International Students Coming Back to Australia by Christmas, Yet Vaccine Requisite Blocks Some Out
Last Friday, it was announced that Australia would reopen their borders for international students coming back to Australia for the first time after 18 months in November 2021. This good news became realisable after the State and Federal governments approved a pilot plan to allow up to 500 international students to travel to NSW.
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Currently, Australia is approaching an 80 % vaccination rate. As a result, the Australian government plans to open their international borders for international travellers next month. The plan will permit fully vaccinated Australians to travel abroad, subject to some other travel advice and destination border limitations. It will likewise help Australians abroad to get back to Australia.
The program will allow some international students to get back to Australia’s most populous state, New South Wales, by November 2021. The new plan will follow the completion of home quarantine trials in New South Wales and South Australia. It’s expected that states and territories prepared to do so will establish a seven-day home quarantine for Australian citizens and permanent residents.
The seven-day home quarantine may be accessible to completely vaccinated people with a vaccine approved for use in Australia or ‘recognised’ by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). However, many argue that the pilot plan is likely to exclude Chinese nationals because of vaccination status rules.
An important question then arises. What vaccines are approved and recognized in Australia?
What Vaccines are approved in Australia?
Previously, Australia has granted provisional approval for four COVID-19 vaccines. These include those from Pfizer (Comirnaty), AstraZeneca (Vaxzevria), Moderna (Spikevax), and COVID-19 Vaccine Janssen that Australia recognised for incoming travellers to Australia.
Aside from that, TGA’s initial advice is that Coronavac (Sinovac) and Covishield (AstraZeneca/Serum Institute of India) vaccines be considered ‘recognised vaccines’ for incoming travellers, especially for Australian international students, to be viewed as fully vaccinated. The advice was informed after an evaluation to determine the protection of certain vaccines against infection and severe illness.
The assessment has been conducted based on individual reviews of published information and specific cases of regulatory data provided to the TGA in confidence. Here, “Recognition” status does not establish Australian regulatory approval, as regulatory approval would allow a vaccine producing company to give that vaccine for administration inside Australia.
As Australia does not administer Coronavac and Covishiled, the reopening plan seems to preclude students from China and other countries who received the vaccine. In Asia, the biggest vaccine takers are Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Pakistan, while the Americas, Brazil, Mexico, Chile, Colombia and Ecuador have also ordered millions of shots. This implication has triggered Universities to call Australia to approve students vaccinated in China as this country has been the key market of Australian education.
Will Australia exclude the top number 1 country sending international students to Australia?
What do Universities say?
The University of Technology Sydney deputy vice-chancellor Iain Watt said he was confident Australia would allow students from China entry before long. The government should consider the World Health Organization’s acknowledgment of Chinese vaccines like Sinovac and Sinopharm.
He said it had been indicated that the United States would recognize people fully vaccinated with Sinovac and Sinopharm for entering the US from November.
“I am optimistic that Australia will do the same from late this year or early next year,” he said.
Indeed, with Canada and Great Britain, and soon, the US accepting students from China, a similar move will put Australia on an ‘even playing field’ with the countries mentioned.
Deputy vice-chancellor Alex Frino also confirmed that most of the university’s students in Australia were from India and China, “though we have huge numbers that come from Vietnam, Hong Kong, Indonesia and Malaysia”.
“Regional universities have been hit much, much harder than Sydney metro universities – especially the G08 – where many of us have lost 40 percent of our international students since the start of the pandemic,” he said.
The University of Sydney said students required to undertake face-to-face learning to complete their degrees would “be prioritised as part of this plan”.
Moreover, students who are taking PhD degrees, almost finishing their studies, and studying in critical sectors of health and science that require laboratory use would also be prioritized.
Five hundred students participating in this program in November 2021 will be paying for their flights only, while universities will cover the cost of quarantine.
Arrangements in Place
Australia’s biggest owner/operator of purpose-built student accommodation, Scape, has won the auction to quarantine the students. The batch will be quarantined for two weeks at Scape’s newly built facility in Redfern, NSW.
Chief executive officer Anouk Darling mentioned that the Redfern site has 519 rooms and would host 250 students at a time. She stated that their ventilation system was superior to hotel systems because it was single-room controlled. Negative air pressure in corridors would block airflow in or out of a room when a door was opened, such as for food collection, she said.
