International students could be the first category of temporary visa holders to return to Australia, as universities work with the government to propose health and safety measures that may make this possible.
Last month, Australia’s Prime Minister, Scott Morrison announced it would consider lifting border restrictions for international students and cross-Tasman and Pacific island travel as part of Step Three in the government’s ‘Roadmap to a COVIDSafe Australia’.
Australia is currently at Step 2 of the Roadmap. While the government aims to move through all three stages by July, Mr Morrison did not commit to a specific timeline for the changes. If travel exemptions for student visa holders are implemented in July, international students may be able to return to Australia in time for the start of their second-semester studies.
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Universities propose health and safety measures for international students to return
Universities are keen to allow international students back on campuses and are collaborating with the government to develop plans to allow their return in a phased manner, starting with existing student visa holders who need to return to Australia to resume their studies.
In early June, Universities Australia, which represents the country’s 39 major universities, submitted a proposal to the national cabinet with strict health and safety recommendations for international students to take pre-departure COVID-19 tests followed by quarantine arrangements on arrival.
Group of Eight, which represents eight Australian universities, recommended that a ‘secure corridor’ should be developed for international student arrivals once pre-departure isolation and strict health checks have taken place.
Government pressure to consider international student migration
The government has been under increasing pressure to allow travel exemptions for international students with SBS News reports showing nearly 120,000 international students have been stranded offshore due to the COVID-19 travel ban.
Student Visa holders also play a significant role in boosting the economy. According to SBS News, international students contribute about $39 billion to the Australian economy each year.
The number of international higher education student arrivals sharply declined over the last three months since the COVID-19 international travel ban was initiated. The Australian Bureau of Statistics reported a 41% drop in international students in February and a further 10% fall in March. In April, student arrivals were reduced to 30 people compared to 46,000 in the same period last year.
We are here to support you
The Department of Home Affairs is still accepting visa applications at this time, however significant delays are being experienced across the migration program. You may find it helpful to read our FAQ’s on how the COVID-19 travel ban is impacting visa holders.
If you have any visa or migration concerns, please get in touch. ‘Zero-contact consultations’ are available by Zoom or telephone to assess your circumstances, discuss your options for a travel exemption or visa and address any questions you may have.