International Students applying for Student Visas for Australia

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Where are the International Students?

Where are the International Students?

In December 2021 we started to see the return of international students onto our shores, or did we?

Scott Morrison announced that fully vaccinated international students would be welcomed back into Australia from 1st December 2021. The arrival of the Covid-19 strain Omicron resulted in the prime minister delaying their return until 15th December 2021.

A few months later and many are asking, where are these international students?

When it was announced by the government that we would see international students back in Australia, there was much excitement surrounding this announcement but suddenly things have gone quiet.

International students make a significant contribution to the Australian economy. They not only pay fees to attend Australian educational institutions, but they also form part of the workforce. Many employers (some of which are clients of Visa Solutions) have been left wondering where these international students are as there aren’t many working at the moment. Prior to the pandemic about 15% of waiters, 12% of kitchen hands, and 10% of cooks and chefs were current or recently graduated international students. These occupations are now facing widespread labour shortages.

Have all international students returned to Australia?

While many international students waited with bated breath to be able to enter Australia to study, the everchanging landscape caused by Covid-19 has thrown a spanner in the works for some.

Many students were ready to return in early December but then had to delay due to the Omicron outbreak and Scott Morrison pushing back their entry date. This delay did leave many disgruntled with calls for the government to reimburse flight costs for those that had planned to arrive prior to 15th December.

When January rolled around, Omicron cases especially in New South Wales and Victoria skyrocketed. Many who were eligible to enter Australia decided they didn’t want to enter the country while cases were so high. Airlines couldn’t fill planes, so they cancelled flights. Some of the international students who were affected by these cancellations decided they didn’t want to re-book just yet and would continue their studies online until they felt it was safe to enter Australia.

And then not surprisingly there’s the vaccination issue. International students are eligible to enter Australia on the condition they are fully vaccinated with a Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) approved vaccine. While international students come from many countries around the world, a great number are from China. China has six Covid-19 vaccines available but only two are TGA approved. For some of those that are vaccinated with a non-TGA approved vaccines, they’ve decided to wait it out but there are those that are chasing accepted vaccines so they can obtain proof of vaccination with a TGA approved vaccine. Those doing so have potentially had up to five doses of a Covid-19 vaccine.

Currently there are 300,000 fewer international students in Australia than before the pandemic began. There are approximately 147,000 student visa holders that are offshore.

Has Western Australia’s hard border had an impact on the return of international students?

Western Australia’s hard border has made it difficult for anyone to enter WA let alone international students. In mid-February, the Western Australian government announced it would allow international students whether primary, secondary or university level to enter Western Australia if they were enrolled to study in WA.

However, international students entering Western Australia must:
-          Have an approved G2G pass, with ‘Enrolled student in WA’ selected as the exemption category
-          Have received a third dose of the Covid-19 vaccine if eligible (two doses if not eligible)
-          Provide proof of a negative Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) within 24 hours of departure
-          Undertake seven days of self-quarantine at a suitable premises in Western Australia
-          Take a RAT or PCR test within 24 hours of arrival in WA and then either a PCR test on day six of self-quarantine or a RAT on day 7 of self-quarantine. If a student is symptomatic, they must continue to isolate until all symptoms subside. Household contacts will also need to be tested on day six of the traveller’s isolation
-          Use the G2G Now app and be subjected to in-person checks by WA police as required.

While it’s welcome news for international students, do all these conditions act as a possible deterrent for this cohort? Western Australia is expecting up to 6,000 international students to return but in previous years they have had close to 50,000 international students. Where have they gone?

Does the Australian Government have a plan to encourage more international students to come to Australia?

When it was first announced that international students would be welcomed back into Australia there was great fanfare. That excitement has seemed to wane. Why? Possibly because the international student numbers aren’t what the government anticipated. To boost the numbers, the Morrison government introduced a student visa fee waiver applicable to offshore students planning to travel to Australia between 19 January and 19 March 2022.

Student visa work limits have also been temporarily relaxed. International students can now work prior to the commencement of their course and can work more than 40 hours a fortnight. This is aimed to not only assist international students but also helps relieve work force shortages. This arrangement will be reviewed in April 2022.

It’s the hope of many within the education sector as well as employers who rely on international students to make up their workforce that international student numbers will increase over the coming months.

If you would like to learn more about student visas or any other aspect of migration, contact the Visa Solutions team on 1800 828 008 or send us an email.


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