Prime Minister Scott Morrison has hinted that temporary visa holders, including skilled migrants and international students, could be welcomed back into the country as soon as next month.
The PM said the federal government would continue to monitor the progress of NSW, which is set to open its international borders to Australian residents and citizens from 1 November but is gearing up to make a call on visa holders within weeks.
“We’ve said on students in particular and skilled migration, we’ll see that happening in NSW next month in late November,” the Prime Minister told Channel Seven.
However, Morrison remains adamant that tourists and backpackers on working holiday visas are still not going to be welcomed back before the year is through.
“On international visitors, well we’ll see how Australians coming back first goes there,” he said.
Morrison last week confirmed that foreign tourists will not yet be granted permission to travel to Australia on 1 November, despite NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet seemingly suggesting they could.
However, in a significant concession, the federal government will allow the parents of Australian citizens and residents to join their families here.
It follows a dramatic day where Premier Perrottet announced fully vaccinated international arrivals flying into his state would no longer be required to complete any form of hotel or home quarantine, and flight caps will no longer be applied to vaccinated arrivals.
The confusion also came because the federal government has responsibility for border policy, but states can technically decide quarantine arrangements. Many media outlets suggested NSW tried to force the PM’s hand but were subsequently overruled.
Notably, in NSW’s announcement, the government appeared to slightly deviate from the national reopening plan, announced by the Prime Minister earlier this month, which specified that fully vaccinated residents and citizens would enter seven-day home quarantine upon arrival in Australia.
Instead, NSW has offered no quarantine requirements for double-jabbed travellers and even alluded that fully vaccinated tourists might be free to enter the state without quarantine.
While Prime Minister Morrison welcomed the announcement from the NSW government, he reiterated that it is the federal government’s jurisdiction to reopen international borders and stated that tourists would not yet be welcome.
“I want to stress for the other states and territories that … this is about Australian residents and citizens first,” said Morrison.
“The Commonwealth government has made no decision to allow other visa holders – skilled visa holders, student visa holders, international visitors – to come into Australia under these arrangements.”
It echoes previous statements from the Prime Minister that suggested that foreign tourists will be the last cohort welcomed back to Australia, after citizens, skilled migrants and international students.
The Prime Minister did, however, note that the government’s definition of “immediate family” will be extended to include the parents of Australian citizens and residents, allowing them to travel to and from Australia freely and reunite families once borders open to residents.
Previously, parents of adult children who lived in Australia were not considered “immediate family” and therefore ineligible to come to Australia until the nation’s international border reopened to tourists.
The Prime Minister specified that come 1 November, “Those family members will be able to come into Sydney, if they are vaccinated, and not have to quarantine.”