Frequently asked questions

Latest information as at 2 December 2021

This information is for international students, education providers and agents regarding the return of international students to Sydney and NSW.

1. Will international students returning to NSW need to quarantine?

The NSW Government has announced that we will not require international students to quarantine, where students are fully vaccinated with a Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) approved or recognised vaccine. From 15 December 2021, international students can travel to Australia without requiring a travel exemption.

In response to the emergence of the COVID-19 Omicron variant, all fully vaccinated passengers who arrive in NSW must self-isolate for 72 hours (3 days) and then comply with the NSW Government guidelines for recent fully vaccinated arrivals.

2. What is self isolation?

All international passengers who have recently landed in NSW – and their household contacts – should read NSW Health information and understand the rules for international travel to and from NSW.

After your COVID-19 test you must self-isolate at your home or accommodation until you receive a negative result, even if you are fully or partially vaccinated. Do not visit any shops, people or anywhere else on the way to or from the testing clinic.

Most people in NSW get their test results within 24 hours, but please allow up to 72 hours.

This advice will tell you

  • how to travel to and from the testing clinic
  • how to safely self-isolate
  • what to do if you have been diagnosed with COVID-19 before
  • how to get support including obtaining food and essential supplies and mental health help.

The self-isolation rules are enforceable under the Public Health (COVID-19 Self-Isolation) Orderlaunch. Not following the rules is a criminal offence and attracts heavy penalties.

For individuals, the maximum penalty is $11,000, 6 months in prison, or both with a further $5,500 fine for each day the offence continues.

Learn more about self-isolation for international arrivals into NSW.

3. If I am travelling from an identified country of concern, can I return to NSW for my studies?

From 28 November 2021, anyone who is not a citizen or permanent resident of Australia, or their immediate family including parents of citizens, and who have been in African countries where the Omicron variant has been detected and spread – within the past 14 days – will not be able to enter Australia. The countries are: South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Malawi and Mozambique.

Read more about the Australian government’s measures regarding COVID-19 Omicron variant here.

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

Only students who are fully vaccinated with a vaccine approved or recognised by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) will be eligible to return to NSW. This is to help protect the safety of the NSW community and the students themselves.

Please consult the TGA website or Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade website for advice on COVID-19 vaccines recognised for the purposes of travel to Australia.

5.  When can international students return to Sydney and NSW?

From 15 December 2021, fully vaccinated international students and other eligible visa cohorts can return to Sydney and NSW without requiring a travel exemption, in line with the Australian Government announcement of 29 November 2021.

6. I am enrolled in the Pilot Plan, what do I do with my flights now?

Education providers have been working tirelessly in organising flight options to safely return international students to NSW. The scheduled flight you are booked on provides a safe path to NSW when the international travel situation remains fluid and where there may be limited availability of seats in commercial flights. It is also an opportunity to be involved in a special journey with a cohort of other students and the support of your education providers in the middle of a continuously changing environment.

We encourage you to continue to speak to your education provider for further advice regarding your scheduled travel to NSW.

7. 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. Returning international students should contact their education provider directly about on-campus learning arrangements.

8. Can international student currently in NSW return to their home country and then re-enter Australia?

From 15 December 2021, fully vaccinated international students and other eligible visa cohorts can travel to and from Australia without needing to apply for a travel exemption.

We encourage you to review the Australian Government Department of Home Affairs website to keep up to date on any developments.

When preparing to travel, you should check what you need to do when leaving Australia or coming to Australia from overseas.

9. If an international student’s vaccine isn’t recognised by the TGA but is so in their home country, can they travel to Sydney and NSW?

Only students who are fully vaccinated with a vaccine approved or recognised by the TGA can travel to Sydney and NSW without requiring a travel exemption.

10. If I test positive to COVID-19 in Australia, what happens? 

If you have tested positive for COVID-19:

  • self-isolate in your home immediately
  • tell everyone who lives with you that they must self-isolate too
  • tell your work manager, place of education, household members, and people you have been in contact with in the 2 days before you got sick (or 2 days before your test if you have no symptoms) that you have tested positive for COVID-19 and ask them to get tested and self-isolate.

Contact your Local Health District clinical team, your doctor, or call Healthdirect on 1800 022 222 if you need health advice. In an emergency call Triple Zero (000), for example if you are having trouble breathing or pain in your chest.

Visit the NSW Health website for further information.

11. What happens if I do not comply with the health guidelines?

Not following the guidelines set by NSW Health for recent fully vaccinated arrivals puts family, friends and community at risk.

Not following these rules is also a criminal offence and attracts heavy penalties. For individuals, the maximum penalty is $11,000, 6 months in prison, or both with a further $5,500 fine for each day the offence continues. An on the spot fine of $1,000 may be issued.

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. As at 22 November, more than 91 percent of the NSW population aged 16 and over was fully vaccinated.

13. How can international students and the sector stay informed about the return of international students?

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.

14. I am an international student currently in NSW. Can I travel to my home country and return to NSW?

There is no approval required for visa holders to travel outside Australia. We advise, however, that you check your destination’s border and COVID-19 related restrictions for smoother travel. Please also consider the requirements when travelling to NSW from overseas including pre-departure and arrival information for international students and keep an eye out on government announcements related to Australia’s borders.