Supporting the safe return of international students to NSW

Study NSW is working closely with the Australian Government, the education sector and NSW Government agencies to support the return of international students to NSW, in line with the State’s roadmap to recovery and the National Transition Plan for Australia’s COVID-19 response. This is an important milestone for NSW and reinforces the State’s standing as a world-leading study destination.

Latest information for international students, education providers and agents as at 15 October 2021.

About

The NSW International Student Arrivals Pilot Plan to return international students to NSW has received support from the Australian Government and NSW Government.

The Pilot Plan will allow a limited number of 250 international students studying with NSW education providers to return each fortnight from early December 2021.

For now – under the Pilot initially – international students who return to Australia must be fully vaccinated with a Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) recognised COVID-19 vaccination before landing in Sydney.

International students will quarantine in purpose-built student accommodation in Sydney and adhere to the same health and quarantine requirements set by the Australian Government for returning Australians.

The NSW International Student Arrivals Pilot Plan will not displace any returning Australians and be fully funded by industry, with in-kind support provided by the NSW Government around logistics and the coordination of their return.

Updates

New announcements on the 15 October 2021 about changes to NSW quarantine arrangements for fully vaccinated Australian citizens, residents and their immediate families, do not impact the current NSW International Student Arrivals Pilot Plan.

In partnership with industry, we are continuing with our plans to return up to 500 students to the state by the end of the year, and will provide any update as soon as possible.

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Why is the NSW International Student Arrivals Pilot Plan so important?

1. Returning international students to NSW

Two in five (38 per cent) of Australia’s international students choose to study in our State.

At 13 September 2021, there were more than 57,289 enrolled students outside of Australia who are unable to travel to New South Wales to study.

Our State has missed the many positive contributions international students make to the communities where they study, live and work.

For continuing students already in New South Wales, universities and other education providers have adapted to support students to have a full and rewarding co-curricular experience.

2. A return led by NSW Government

Education providers and members of the international education community are working with the NSW Government to ensure that international students who remain abroad can get back to our State as soon as possible.

This collective effort – the NSW International Student Arrivals Pilot Plan – will be funded by industry, with the governance and operational support of NSW Government and its agencies and the endorsement of the Australian Government.

NSW will prioritise the return of continuing higher education students from universities and large independent providers, with other sectors and providers to follow as soon as possible. A successful, scaled return will lead to an expanded pilot plan to welcome more students from a range of institutions returning to NSW.

Returning students will be approached by their respective institutions based on a set of criteria and their individual situations.

3. Australians still get home first

International students will quarantine in purpose-built student accommodation in Sydney and adhere to health and quarantine requirements set by the Australian health authorities.

This industry-funded quarantine model also means that international students will not be prioritised ahead of Australians returning or wanting to return home.

NSW will continue to support as many returning Australian citizens and residents as possible, based on the State’s weekly cap on arrivals and the capacity of our health and quarantine systems.

International student arrivals will be separate to the weekly caps, and all costs associated with travel and quarantine will be borne by the education providers and returning students.

4. Australia’s safety is an asset

This pathway has been designed with the safety of the NSW community and the students themselves top of mind. At the same time, we can give students and their families confidence that their experience in NSW will be positive and life changing.

In the uncertainty of these times, Australia’s focus on minimising the risks of COVID-19 means international students can be more confident of their experience here than just about anywhere else in the world.

With a demonstrated and ongoing commitment to community safety and liveability, NSW will continue to offer international students the opportunity to learn in one of the world’s best countries for students, acquire internationally recognised qualifications and launch their career in Australia or anywhere in the world. This is why 16 per cent of international students choose to call Australia home after they graduate.

We support the return of international students to New South Wales. It is the right thing to do.

5. Supporting the NSW economy

The economic impact of international students not being onshore continues to worsen – and it will take years to rebuild if we cannot support the safe return of international students.

New South Wales has already lost more than one third of its international student community between the start of the pandemic and September 2021. Some have gone to other countries with fewer border restrictions, and some have chosen to stay in their home country.

Before the pandemic, international education was estimated to directly support more than 95,000 full-time equivalent jobs across the State’s economy, in education, hospitality, tourism and other services.

Losing international students in 2021 means $5 billion lost to the NSW economy, which could be as much as $11 billion in total by the end of 2022.

