Supporting the safe return of international students to NSW

Latest information for international students, education providers and agents as at 1 September 2021.

Study NSW is working closely with the Australian Government and NSW Government agencies to support the safe return of international students to NSW. The NSW pilot plan has been submitted to the Australian Government for final review.


The NSW Government is committed to supporting the safe return of international students to Sydney and NSW as soon as possible. This  evolving situation remains a high priority for the NSW Government.

Study NSW is leading these efforts while we continue to deliver international student programs and support the international education sector in NSW.

We value the positive social and cultural contributions that international students continue to make to the NSW communities in which they study, live and work, helping to connect our cities and regions to the world.

Approximately two in five international students in Australia chose to study in NSW in 2019, and we look forward to a time when we are welcoming more students back to our shores.

NSW to welcome back international students

International students are expected to be welcomed back under a NSW Government pilot plan for their safe return over the second half of the year.

View media release

Why is the NSW International Student Arrivals 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.

As at 31 May, there were more than 47,000 students outside of Australia who are unable to travel to New South Wales to study.

Our State has missed the many positive social, cultural, and economic 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 rapidly adapted to ensure students can continue to have a full and rewarding co-curricular experience, both on-campus and online.

2. A safe return led by NSW Government

Education providers and members of the international education community are working with the NSW Government to ensure that when it is safe, international students who remain abroad can get back to our State as soon as possible – and be safe when they’re here.

This collective effort – the NSW International Student Arrivals 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 NSW universities and five large independent providers in the first instance, with other sectors and providers to follow as soon as possible. A successful, scaled return will lead to an expanded plan allowing more students from a range of institutions to return to NSW.

Returning students will be approached by their respective institutions based on a range of criteria and their individual situations, with priority given to higher degree research students.

3. Australians still get home first

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

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 above 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

Safety in this global pandemic is Australia’s greatest advantage. Australia’s COVID-19 response has been remarkable and creating this pathway cannot compromise the safety of the NSW community or the students themselves.

However, 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 world leading COVID safety means international students can be more confident of their full student experience here than just about anywhere else in the world.

It shows the power of science-based policy and practice, much of it developed and driven through our own research institutions, part of a system of world-class education, training and research that makes us such an attractive destination for international students.

These achievements reinforce the liveability, learner satisfaction and employment outcomes that international students who come to New South Wales report year after year. And it’s why, 16 per cent of international students choose to call Australia home after they graduate.

We support the safe 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 one-third of its international student community in 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 by the end of 2022.

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

More information

For regular updates, please subscribe to the Study NSW newsletter and follow Study NSW on social media.

Facebook Study NSW Facebook

Twitter Study NSW Twitter

Instagram Study NSW Instagram

WeChat Study NSW WeChat