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Border Updates for International Students

As of 15 December 2021, fully vaccinated international students are able to enter Australia without needing a travel exemption.

This article breaks down the history of the border closures and provides regular updates so you know exactly what’s going on.

Visit our travel updates page for more information on quarantine requirements for each state and territory.

January 2022

27 January – WA: International students enrolled in a Western Australian institution but currently residing in other parts of Australia will be allowed to enter WA. The WA Government has released a Returning Students Directions document, outlining the criteria students must meet to enter the state (including being fully vaccinated) as well as the quarantine and testing measures they must follow upon arrival.

22 January – Australia – From Sunday 23 January, international travellers arriving in Australia will no longer need to present proof of a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of departure. Instead, travellers will only need to present a negative rapid antigen test (RAT) result within 24 hours of departure. Those who test positive for COVID-19 while overseas will also only need to wait seven days before entering Australia, down from the current 14 days.

22 January – Queensland: As of 1am on 22 January 2022, fully vaccinated international arrivals coming into Queensland will not need to quarantine upon entry. They must have completed a COVID-19 test within 24 hours of arriving in Queensland. If they do not receive their results before entering Queensland, they must isolate at their accommodation until a negative result is returned.

21 January – WA: Western Australia’s border opening – which was scheduled for 5 February – has been delayed. Premier Mark McGowan explained that the risk of reopening the state was too high given the spread of the Omicron variant. As of 5 February, WA will instate a hard border; under these rules, people will only be allowed to enter if they meet certain requirements, the full list of which can be found here.

December 2021

15 December – Australia: Fully vaccinated international students and temporary visa holders are now able to enter Australia without needing a travel exemption. Australia has now launched its safe travel zone with the Republic of Korea and Japan, meaning travellers from these countries will not need to quarantine upon arrival. Travellers coming from other countries will be subject to testing and quarantine requirements.

14 December – WA: From Saturday 5 February 2022, WA will embark on its Safe Transition and ease interstate and international borders. Interstate and international travellers will be able to enter the state without quarantine from midnight on 5 February, when the state was expected to hit its 90% fully vaccinated target. Travellers to WA must be double-vaccinated and return a negative PCR test 72 hours before departure. The test must then be retaken on arrival in WA.

13 December – Australia: Australia’s international borders are set to reopen as planned on 15 December to eligible visa holders, including international students and skilled migrants, Health Minister Greg Hunt confirmed on Monday 13 December.

November 2021

29 November – Australia: The Australian Government has officially announced that borders will not open to international students and travellers until 15 December. Australia is also postponing the travel bubble with the Republic of Korea and Japan until this date. At the time of this writing, the only people permitted to enter Australia are fully vaccinated Australian citizens, permanent residents and their immediate family members, fully vaccinated “green lane” arrivals from New Zealand and Singapore, and limited exemptions.

28 November – SA: In South Australia, international arrivals from any country will have to quarantine for 14 days, rather than just seven, due to concern over the Omicron variant.

27 November – NSW, VIC, ACT: International arrivals into Victoria and NSW will now be required to self-isolate for at least 72 hours, regardless of vaccination status. The ACT has taken similar measures, with all recent international arrivals required to quarantine until November 30. Visit each state or territory’s government website for more information.

27 November – Australia: On Saturday, Australia tightened its international border to travellers from countries where the new Omicron variant of COVID-19 has been found. Australian citizens, permanent residents or their immediate family members arriving from South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia, Eswatini, Malawi, and the Seychelles into any Australian state or territory must undergo 14 days’ quarantine. Any other travellers who have been to these countries are not permitted to enter Australia, even if they hold a travel exemption, eligible visa or are seeking to enter under a Safe Travel Zone arrangement.

22 November – Australia: Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced that eligible visa holders – including student visa holders – will be able to come to Australia from 1 December without needing to apply for a travel exemption, but they will be subject to the quarantine arrangements of the state/territory they are travelling to. In addition, fully vaccinated international students, eligible visa holders and travellers from Japan and South Korea will be welcomed back to Australia from 1 December without having to quarantine on arrival.

13 November – New South Wales: Quarantine is no longer necessary for fully vaccinated international students returning to NSW. Students will have to be fully vaccinated with a vaccine recognised by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). The first chartered plane is scheduled to arrive in Sydney on 6 December with about 250 students from countries including Indonesia, Singapore, Vietnam, China and Canada.

