It has been nearly eight months since the Australian government closed their international borders to temporary visa holders, which include international students with student visas, to contain the coronavirus outbreak. Some of them are stranded outside Australia and unable to finish the remaining duration of their studies while some are tired of waiting and deferring the start date of their Australian studies.
We deeply understand how devastating and confusing it would be and we all have been in the dark until recently, when the Acting Minister of Immigration announced Australia’s proressive reopening of its international border by the half of 2021.
Even though Australia still hasn’t fully lifted the travel ban, Acting Minister Alan Tudge announced that the Australian Government is slowly reopening their international border to international students, which will begin through the recently approved pilot programs. Through these programs, it is expected that hundreds of international students will return to Australia, with the first batch expected to arrive by late November 2020.
Short on time? Here are what this article highlights:
- Acting Minister Alan Tudge announces progressive reopening international border for International Students in 2021
- Australian International borders are reopening for International students ‘slowly but steadily’
- No need to quarantine, Australia will establish travel bubble arrangements with some low-risk countries
- The first batch of international students returnees will arrive in Australia soon
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Australian international borders are reopening for international students ‘slowly but steadily’
As per today, Australia steadily shows a decreasing trend in new COVID-19 cases, and recently, Minister Tudge indicated that Australia is working towards getting their international borders to reopen slowly but surely by establishing travel bubbles arrangement with low-risk countries.
However, for the safety of Australian communities, it is expected that Australian international borders may remain closed for high-risk countries which still have a high number of infections and community transmissions. In sum, it is most likely that those who come from high-risk countries are still unable to travel to Australia for the time being, while those who come from low-risk countries may be able to travel to Australia under certain circumstances.
Quarantine-free Travel bubbles arrangement with New Zealand has been started
Currently, Australia has started a significant step towards its progressive reopening international border by bringing in some temporary skilled migrants again on a priority listing, and started the bubble arrangements now with New Zealand that do not require quarantine.
The development comes nearly a month after Australia signalled a gradual lifting of the international border restrictions while maintaining that travel movement will continue to remain low and slow until the latter part of 2021. Even though the Immigration has continued assessing and granting Student Visa applications from outside Australia under the new visa changes issued in July 2020, the travel restrictions still do not allow them to enter Australia and study face-to-face.
To overcome the issue, some of the Australian schools, colleges, and universities offer online or distant learning to international students but it is not possible for some specific and more practical programs, causing students that have chosen to enroll with practical programs in Australia to defer their studies to the next nearest intake.
Such a fact has reduced a great deal of international student numbers in Australia. The data show 811,223 enrollments in 2020, however there were only 273,460 arrivals as per July 2020, far below last year’s arrival with a total of 842,990 international students. By 2021, Mr Tudge informed that, in addition to New Zealand, the government would establish quarantine-free travel arrangements with other countries with low infection rates such as Japan, Singapore and South Korea. He said these bubble arrangements will help pave the way for the return of more people into the country, and that quarantining shall almost limit the speed of how many people can be brought into the country.
Approved pilot programs will commence as nearly as late November 2020
The bubble arrangements would be executed through small and phased pilot programs commencing from late 2020. The government predicted that Australia’s 120,000 international students who remain stranded outside of Australia will gradually start to return through the states.
This, however, means that Australian international borders will remain closed to all other high-risk counties for the foreseeable future.
As a reassurance for international students who bring $39 billion to the national economy, Minister Tudge said the government is adjusting the final details of the two initial pilots, expressing willingness to revive and reopen the sector “in the near future.”
So far the Northern Territory and South Australia have confirmed pilot plans to facilitate the return of international students, under which 70 students are expected to return to Darwin and up to 300 students will return to universities in Adelaide respectively with several additional safe arrival initiatives are reportedly in development throughout Australia but they have been hampered by strict international arrivals caps throughout the country.
It is obvious there was an announcement that South Australia was keen to start on that pilot by September 2020, but it is not yet implemented and pushed back as they have got to sort out the internal border issues and issues regarding returning Australians, but they continue to work through the issues.
As for now, the weekly cap for international arrivals for Australian citizens and permanent residents sits at 6000, and even though it is expected to be increased this month, enabling more Australian citizens and permanent residents to return home, the government would still prioritize the cap for the citizens and PR stranded outside Australia.
“When you think about the numbers here, in a normal year we have about 195,000 international students coming to the country at the start of the calendar year. It’s a very significant number and obviously, it’s really tricky at the moment given our quarantine arrangements.
Despite the facts, Charles Darwin University would become the first university to welcome back safely up to 70 international students from Singapore on 30 November 2020. Having their pilot program approved by both Australian and Northern Territory Government, the charter flight payable to the students is scheduled on 29 November 2020. The students would then need to undergo a self-funded 14-day quarantine in Howard Springs facility on arrival. During the quarantine, students can expect to have access to 24-hour counselling, receive care packages from the CDU staff, in addition to daily phone calls from staff to ensure international students are supported during their quarantine.
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After CDU, Adelaide University, the University of South Australia, and Flinders University have had their pilot program plan approved by the federal government, where 300 international students would gradually fly into the state from November 2020 until January 2021 in the South Australia pilot programme.
“We are trying to find a solution knowing that having international students in Australia is great for those students, it’s great for Australia and over the years international students have been a terrific source of new Aussies down the track,” Mr Tudge said.
In spite of the fact that these may be difficult times for everyone, education institutions and government offices in Australia are working their best to have international students back safely to the country. Please do remember that you are not the only one and the Australian community is here to support you during this time.
Here at Education ONE, our consultants can advise you on your eligibility to study in Australia, and current available options and resources based on your personal situation. Besides that, our sister company, ONEderland Consulting, is offering complimentary visa consultations for international students in Australia affected by the coronavirus as a way to assist our community. Stay safe, and contact education ONE here immediately.