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International travel to Australia for students: What we know so far

International travel to Australia
Here’s an update on international travel to Australia for international students. Source: Greg Wood/AFP

International travel to Australia is expected to resume from November 1 for fully vaccinated Australians and their families, but the Morrison government has yet to announce when international students can return to Australia, except to say that the next priority would be skilled migrants and international students.

There are more developments, however, happening at the state level. Here’s a state-by-state breakdown regarding international travel to Australia that students should know: 

New South Wales pilot plan: Cost and eligibility 

Currently, international travel to Australia is limited to some 500 international students in December, via the New South Wales pilot plan. Returning students would include those who need to complete the physical components of their studies. Education partners involved in the pilot plan include:

  • Australian Catholic University
  • Macquarie University
  • The University of Newcastle
  • The University of Sydney
  • UNSW
  • UTS
  • University of Wollongong
  • Western Sydney University

Independent providers including the International College of Management Sydney, Kaplan, Navitas, RedHill and Study Group have signed up to the industry-funded pilot plan. Macquarie University notes on their website that they expect to bring back approximately 45 international students who have been fully vaccinated with Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) recognised vaccines. 

Eligible students will be contacted directly by the university, with Macquarie expected to prioritise students who meet certain criteria including those who are nearing completion of their degree and need to complete compulsory face-to-face classes on-campus.

A mix of commercial and charter flights will be used for the pilot to pick up international students from key departure cities worldwide. Cost of airfare could range from 1,500 Australian dollars to A$5,000, depending on students’ departure city. 

Students can expect to pay the airfare and any cost associated to travel to the key departure city, while Macquarie will cover the cost of quarantine in Sydney, including transport from the airport to the quarantine facility, food during quarantine, health and security-related services.

“The university is continuing to work with the NSW Government on plans to scale up the programme following a successful pilot,” said Macquarie, adding that they hope to broaden eligibility criteria in the near future following discussions with the government. 

Meanwhile, UNSW said it will prioritise the return of continuing international students who need to complete physical components of their studies, including internship placements, to progress or graduate. 

International travel to Australia

International travel to Australia will vary by state. Source: Saeed Khan/AFP

International travel to Australia: Other states

Victoria 

Victoria is expected to follow in the footsteps of NSW of allowing home quarantine for fully vaccinated Australians, but scrapping quarantine arrangements was not on the cards just yet, reported SBS Punjabi. “What (NSW Premier) Dominic (Perrottet) announced the other day is he is getting rid of hotel quarantine, we will do a similar thing — it will be home-based — particularly for those who are double dosed. With international borders, that is a matter for the federal government,” Andrews told Sunrise.

International travel to Australia is possible for a limited number of international students in Victoria. Under the first stage of the Victorian Government’s Student Arrivals Plan, 120 places will be available each week for Victorian university students, prioritising those who need to undertake practical work to continue or complete their degrees, such as health and medical degree students, as well as postgraduate research students.

South Australia

South Australia is reportedly not rushing to allow international travellers. South Australia Premier Steven Marshall was quoted saying by 7news.com.au that SA will not immediately follow a NSW plan to allow international travellers in from November without quarantine, if they are fully vaccinated and test negative for the virus on departure and arrival.

SA’s scenario is different from NSW, with the former battling large numbers of COVID-19 cases across the state. “We look at the expert advice we’ve received. Certainly, we want to get to the 80% double vaccinated mark before we’re easing our state borders,” said Marshall. “We’ll look at international borders after that.” At current rates, SA could reach that vaccination target in December.

Western Australia

Western Australia remains conservative in its approach in allowing international travellers into its borders. Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan previously suggested that the state is not expecting to resume international travel until next year.