Australia’s borders will reopen to fully vaccinated international students and Temporary Graduate (subclass 485) visa holders from 15 December 2021. This will allow education providers to plan for the return of international students, and for students to arrive in Australia and complete pathway courses prior to the commencement of the 2022 academic year. International students are an important part of the Australian community, and we look forward to welcoming them back to our classrooms, campuses and communities. At this point in time, travellers on bridging visas still require a travel exemption to enter Australia. Further information on eligible visa holders is available on the Department of Home Affairs website at:
Who is eligible?
To access this arrangement, travellers must:
- be fully vaccinated with a vaccine approved or recognised by Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). See www.passports.gov.au/guidance-foreign-vaccination-certificates.
- Travellers are considered fully vaccinated seven days after receiving the final dose of full course of a COVID-19 vaccine.
- Children under 12 and those who are medically exempt from COVID-19 vaccination can gain access to the same arrangements as fully vaccinated travellers.
- Arrangements are also in place to permit unvaccinated minors aged 12-17 years to travel with a fully vaccinated adult. Travellers should check the specific requirements with the state or territory to which they are travelling.
- provide proof of their vaccination status
- hold a valid visa for one of the eligible visa subclasses
- present a negative COVID-19 Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test taken within 3 days of departure (unless a medical exemption applies).
Restrictions on travel to Australia remain in place for unvaccinated students, with some limited exemptions. Unvaccinated student visa holders are required to obtain a travel exemption to enter Australia. This includes student visa holders who are vaccinated with a vaccine not recognised by the TGA or who cannot be
vaccinated for health reasons. Unvaccinated students can still enrol with an Australian education provider, be granted a student visa offshore, and commence or continue their studies online. More information on travel exemptions can be found at the Department of Home Affairs website at:
From 15 December 2021 fully vaccinated international students and Temporary Graduate visa holders no longer need an exemption to travel to Australia.
Students and temporary graduate visa holders should complete an Australia Travel Declaration (ATD) at least 72 hours before departure. The ATD contains a declaration regarding vaccination status that is considered to be critical health information. You must be able to provide evidence that you made this declaration before boarding the aircraft. To complete your ATD, visit:
New COVID variant – Omicron
On 22 November 2021, the Prime Minister announced the easing of border restrictions to enable the return of international students to Australia. Due to the emergence of the Omicron variant of concern, on 29 November 2021 the Australian Government announced the necessary and temporary decision to pause the reopening of Australia from 1 December 2021 until 15 December 2021.
International students who are taking part in a State or Territory International Student Arrivals Plan, and who have been granted an exemption, will still be able to travel to Australia.
From 27 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.
Any international student and Temporary Graduate visa holders arriving in Australia from eight countries in southern Africa (South Africa, Lesotho, Eswatini, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique or Malawi) must immediately isolate, get tested for COVID-19, and follow jurisdictional quarantine requirements, which will include quarantine for 14 days from the time of departure from southern Africa.
These restrictions also apply to people arriving from the safe travel zones with New Zealand and Singapore who have been in any of the nine countries within the past 14 days.
International students and Temporary Graduate visa holders arriving in Australia need to comply with the quarantine requirements in the state or territory of their arrival, and any other state or territories to which they plan to travel.
International students will be subject to Australian Government border restrictions and any State and Territory quarantine requirements in response to the new Omicron variant.
Travellers may be responsible for costs of quarantine if they arrive in a state or territory without meeting entry requirements. Further advice is available at: www.australia.gov.au/states
What vaccines are recognised by the TGA?
As at 2 December 2021, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has recognised the following COVID-19 vaccines for the purposes of inbound travel to Australia: Vaxzevria (AstraZeneca), Comirnaty (Pfizer), Spikevax (Moderna), Takeda (Moderna), Janssen-Cilag (Johnson & Johnson), Coronavac (Sinovac), Covishield (AstraZeneca/Serum Institute of India), Covaxin (Bharat Biotech) and BBIBP-CorV (Sinopharm).
Individuals vaccinated with mixed doses will be considered fully vaccinated if all vaccines received are approved or recognised by the TGA.
The TGA is continuing to evaluate other COVID-19 vaccines that may be recognised for the purposes of inbound travel to Australia.
Up to date information on vaccines recognised in Australia is available on the SmartTraveller website at: https://www.smartraveller.gov.au/COVID-19/COVID-19-vaccinations
Proof of COVID-19 vaccinations
Travellers vaccinated in other countries will be able to present certificates in formats that meet the following criteria:
• Issued by a national or state/provincial-level authority or an accredited vaccination provider
• Written in English or accompanied by a certified translation
• Containing at a minimum:
• name as it appears in the traveller’s passport
• either date of birth or passport number
• the vaccine brand name, and
• the date of each dose or the date on which a full course of immunisation was completed.
Information on foreign vaccination certificates is available on the Australian Passport Office website at: https://www.passports.gov.au/guidance-foreign-vaccination-certificates.
Pre-departure PCR testing
At this point in time, all travellers to Australia, including those who have been vaccinated, must provide evidence of a negative pre-departure polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test within 3 days before their flight’s scheduled departure. The Australian Government continues to review this requirement taking into account the most recent scientific evidence.
Exemptions to pre-departure testing requirements are available for specific individuals and countries. Exemption criteria and supporting documentation are defined in the legislative instruments that sit under the Biosecurity Act. For more information visit the Department of Health website at:
Future role of the Protocols and Preconditions for International Student Arrivals
To guide State and Territory Governments’ planning process, the Australian Government agreed to the Protocols and Preconditions for International Student Arrivals (the Protocols), developed in late 2020. Following the Australian Government’s announcement of changes to border restrictions for fully vaccinated international students, the future role of the Protocols is under consideration.
International students with a confirmed place in a previously endorsed State or Territory International Student Arrival Plan can still come to Australia under that Plan. Contact your education provider to confirm your travel details.
Otherwise, fully vaccinated international students should make their own individual travel arrangements to come to Australia. Students are strongly encouraged to book their flights as soon as possible.
The Department of Home Affairs continues to process visa applications and has done so throughout the COVID-19 pandemic
From 15 December 2021, there will be no restrictions on vaccinated students with a valid visa leaving Australia to visit their home countries and returning to Australia to resume their studies. Students planning to depart Australia temporarily are strongly encouraged to secure a return flight to Australia as soon as possible, given expected high demand for flights in early 2022.
Year 11 and 12 exemption process
When Australia’s borders reopen to fully vaccinated international students from 15 December 2021, this will include all school student cohorts with a valid visa. This supersedes all DESE bulk exemption processes including the existing exemption process for Year 11 and 12 students.