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Why Australia’s International Student Arrival Plans Have Been Delayed

As international students and Australia’s education sector struggle with border restrictions, some state and territory governments are working on plans to bring international students back into Australia.

International Student Arrival Plans are created in collaboration between state and territory governments, the Australian Government, and education institutions. These plans define details such as how many international students are allowed back into each state and territory, and where they will quarantine after entering Australia.

However, even when plans are approved, international student arrivals can be ‘paused’ at any time due to health advice. Essentially, this means if Australia is struggling to control COVID-19 infection rates, or the international student’s home countries are struggling with COVID-19, international students may still be prevented from entering Australia even if they have been approved under a state or territory’s plan.

Australia is currently in this situation. Although there is an approved International Student Arrival Plan for South Australia, Australian borders remain closed to international students due to outbreaks of COVID-19 throughout the country. Right now, many Australian states and territories have closed borders to each other within Australia. 

Until internal/domestic borders open, Australia’s external/international borders will remain closed. 

When borders open, there is currently a limit of about 3,085 international arrivals allowed in Australia per week. 

Even though borders aren’t open yet, you should still check what International Student Arrival Plans are available, and if you will be eligible to take part. 

Am I eligible for International Student Arrival Plans?

To be eligible for International Student Arrival Plans, you must have a valid Student visa (subclass 500). You also need to be nominated by your education institution to come to Australia under an approved International Student Arrival Plan. To be nominated, you should contact your education provider to find out if they are participating in an International Student Arrival Plan, and if they will nominate you.

Additionally, if you enter Australia as part of an International Student Arrival Plan, you should be intending to stay for a long time. If you leave Australia for any reason, including to go on holiday or visit your family, there is no guarantee you will be allowed back into the country. 

If you are participating in an International Student Arrival Plan, you do not need to apply for a travel exemption to enter Australia. The relevant state or territory government will apply for a travel exemption for you.

Approved International Student Arrival Plans

South Australia’s International Student Arrival Plan has been fully approved by the Australian Government. When Australia’s internal borders fully reopen, 160 international students will be allowed into South Australia per fortnight. These students will complete their mandatory 14-day quarantine, and undertake daily COVID-19 testing, at the Flight Training Adelaide site at Parafield Airport. Following their quarantine and negative COVID-19 results, students will be allowed to attend classes at their education providers and travel the state as usual, if COVID-19 restrictions allow.

Pending International Student Arrival Plans

New South Wales’ pilot International Student Arrival Plan has been submitted to the Australian Government for a final review. If the plan is approved, New South Wales will prioritise the return of continuing students from the state’s universities and five large independent providers in the first round, and will later include other sectors and providers if the pilot program is successful. 

Under the current plan, 250 international students will be able to arrive in Sydney per fortnight and will quarantine in purpose-built student accommodation while adhering to set health and quarantine requirements.

New South Wales is currently experiencing a spike in COVID-19 cases, so while the state’s plan was intended to start from mid-2021, the plan has been postponed “indefinitely”.

Victoria is consulting with the Australian Government on its International Student Arrival Plan, but no details have been confirmed. 

No information on International Student Arrival Plans from other states and territories is available at this time.

Have there been any successful Arrival Plans in 2021?

International Student Arrival Plans were announced in mid-2021, but in November 2020, Charles Darwin University (CDU) became the first university in Australia to welcome international students back to the country via a ‘pilot program’. 

We spoke to international students Maggie, Heather and Nicole about their journeys to Australia.