From 1 January 2023, all higher education students, including those who commenced prior to 2021, must have a USI.
On this page:
The effect of section 53A of the Student Identifiers Act 2014 (SI Act) is that from 1 January 2023, all higher education students studying towards an Australian higher education qualification must have a USI to be eligible to receive their award. This requirement is separate from the requirement for higher education students to have a USI to be eligible for Commonwealth support from 1 January 2021, and applies to all higher education students, including international students. Individual exemptions can be sought through the Student Identifiers Registrar but will prevent a student from accessing a CSP or HELP.
When must the student have a USI?
While students seeking Commonwealth support, in the form of a Commonwealth supported place and /or a HELP loan, are required to submit their USI at the time they apply for support, other students do not legally require a USI until the point of degree conferral. As a matter of practice, it is preferable to collect the USI at the time of enrolment, however, the Government is aware that Australian identity documents are required for the creation of a USI.
International students studying onshore who have not yet arrived must not be required to provide a USI as a condition of enrolment. Please ensure that administration staff at higher education providers and Tertiary Admission Centres are aware that a USI must not be a mandatory requirement at enrolment for international students. Once onshore, international students should be encouraged to acquire a USI as soon as possible. These students must not be advised to apply for an individual exemption. Advising students to seek an exemption where they would be later able to obtain a USI will not be tolerated.
Offshore international students exemption
The Minister for Education has, by legislative instrument, provided an exemption for offshore international students to require a USI in order to have their award conferred. This provides an exemption for students who are unable to be assigned a USI because they do not have the necessary supporting documentation, and will not complete any of their study onshore in Australia. The exemption also provides that international students who have completed their course of study in Australia prior to 1 January 2023, and have returned to their home country, are exempt from the conferral of award requirement.
International onshore students
Please note that students who have partially studied onshore, prior to 1 January 2023, but will complete the remainder of their study offshore in their home country, are not exempt from the conferral of award requirement. These students should be directed to acquire a USI as soon as possible. If one of these students has already returned to their home country to complete their study offshore, they will need to apply for an individual exemption through the Student Identifiers Registrar. It is the expectation that only students in this situation, or students who have a genuine personal objection will seek an individual exemption, and that the vast majority of students studying in Australia will apply for a USI during their enrolment or study period. The department is reviewing the exemption instrument in consideration of extension to this cohort.
Providers should confirm the status of their international students before informing them that they are required to provide their USI to receive their award. Due to the COVID-19 disruptions, we are seeing that many students have been initially enrolled as ‘on campus students’ but have entirely studied offshore. These students would be exempt from the requirements if they go on to complete the remainder of their degree offshore. Please ensure that enrolment location information is correctly reported to reflect the actual circumstances as this may affect their USI requirements.
Providers should enter blank/NULL in the USI field for students that are exempt from the requirements under the instrument, or have sought an individual exemption from the Registrar. Domestic students that have sought an exemption from the conferral requirements can also enter blank/NULL, but the validations will provide a notification requiring a USI. The department, in conjunction with the USI Office is currently working on a solution that will recognise that a student has received an exemption and the validations will not continue to provide a notification.
Completion of courses onshore
We also wish to remind providers that allowing students to complete a significant portion of their study overseas may be non-compliant with the National Code. The National Code requires that providers provide a specific portion of face-to-face learning for international students studying on an Australian student visa. TEQSA announced the return to compliance for the ESOS National Code on 19 Oct 2022.
The Department has also been made aware that a number of providers are requiring international students to have a USI or an exemption to access their uncompleted record of results/transcript which is often required for a student to transfer to a new course of study. It is not a requirement of the SI Act that a student have a USI to access these details. Students must not be asked for a USI or advised to request an individual exemption to access their uncompleted record of results/transcript.