Australia to reopen to international students after Omicron pause

Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirms 15 December date for return of overseas learners

December 13, 2021
Map of Australia
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Australia has confirmed its intention to open its borders to international students after the Omicron variant’s emergence delayed the plan by a fortnight.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the borders would reopen to overseas students as scheduled on 15 December, at the end of a two-week “pause” to allow authorities to assess the threat posed by the new variant.

It will be the first time that students have been able to enter the country without special permits since Australia closed its borders to non-residents on 20 March last year.

Incoming students must be fully immunised with vaccines recognised by Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration, and must have tested negative for Covid-19 within 72 hours before departure. Under current rules they must also self-isolate for three days upon arrival.

Former deputy chief medical officer Nick Coatsworth said it was “such good news” that international students would be welcomed back from Wednesday. “It’s safe to do so, and no better time than the Aussie summer as we prepare for the 2022 academic year,” he tweeted.

The good news currently applies only to students headed for the most populous states of New South Wales and Victoria, along with the Australian Capital Territory. But other jurisdictions are gradually relaxing their more stringent border regimes, in ways that could benefit international students.

Australia’s third most populous state of Queensland opened its borders to interstate travellers on 13 December, ending a lockout that had lasted almost five months. While international students landing in Queensland must still quarantine for a fortnight, they can now opt instead to spend the initial two weeks in NSW or Victoria.

The island state of Tasmania is also preparing to open its borders to interstate travellers this week.

Meanwhile, the fourth most populous state of Western Australia, which has been all but sealed off from the rest of the world since April 2020, has announced when it will reopen its borders. Premier Mark McGowan nominated 5 February as the day his state will open its doors to both interstate and international travellers.

From that date, which Mr McGowan said was “locked in”, fully vaccinated international travellers will not need to quarantine.

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