University human research ethics application procedures can be complicated and daunting, especially for international students unfamiliar with the process and the language. We conducted focus groups and interviews with four research higher degree and 21 Master’s coursework international students at an Australian university to gain their views on the human ethics application process. We found the most important influences on their experience were: the time it took to do an application; support from supervisors, peers and others; their own language skills; and their lack of familiarity with research ethics procedures. To improve the experience of international students undertaking research involving human research ethics applications, we recommend universities provide guidance on institutional ethics review processes, concepts and terminology, with translations in a range of languages, together with guidance on how to conduct research ethically within and outside the students’ own countries. We also recommend curricula be developed to further students’ understanding of the importance of ethical research practice, and that these curricula be embedded in undergraduate and postgraduate degree programs and reflected in course learning outcomes.