Visa Crunch

Australia: Frustrated About Border Closures, International Students Hesitant To Return

The Australia border opening plans were recently announced, allowing eligible visa holders such as overseas students to re-enter the country beginning December 15.

All of the affected migrants and international students welcomed this move with great enthusiasm while some international students have expressed hesitations about potentially returning to the country. This is primarily due to dissatisfaction with the Australian government, which has a history of abandoning plans to reopen borders to international travellers.

Initially, the administration announced that foreign visa holders would be able to enter the country beginning December 1. “Throughout these months, all we were asking for was clear communication between the government and students,” says Indian student Deepesh Batra. “Not just fear-mongering, so we would have had some clarity.”

Since May 2020, Australia’s international borders have been closed in an effort to contain the transmission of Covid-19, impacting thousands of overseas students who were scheduled to begin or resume their studies at an Australian university. International students have started to consider another study abroad destinations like the USA, Canada and UK which are more welcoming.

Only fully vaccinated Australians, permanent residents and their immediate families, and fully vaccinated visitors from New Zealand and Singapore were permitted entry prior to December 15. This number did not apply to international students.

As a result of the 20-month border closures, many students have expressed regret at choosing Australia as a study destination. Immigration consultants have urged the government to allow skilled workers and international students to enter the country, mentioning a need to attract qualified workers to fill critical jobs in Australia.

Considering the point that international students did contribute more than 40 billion AUD to the economy in 2019, in the absence of a consistent influx of international students, the Australian economy has suffered to a great extent. “We have to make this as easy for people wanting to get into the country as possible and those who want to contribute to our economy,” Innes Willox, Chair of the Ministerial Advisory Council on Skilled Migration and AI Group Chief, told ABC Radio.

“It’s going to be hard. There’s strong competition from countries like the US, UK, and Canada for migrants and for labour. But we’re going to have to fight hard to pick up the slack and fill in those skill gaps as quickly as possible.”

All the higher education institutions have begun preparing for students’ return to the country since the official statement. In a tweet, the University of Western Australia said, “International students, we are so excited to welcome you back to Perth. You can now begin making plans to join us on campus“.

Australian universities have suffered significant losses due to a decrease in the number of international students, who account for more than 40% of the sector’s overall income. