Prime Minister Scott Morrison has finally announced that fully vaccinated international students will be welcomed back to Australia from Wednesday 1 December.
International students make an invaluable contribution to Australian state’s culture, community, and economy. Australia benefits from international students returning not just directly in the higher education sector, which has had massive job losses since Australia closed its borders, but also in the flow-on economic benefits from student spending in areas like housing, food and services. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, international education was Australia’s third-largest export industry, worth about 40 billion Australian dollars a year to the wider economy.
Number of international students holding visas still overseas
China (45% approx.), India (17% approx.), Nepal (8% approx.), Brazil (5% approx.) and Malaysia (5% approx.) are the top 5 countries which used to contribute to Australian Education Industry and are now the most affected by Covid-lockdown; with approximately 160,000 student visa holders stuck in their home countries.
Since 2020 there has been a dramatic drop in international student visa applications where the applicant is outside Australia. This is important because applicants from outside Australia will replace those students who finish their studies and return home. This suggests there will be a substantial impact on overall international student figures for some time, as new students from outside Australia are unable to start their courses.
What does this mean for international students?
Fully vaccinated international students with a valid visa can return to Australia from 1 December 2021 without needing to apply for a travel exemption.
Under these arrangements, travellers must:
- Be fully vaccinated with a completed dosage of a vaccine approved or recognised by Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration
- Hold a valid visa for one of the eligible visa subclasses
- Provide proof of their vaccination status
- Present a negative COVID-19 Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test taken within three days of departure.
Students returning to Australia may only enter and travel between NSW, Victoria and the ACT without quarantining.
If students wish to travel on to another state or territory they may not be allowed to enter yet, or may be subject to a quarantine period.
Commonwealth Government’s Plan for International Students
NSW, VIC, SA and QLD are most affected by travel restrictions for International Students.
Australia’s state and territory governments, in consultation with the Australian government and education providers, are developing International Student Arrivals Plans to enable a limited numbers of students to travel to Australia until current travel restrictions are lifted.
(As of 15 November 2021) The Australian Government has endorsed/about to endorse International Student Arrival Plans for NSW, VIC, SA and QLD.
New South Wales (NSW)
The NSW International Student Arrivals Pilot Plan to return international students to NSW has received support from the Australian Government and NSW Government.
The Pilot Plan will allow a limited number of 250 international students studying with NSW education providers to return each fortnight from 6 December 2021.
Under the Pilot, international students who return to Australia must be fully vaccinated with a Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) recognised COVID-19 vaccination before landing in Sydney.
NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet said international education played a vital role in connecting NSW to the world.
“This is a significant milestone in our road map to recovery and I can’t wait to welcome back such an important part of our community,” Mr Perrottet said.
“They don’t just make a significant contribution to our economy, international students play a role in our culture and contribute to our community and lifestyle.”
The NSW Government has announced that we will not require international students to quarantine, including under the Pilot Plan, where students are fully vaccinated with a TGA recognised vaccine and the Commonwealth Government has approved their travel to Australia. The Commonwealth Government is responsible for granting travel exemptions to enter Australia and NSW is working with the Commonwealth on securing travel exemptions for students returning under the Pilot Plan.
The NSW International Student Arrivals Pilot Plan will not displace any returning Australians and is fully funded by industry, with in-kind support provided by the NSW Government around logistics and the coordination of their return.
Education providers and members of the international education community are working with the NSW Government to ensure that international students who remain abroad can get back to our State as soon as possible.
This collective effort – the NSW International Student Arrivals Pilot Plan – will be funded by industry, with the governance and operational support of NSW Government and its agencies and the endorsement of the Australian Government.
NSW will prioritise the return of continuing higher education students from universities and large independent providers, with other sectors and providers to follow as soon as possible. A successful, scaled return will lead to an expanded pilot plan to welcome more students from a range of institutions returning to NSW.
Returning students will be approached by their respective institutions based on a set of criteria and their individual situations
As Queensland continues to respond to COVID-19, a strong international education and training sector is critical to the state’s economic and social recovery. Prior to COVID-19, international education and training was Queensland’s second largest services export, contributing $5.8 billion to our state economy in 2019.
Study Queensland is working closely with Queensland Government agencies including Queensland Health, the Australian Government and the international education and training sector to start returning students through the plan.
The Queensland Student Arrivals Plan will operate under the same robust quarantine and public health standards as Queensland’s existing government-managed quarantine program.
The Queensland Student Arrivals Plan adopts a phased approach, with eligibility criteria for education providers and students expanding at each phase.
All planning will continue to be informed by the local risk environment in Queensland, and any changes to local restrictions and Australia’s international borders.
The Queensland Student Arrivals Plan (QSAP) is currently with the Australian Government for final endorsement. Once endorsed, the plan will commence in early 2022.
South Australia (SA)
It is expected that the 90% target will be reached in late December 2021.
The South Australian government has announced that South Australia will welcome fully vaccinated domestic and international arrivals (including international students) with no quarantine period once 90% of South Australians (aged 12+) are fully vaccinated.
The plan, which has been endorsed by the Australian Government, provides a safe pathway for a limited number of international students to arrive in Victoria each week.
Under the first stage of the plan, a limited number of places will be available each week. These places will be prioritised for university students who urgently need to return to Victoria to do practical work, such as health and medical students, and postgraduate research students.
The second stage of the plan will expand to include more students, including those who are enrolled with other education providers such as TAFEs, English-language colleges, private education providers and secondary schools and other universities. More information about stage two will be available soon.
Universities will select enrolled students who can return to Victoria under the first stage of the plan.
“If you are a student visa holder enrolled with a Victorian university, please wait for your university to contact you. If you have not been contacted, it means you have not been selected yet.”
Singaporean citizens who are considered fully vaccinated do not need a travel exemption to enter Victoria.
List of TGA recognized vaccines
COVID-19 vaccines have been granted provisional approval in Australia:
- Pfizer Australia Pty Ltd (Comirnaty)
- AstraZeneca Pty Ltd (Vaxzevria)
- Janssen-Cilag Pty Ltd (COVID-19 Vaccine Janssen)
- Moderna Australia Pty Ltd. (Spikevax)
- Coronavac (Sinovac)
- BBIBP-CorV (Sinopharm) – recognized vaccine’ for people under 60 years of age at the time of entry into Australia.
- Covishield (AstraZeneca/Serum Institute of India)
- Covaxin (Bharat Biotech, India)
2 (most popular) FAQs
What is the cost to participate in the plan?
Costs will be communicated directly to students who are selected to return.
Students will cover the costs of their flight. If you are required to quarantine on arrival, your university will confirm with you directly if you need to contribute towards your quarantine costs.
If I am an international student currently in NSW, can I now return to my home country and then re-enter Australia via the NSW International Student Arrivals Pilot Plan?
The aim of the NSW International Student Arrivals Pilot Plan is to ensure that international students who remain abroad can get back to our State as soon as possible. We also know there are many international students who have remained in NSW during the COVID-19 pandemic and would like to return home and visit their friends and family. International border restrictions are still in place, and student visas and travel exemptions are a matter for the Commonwealth Government.
Keep yourself updated: