Nurse Bridging Program Visa Options: Visitor visa or Student visa?

Overseas qualified Registered Nurses (RNs) are required to study in Australia to get an RN registration from the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency(AHPRA) and become eligible to work here as an RN.  The quickest way to gain an Australian RN registration in is to take up the Nurse Bridging Program (it is also called the Initial Registration for Overseas Nurses, IRON). To legally enter Australia and take this course, RNs can either hold a visitor visa or a student visa.

This article intends to compare and discuss the high-level requirements, costs, and benefits of applying for and holding a student visa versus a visitor visa and provide examples.

Visitor Visa Subclass 600 Business Visitor Stream

There are many Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) that offer Nurse Bridging Program that is not CRICOS registered.  RNs enrolled on non-CRICOS coded Nurse Bridging Program can only apply for a visitor visa.

The current visitor visa application charge is $140. It’s current processing time (published on the Home Affairs website at the time of writing this article) is between 7 -18 days.  Based on my experience, Filipino passport holders usually get visitor visas with 12 months validity and with a maximum stay of three months.  Visitor visa business stream comes with mandatory conditions such as: No Work (8115) and Maximum of three months training/study (8201). A no further stay condition (8503) may also be imposed.

For example, Amy enrolled at ACFE in Melbourne and was granted a Visitor Visa Subclass 600 Business Visitor Stream valid for twelve months with multiple entry and a maximum stay of three months on each arrival.  Amy is not allowed to work while on this visa and should leave Australia before she reaches the third month of her arrival in Australia.  If Amy decides to stay in Australia and apply for another visa (for example, a student visa), Amy will be issued a bridging visa and it will activate when she reaches the third month of her stay in Australia.  Amy’s Bridging Visa will also have a no work condition and she can only start working once her student visa is granted and her new course has started.

Student Visa Subclass 500

RNs enrolled with education providers that have CRICOS registered Nurse Bridging Program have the option to either apply for a student visa or a visitor visa business stream.  Currently, the CRICOS website enlists Deakin University, ETEA, and La Trobe University as providers of IRON program in Victoria which are CRICOS registered.  You can find CRICOS registered Nurse Bridging Programs in Australia by clicking on the link below, specify the state, and key in “Initial Registration” under the course name.

The current student visa application charge is $560. Its current processing time (as shown on the Home Affairs website at the time of writing this article) is between 2 -7 days.  The stay period for this visa covers the period of study (three months for the IRON program) plus one month, giving you a total stay for four months.

Genuine temporary entrant (GTE) requirement should be satisfied when applying for this visa.  This means that you should provide evidences to show that your qualification or current/previous job is highly related to Nursing, you intend to get back to your country of origin after taking up the IRON program, and you intend to follow all the conditions of your visa once granted.  In some cases, evidence of financial capacity is required depending on the risk assessment level of the education provider you have enrolled to and your country of origin’s risk assessment level.

For example, Dennis enrolled at Deakin University in Melbourne and was granted a Student Visa Subclass 500 valid for 4 months.  Dennis can work 40 hours per fortnight once his course starts and while his course is in session.  Once Dennis completes his IRON program, he can work full time until he leaves Australia or until his next visa is granted.

If Dennis gets a job offer, a 457 visa sponsorship and applies for a 457 visa before his student visa expires, he will be issued a Bridging Visa A that lets him stay in Australia and work full time while waiting for his 457 visa to be granted.

In summary, a visitor visa is cheaper than a student visa, it gives you twelve months of visa validity but you have to exit before you reach the third month from the time you arrived in Australia and you won’t be allowed to work while on this visa and while waiting for the decision of your next visa (if you have applied for one while you are here in Australia).  A student visa is more expensive than a visitor visa but it gives you a longer stay period of four months and lets you work once you have started your course until you leave Australia or until your next visa is granted.