5 November – Western Australia: The Western Australian government has announced that Western Australia will welcome fully vaccinated domestic and international arrivals (including international students) with no quarantine period once 90% of Western Australians (aged 12+) are fully vaccinated. It is expected that the 90% target will be reached in late January 2022. Visit StudyPerth for updates.

1 November – Australia: Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced that Australia will welcome fully vaccinated Singaporean travellers from 21 November. These travellers will not be required to undergo quarantine upon arrival in Australia. In his statement, Morrison said that all Australian states and territories “that are ready” would be eligible to welcome Singaporeans. Singaporeans travelling from Singapore must present a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of departure.

At this stage, it is unclear if international students are included in this plan. On the day of the announcement, Singaporean Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said in a Facebook post that it was “good news, especially for many of our Singaporean students enrolled in Australian universities in these states, who will now be able to resume their studies onshore.” However, the Australian Government has yet to confirm if and/or when Singaporean international students will be allowed to return.

For more information on your eligibility to enter Australia, get in touch with your education provider.

October 2021

26 October – South Australia: South Australia has revealed its roadmap to reopening. Borders are set to open to all fully vaccinated domestic and international arrivals once 90 per cent of South Australian residents (aged 12+) have received both doses of the vaccine. At this stage, there is no confirmed date for when the state will hit this milestone, but further updates will be posted here as they come in. 

The SA international student arrival plan is still progressing as planned, with international students expected to start arriving in December. You can find more details on this announcement here. 

26 October – Queensland: The Queensland government has announced it will start welcoming international students starting in January 2022, just in time for the first semester of the new academic year.

 Under the plan, 250 international students will arrive every fortnight before that number is later increased. Arriving students must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and priority will be given to those studying medical research and allied health. 

Students will arrive at Brisbane Airport before being transported by bus to the Wellcamp quarantine hub near Toowoomba. 

22 October – Australian Capital Territory: Chief Minister of the ACT Andrew Barr has announced that the state will welcome vaccinated international students from the start of the next academic year in 2022. Students who have received a vaccine recognised in Australia will not be required to quarantine upon arrival in the ACT before starting their studies.

At the time of this writing, Australia recognises the following COVID-19 vaccinations:

  • Pfizer (Comirnaty)
  • AstraZeneca (Vaxzevria)
  • Moderna (Spikevax)
  • Janssen-Cilag Pty Ltd (COVID-19 Vaccine Janssen)
  • Sinovac
  • Covishield

22 October – Tasmania: Tasmania has announced that it will reopen its borders on December 15, 2021, to interstate and international travellers who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The state’s population is expected to hit the 90 per cent fully vaccinated mark by this date.

Both interstate and international arrivals will need to provide a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of travelling. However, returning Tasmanian residents will not need to get a test if they left the state for seven days or fewer.

22 October – South Australia: Hundreds of international students are set to return to South Australia and start quarantining at Parafield Airport by the first week of December. The announcement was made by Flight Training Adelaide CEO Johan Pienaar, who is currently transforming his school’s on-site accommodation into a quarantine facility. 

Once completed, up to 160 students at a time will be able to quarantine for 14 days at the flight school. It is expected that the site will remain a quarantine facility for roughly three months. However, Pienaar did say that there were “extension options at the back-end of that.”

8 October – Victoria: It has been announced that international students will start returning to Victoria by the end of 2021 under the Victorian Government’s International Student Arrivals Plan, which has been submitted to the Commonwealth for approval. Under the first stage of the plan, 120 places will be available each week. These places will be prioritised for university students who urgently need to return to Victoria to do practical work, including health and medical students, and postgraduate research students.

1 October – Australia: Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced the international border will reopen next month for states that have reached 80 per cent vaccination rates, starting with New South Wales. Fully vaccinated Australians and permanent residents arriving in NSW will be able to home quarantine for a week, instead of quarantining in a hotel for a fortnight, pending the success of the state’s home quarantine trial.

September 2021

24 September: The NSW International Student Arrivals Pilot Plan is announced. The plan will allow 250 international students studying with NSW education providers to return each fortnight from early December 2021. Click here for more information.

June 2021

18 June: A proposed quarantine hub that will allow international students to return to South Australia has been approved by the federal government. Education Minister Alan Tudge signed off on SA’s proposal after it met all of the Federal Government’s guidelines.

“The Flight Training Adelaide site at Parafield has been approved for its ability to meet infection control as determined by SA Health, with the facility able to house 160 students who will complete their 14 days quarantine and undertake daily COVID-19 testing,” shares The Minister for Trade and Investment Stephen Patterson.

