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NSW pilot plan to return international students will start in December 2021

NSW Australia's international students
Australia’s international borders are expected to reopen in December, while some 500 students are expected to return to NSW under the state’s pilot plan. Source: Saeed Khan/AFP

NSW Australia’s international students can start returning to their education providers from early December 2021. The pilot plan will bring in 250 international students per fortnight — here’s what else we know so far:

NSW Australia’s international students to cover flight costs

According to the state government, the NSW International Student Arrivals Pilot Plan to return international students to NSW has received support from the federal government and the NSW government.

“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,” said the state government. The pilot plan will not displace returning Australians.

“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,” it said. Costs associated with travel and quarantine will be borne by education providers, while returning international students can expect to cover flight costs. 

“Specific details about the costs involved are still being finalised at this stage and 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,” said the website.

NSW Australia's international students

To return, NSW Australia’s international students must prove they have TGA-recognised vaccines. Source: Dean Lewins/Pool/AFP

Vaccine requirements for NSW Australia’s international students

Australia’s international borders will only open to vaccinated students. “For now — under the pilot initially — international students who return to Australia must be fully vaccinated with a  Therapeutic Good Administration (TGA) recognised COVID-19 vaccination before landing in Sydney,” notes the state government. Currently, this includes AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson. 

Chinese students may be excluded

Australia’s international borders are open to travellers with TGA-recognised vaccines. As such, Chinese international students could be excluded from NSW’s pilot plan because China’s vaccines are not recognised by TGA.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian was quoted saying by Bloomberg: “They will need to be double vaccinated with a vaccine that our federal authorities deemed to be adequate and effective and that is just the way it is.” Students who want to participate in future pilots will need to “find access to a vaccine that is regarded as effective by our authorities. We don’t want additional risk put into our system,” she said.

Australia’s international borders: Flight challenges

Australians are expected to resume international travel once 80% of its population are fully vaccinated. The national plan notes the following: “Gradual reopening of inward and outward international travel with safe countries and proportionate quarantine and reduced requirements for fully vaccinated inbound travellers.”

Despite this, ABC News reported that the Board of Airlines Representatives Australia (BARA) said airports were currently not resourced to handle additional international flights and there had been limited engagement with the industry from governments at all levels about how to plan for an increase in services.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) warned that some carriers may choose to fly elsewhere if the uncertainty continues.

Singapore Airlines has cancelled additional December flights to Australia because of the ongoing uncertainty around the travel bubble with Australia that was referred to in the national plan.