The Role of the Initial Pilot Program
Although the pilot program is relatively small, it serves as a critical milestone that will allow the country to refine their plans and processing. The plan’s success will help the government review the plans before continuing to keep the Australian border open for international students.
University of NSW vice-chancellor Ian Jacobs regarded the pilot as “an important development for our students, which will enrich our campuses and classrooms and benefit the economy”.
The world is waiting for the official update regarding the return of international students from Asia. As countries sending most international students to Australia, it seems that approving Chinese vaccines would be Australia’s big step in attracting international students. Otherwise, international students would choose to study in other countries that have opened their borders for Chinese vaccine recipients, like Canada, the UK, or the US.
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Individual Travel Exemption
Students who are selected for the pilot plan will be required to have an individual exemption because they will fall under these categories as shown on the government website:
- A student who has been selected to take part in an International Student Arrivals Plan that has been approved by the relevant state or territory government, and endorsed by the Department of Education, Skills and Employment as satisfying the Protocols and Preconditions for International Student Arrivals.
- A student in your final three years of study of a medical university degree, where you have evidence of a confirmed placement in an Australian hospital or medical practice. The placement must commence within the next two months, and provide medical services to the Australian public.
- A higher degree research student enrolled in an Australian education institution (including Masters by research and PhD students) with evidence of a current research grant from a Commonwealth agency or support from a relevant government agency outlining why the research is considered essential and/or in Australia’s national interest and how their role is critical to the research.
- A student completing year 11 and 12, with endorsement from the Department of Education, Skills and Employment (DESE), and support from the relevant state or territory government health and education authorities. Further information regarding this process can be found at the Department of Education, Skills and Employment website.
- A student in the final two years of study of a dental, nursing or allied health profession university degree, where you have evidence of a confirmed placement in an Australian hospital or medical practice which begins within the next two months.
What Changes will this Program bring?
Before the Pilot Program, the Travel Exemptions were only available for:
- Students who are in their final three years of study of a medical university degree, who have evidence of a confirmed placement in an Australian hospital or medical practice can apply for a Travel Exemption to enter Australia during the Australian border closure.
- Students with higher degree research students enrolled in an Australian education institution (including Masters by research and PhD students) can apply for a Travel Exemption to enter Australia during the border closure. The students need to provide evidence of a current research grant from a Commonwealth agency or support from a relevant government agency outlining why the research is considered essential and/or in Australia’s national interest and how their role is critical to the research.
- Students completing year 11 and 12, with endorsement from the Department of Education, Skills and Employment (DESE), and support from the relevant state or territory government health and education authorities may apply for a Travel Exemption during the Australian border closure.
- Students in the final two years of study of a dental, nursing or allied health profession university degree, who have evidence of a confirmed placement in an Australian hospital or medical practice which begins within the next two months may apply for a Travel Exemption to enter Australia during the border closure.
After the government approved the NSW Pilot Program last Friday, the Travel exemptions are also available for:
- Students who have been selected to take part in an International Student Arrivals Plan that has been approved by the relevant state or territory government, and endorsed by the Department of Education, Skills and Employment as satisfying the Protocols and Preconditions for International Student Arrivals.
- The NSW International Student Arrivals Pilot Plan will allow a limited number of 250 international students studying with education providers in NSW to return each fortnight from early December 2021.
- The international education sector sustains thousands of jobs across the NSW and Australia, the gradual return of international students will allow the country to reboot Australia’s economy, and rebuild the sector.
- The approval of the NSW pilot program that has been prepared for eight months is a good sign for international students coming back to Australia to study on campus, enjoy the unique learning, work and life experience that only studying in Australia can deliver.
Frequently Asked Questions for International Students Coming Back to Australia
1. Will it be obligatory for international students to receive a COVID-19 vaccine before their coming back to NSW?
Based on the health authorities’ recommendation, only international students who are completely vaccinated with a vaccine recognized by the TGA will be qualified to get back to NSW as part of the NSW International Student Arrivals Pilot Plan. This is to help with protecting the health of both the NSW community and the students.
