If you are outside Australia planning to come over to study, work or visit, late 2021 seems more like a realistic plan.

At present, some countries do allow the entry of foreign citizens. Such is the case in Latin America with Colombia, Mexico and Chile for example. As a result of this, there is a common misconception that people can also travel to Australia. The truth however, speaks differently: in March 2020 Australia closed its borders to all visitors except for Australian residents returning home. Since July 2020 the Australian government implemented a weekly limit on the numbers of people allowed to enter the country as a response to the global pandemic.

Currently, the cap on international arrivals has been reduced to half in some states to minimise the infection risk with the new Covid-19 variant from UK. Until mid-February, the maximum number of people allowed to arrive in Australia per week is 1,120 in Melbourne, 1,505 in Sydney, 512 in Perth, 650 in Brisbane, 490 in Adelaide and 500 in Darwin.

All arrivals are required to present an exemption for travelling to Australia. The person must be an Australian citizen, permanent resident or immediate family member (spouse or de facto partner of a resident or citizen) just to mention some of the categories. Furthermore, unless the person arrives from a quarantine-free flight from New Zealand, he/she must quarantine for 14 days in a designated hotel and pay this from their own pocket. The fees are $3,000 per adult and $500 for children.

The Australian government gives priority to Australian citizens and residents stuck offshore. However, it does not grant a secure entry to the country: those stranded overseas must lodge an expression of interest to return, and it will be subject to caps limits in place.

Additionally, it seems highly unlikely that foreigners expecting to come to Australia, i.e. on a student visa, will be permitted to enter the country within the next six months. The Department of Home Affairs (DHA) may grant the student visa, but the person will have to wait until the Australian government decides when it is safe to reopen borders to all international arrivals. Moreover, student visa holders would face a difficult decision: whether to study online or defer the studies for a certain number of months.

There have been numerous requests from the education industry members and those students stranded offshore to allow international students back to the country as soon as possible. Some states in collaboration with universities have managed to bring a small number of international students (less than 200) as a pilot program. It is undoubtedly a positive step, but it is only a tiny step compared to over 700,000 students enrolled in 2019. Real chances that a person could start an i.e. English program in Australia sometime soon are relatively minimal.

Now the question is, would you be willing to make a significant investment on your education, to merely study your course of choice online from your country and miss out on the “Australian experience”?

My honest advice is to think twice before enrolling/paying for a course and applying for a student visa if you are outside of Australia. It would be wiser to wait until Australia reopens its international borders to all visitors.

Keep positive; keep your dream alive, and make strategic decisions.

Contact us for more information and assistance regarding your plans for travelling to Australia.


Jair Castro

Australian Migration Law graduate

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