The return of international students in 2021 will help support a sustainable education sector and our economy for the future


Frequently asked questions

1. Will it be compulsory for international students to receive a COVID-19 vaccine prior to their return to NSW?

Based on current health authorities' advice, only students who are fully vaccinated with a vaccine recognised by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) will be eligible to return to NSW as part of the NSW International Student Arrivals Pilot Plan. This is to help protect the safety of the NSW community and the students themselves.

2. When will the NSW International Student Arrivals Pilot Plan commence?

Study NSW is working closely with the Australian Government, education sector and NSW Government agencies to support the return of international students to NSW, in line with the State’s roadmap to recovery and the National Transition Plan for Australia’s COVID-19 response. The NSW International Student Arrivals Pilot Plan will allow a limited number of 250 international students studying with NSW education providers to return each fortnight from early December 2021.

3. Who will inform international students if they are eligible to return to NSW?

Education providers will directly contact any students invited to return to NSW, providing with them the information they require at every step of the NSW International Student Arrivals Pilot Plan. Targeted communication will ensure students understand their responsibilities and obligations as they arrive in NSW as well as the support available to them from NSW Government and their respective education providers

4. Who is funding the return of international students?

All costs associated with travel and quarantine will be borne by participating education providers and returning students. ​Specific details about the costs involved will be communicated directly to international students. ​Returning students will be approached by their institutions based on a range of criteria and their individual situations.

5. Will the weekly number of returning students eventually increase?

NSW Government will continue to work with education providers and the wider sector to deliver a successful International Student Arrivals Pilot Plan, so that more international students who remain abroad can get back to NSW as soon as possible. A successful, scaled return will lead to an expanded pilot and allow for more students from a range of institutions to return to NSW in due course.

6. Will returning international students be able to commence on-campus learning?

Education providers supporting the return of international students will resume on-campus learning with COVID-safe arrangements in accordance with the National COVID-19 Transition Plan agreed by National Cabinet, including tutorials, workshops, libraries, and practical requirements. In due course, students will also be able to meet with teaching and support staff, in an appropriate campus setting.

7. What about students who are still unable to return to NSW to recommence their studies in 2021?

Education providers will continue to provide online classes and support for those who are unable to commence or resume their studies this year in NSW, while working with government partners to deliver a successful pilot and find ways for more international students to return to NSW in due course.

8. If I am an international student currently in NSW, can I now return to my home country and then re-enter Australia via the NSW International Student Arrivals Pilot Plan?

The aim of the NSW International Student Arrivals Pilot Plan is to ensure that international students who remain abroad can get back to our State as soon as possible. We also know there are many international students who have remained in NSW during the COVID-19 pandemic and would like to return home and visit their friends and family. International border restrictions are still in place, and student visas and travel exemptions are a matter for the Commonwealth Government. We encourage you to review the Australian Government Department of Home Affairs (www.homeaffairs.gov.au) to keep up to date on any developments.

9. Why has NSW endorsed a plan for international students and prioritised their travel to Australia, when many Australians are still unable to return home?

NSW has supported the return of more than 240,000 returning international travellers up to early September 2021, many of whom were Australian citizens and permanent residents. International student arrivals will be separate to the weekly caps, and all costs associated with travel and quarantine will be borne by the education providers and returning students. The NSW Government will continue to prioritise the return of Australians, in accordance with the State’s weekly cap on arrivals and the national position of the Australian Government.

11. If an international student’s vaccine isn’t recognised by the TGA but is so in their home country, can they be considered in the Pilot Plan?

Only students who are fully vaccinated with a vaccine recognised by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) are eligible to initially return to NSW as part of the NSW International Student Arrivals Pilot Plan. The Pilot Plan will be overseen at all times by all key NSW Government agencies including NSW Health, and we will continue to review the pilot and communicate any changes to eligibility requirements in due course.

12. Can international students and their families remain confident that they stay safe and protected from COVID-19 once they recommence their studies in NSW?

In the uncertainty of these times, Australia’s focus on minimising the risks of COVID-19 means international students can be more confident of their experience here than just about anywhere else in the world. The pilot will ensure that returning students can successfully resume their studies and enjoy NSW’s vibrant, multicultural community as COVID-19 restrictions continue to ease in the State.

13. How can international students and the sector stay informed about this Pilot Plan?

Study NSW will ensure international students have easy fast-tracked access to information, support and services at every stage of their safe return to NSW. Clear and accurate information will be provided to international students through their education provider and via the Study NSW website and mailing list (www.study.sydney/subscribe).

More information

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