval as an SEO. This would enable them to expand their school-to-school exchange programs and offer opportunities for year-long student exchanges.