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International students, migrants to return from 1 December

written by Hannah Dowling | November 22, 2021
A file image of international carriers at Sydney Airport. (Seth Jaworski)

Fully vaccinated eligible visa-holders, including skilled migrants and international students, will be free to enter Australia from 1 December without first receiving an exemption.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison made the announcement on Monday, adding that refugees, humanitarians, temporary working holiday visa holders and provisional family holiday visa holders will also be welcome from 1 December.

PM Morrison also announced that from 1 December, Australia will enter into quarantine-free travel bubble arrangements with both Japan and South Korea, which will see tourists from these nations free to come to Australia, pending an approved tourist visa ahead of travel.

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It is thought that these arrangements will imminently be reciprocated, meaning Australians could soon be free to visit Japan and Korea for holidays without entering any length quarantine.

Like Australian citizens and residents, all visa holders entering Australia will be required to be fully vaccinated with a TGA-approved vaccine and will need to present a negative COVID-19 PCR test in the 72 hours prior to their travel.

Minister for Home Affairs Karen Andrews said that visa holders coming into the country will be subject to the quarantine requirements stipulated by each individual state.

Currently, NSW, Victoria and the ACT are welcoming fully vaccinated Australian citizens and residents into their states from overseas without any quarantine requirements.

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“The return of skilled workers and students to Australia is a major milestone in our pathway back,” Morrison said.

“It’s a major milestone about what Australians have been able to achieve and enable us to do.

It will mean a lot for the economies of our country, right around the country, who need those workers and want to see those students return, and so we’re looking forward to that occurring for the first of December.”

The Prime Minister said he is expecting around 200,000 visa holders to return to Australia by the end of the financial year.

“Australians are looking forward to what the future holds for the post-COVID world, and the Morrison government is doing all it can to ensure that we are working in a timely and safe manner to open Australia’s borders,” Minister Andrews added.

It comes as the first international students to touch down in Australia in nearly two years landed on Sunday, as Australia’s two-way travel bubble with Singapore officially began.

Like Australian citizens and residents, fully vaccinated overseas students from Singapore with valid student visas were free to fly into Sydney and Melbourne without entering quarantine.

It comes after Singapore added Australia as a Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) destination that allowed double-vaccinated Australians to travel quarantine-free to Singapore from 8 November.

Initially a one-way travel lane, the agreement was later reciprocated by the Australian government, which came into effect from Sunday, 21 November.

It also comes ahead of a planned pilot program that was to see 500 international students flown into NSW before the end of this year, in what was then a major step towards reinvigorating the estimated $40 billion Australian international education sector.

Two charter flights have been scheduled under the program, the first of which is expected to touch down on 6 December carrying around 250 students into NSW from over 15 countries, including Singapore, Vietnam, Indonesia, China and Canada.

A second flight is planned to land about two weeks after, bringing in students from South Asia and India.

It is currently unclear how Monday’s announcement impacts the previously announced charter flight program.

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