10 June: NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet announced a pilot plan for as early as July, which will initially see 250 students per fortnight quarantined in specifically approved student accommodation. Mr Perrottet said that figure would increase to 500 students per fortnight by the end of the year. The student quarantine system, including travel costs, accommodation and security, will be financed by the university sector, but the decision of whether students must pay for their flights will be up to the individual university. The pilot program had been approved by NSW Health and NSW Police, but is currently with the federal government for a final decision.

May 2021

30 May: South Australia’s Chief Public Health Officer has approved a plan to bring back Adelaide’s international students by letting them serve two weeks’ quarantine at Parafield Airport, in the city’s north. This new plan still needs to be endorsed by the federal government.

11 May: As predicted, Australia’s 2021 budget revealed that Australia’s borders are likely to remain closed until the middle of 2022. After that, there will be a slow return of temporary and permanent visa holders. However, it was flagged that international students may be able to return earlier, as soon as late 2021.

9 May: Treasurer Josh Frydenberg claimed that international travel will remain off-limits until 2022. Speaking to SBS News, Frydenberg said, “We have an assumption in the budget that will be revealed on Tuesday night, but it will be next year.” 

April 2021

27 April: After the vaccine rollout started across Australia, talk of accepting international students began to take off. Victoria announced plans to start accepting international students from as early as May. Acting Victorian Premier, James Merlino, wrote to the Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, to say that it is Victoria’s intention to “accept the arrival of key international economic cohorts to support Australia’s economic recovery”.

8 April: In addition to this news, Victorian universities hit by the economic burden of international border restrictions discussed the possibility of helping to fund international students’ quarantine in Australia, as well as flights and medical testing. 

That being said, Australian Minister for Education and Youth, Alan Tudge, had this to say in response to the Victorian proposal: 

“We are open to considering a pilot of international students coming into Oz but only if (A) the quarantine beds are in addition to those used for returning Aussies; and (B) the state’s CMO [Chief Medical Officer] gives all clear. To date, we have received no such proposals,”

March 2021

31 March: The NSW Government plans to introduce alternative quarantine accommodation for international students in order to persuade the Australian Government to approve their return in time for the second half of the year. 

25 March: Tudge casts doubt on the return of Indian international students to Australia in 2021. He stated that the return of international students from India will depend upon the vaccine rollout, going on to say that

“My hope is that certainly from next year we will be starting to be close to being normal again and having significant numbers of international students to be returning, but there are a lot of ifs to get to that point in time.” 

14 March: While it was suggested that Singapore would be used as a ‘quarantine hub’ for international visitors travelling to Australia, the Singaporean Ministry of Foreign Affairs denied these claims. Although, the Ministry did say in a statement that Singapore is in discussions with Australia in order to resume international travel, with international students a priority for both countries.

2 March: The international border closure was set to end on 17 March 2021, but on 2 March, it was announced that it would remain in place for at least another three months, taking the border closure to 17 June 2021. 

February 2021

25 February: Australia’s Minister for Immigration, Alex Hawke, claimed that the Australian Government wasn’t going to grant visa extensions to Temporary Graduate visa holders (Subclass 485) to those currently not in Australia. 

January 2021

19 January: Despite the vaccine rollout in Australia, borders are set to be closed for the foreseeable future. Professor Paul Kelly, Australia’s Chief Medical Officer, claimed that Australia’s international border closures and obligatory quarantine would be “one of the last things” to change while other countries struggle to contain COVID-19. 

“[As] the first vaccinations rollout in a few weeks’ time, Australia is not going to change everything back to normal,” Professor Kelly said.

“We are in such an envious position at the moment compared with the rest of the world.

“Unfortunately, I think international border changes are probably going to be one of the last things to change, rather than the first.”

November 2020

30 November: Students flying to Australia as part of Charles Darwin University’s pilot program arrived in the Northern Territory to continue their studies. As a result, students from Vietnam, China, Hong Kong, Japan and Indonesia were the first international students to arrive in Australia since March 2020.

September 2020

19 September: In September, the Australian Government granted visa concessions to graduates affected by travel restrictions imposed as a result of the pandemic. These visa concessions allowed graduates to be granted a Temporary Graduate visa outside Australia in cases where the graduate met all the requirements. 

The concessions, though significant, did not have any effect on existing 485 visa holders stuck outside the country.

28 September: The Northern Territory Government negotiated a deal with the Australian Government and Charles Darwin University to run a pilot program to fly up to 70 international students to Darwin.

March 2020

On 20 March, Australian borders were closed to non-citizens and non-residents in order to limit the spread of COVID-19 into Australia.