2. When will the NSW International Student Arrivals Pilot Plan start?
Study NSW is working closely with the Australian Government, education sector, and NSW Government institutions to support the return of international students to NSW, in accordance with the State’s roadmap to recovery, and the National Transition Plan for Australia’s COVID-19 response. The NSW International Student Arrivals Pilot Plan will permit a set number of 250 international students studying with NSW academic providers to return every fortnight from early December 2021.
3. Who will advise international students in case they are qualified to get back to NSW?
Education providers will directly contact any students invited to come back to NSW, providing them with the information they need at each step of the NSW International Student Arrivals Pilot Plan. Targeted communication will ensure international students understand their responsibilities and commitments as they arrive in NSW as well as the support accessible to them from the NSW Government and their particular education providers.
4. Who is subsidizing the coming back of the international students?
All expenses related with travel and quarantine will be borne by participating education providers and returning students. Specific information regarding the costs included will be conveyed directly to the international students. The institutions will directly approach the returning students based on a range of criteria and their individual circumstances.
5. Will the weekly number of returning international students eventually increase?
The NSW Government will keep on working with academic providers and the wider sector to convey a successful International Student Arrivals Pilot Plan, so more international students who are stuck abroad can return to NSW straightaway. A succesful, scaled return will lead to an extended pilot and allow more international students from a scope of institutions to get back to NSW at the appropriate time.
6. Can returning international students start on-campus learning?
Education providers supporting the arrival of international students will resume on-campus learning with COVID-safe arrangements as per the National COVID-19 Transition Plan concurred by the National Cabinet, including tutorials, workshops, libraries, and practical requirements. In due course, international students can likewise meet with the teaching and support staff, in a suitable campus setting.
7. What about international students who are still not invited to get back to NSW to recommence their studies in 2021?
Education providers will continue to provide online classes and support to the international students who cannot start or resume their studies this year in NSW, while working with government institutions to deliver a successful pilot and discover ways for more international students to get back to NSW at the appropriate time.
8. In case I am an international student currently in NSW, can I get back to my home country and afterward re-enter Australia by means of the NSW International Student Arrivals Pilot Plan?
The point of the NSW International Student Arrivals Pilot Plan is to guarantee that international students who are stuck abroad can return to the State at the earliest opportunity. The government has been aware there are many international students who have stayed in NSW during the COVID-19 pandemic and might want to return home to visit their loved ones, and then come back to Australia. International border restrictions are still in place. The government suggested international students stay up with the latest information on any developments from the Immigration website, or simply consult with one of education ONE consultants for any updates.
9. If the TGA does not recognize international students’ vaccines but is so in their home country, can they be considered in the Pilot Plan?
Only international students who are fully vaccinated with a vaccine recognized by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) are qualified to initially return to NSW as a part of the NSW International Student Arrivals Pilot Plan. The Pilot Plan will be managed consistently by all key NSW Government offices including NSW Health, and the government will keep on looking into the pilot and communicate any changes to eligibility requirements at the appointed time.
10. How might international students and the sector stay informed with regards to this Pilot Plan?
Study NSW will guarantee international students have easy fast-tracked access to data, support, and services at each phase of their safe return to NSW. Clear and precise data will be given to international students through their academic providers, and by means of the Study NSW site and mailing list (www.study.sydney).
What We Can Do to Help You?
If you are one of the 500 students participating in the very first batch of international students to return to Australia, do not risk a travel exemption application refusal! Here is how we can help you!
- Along with our in-house Registered Migration Agents, ONE derland Consulting, we will be able to give you legal and professional advice on your chances of securing an individual exemption to Australia.
- We can guide you through each step of securing your travel exemption worry-free! Get our completed document checklist tailored to your circumstances and goals in Australia.
- Our experiences in securing travel exemptions for our clients who have compelling reasons to travel to Australia make us au fait with the latest Australian immigration regulations and more!
You may be one of the following batches of international students who can finally start your study journey here! If you are unsure of what the next step to prepare your dreamed education in Australia, or if you want to discuss your visa and travel exemption matters, book a FREE consultation with one of our education specialists or contact us, education ONE Australia, through email at [email protected] or via phone at 1300 083 663.
With years of experience helping students from many different countries, we will be delighted to assist you. Our Career Development Consultants will guide you, no matter how complex your circumstances are.
What are you waiting for? Contact us right now, and we can’t wait to see you in this beautiful country!
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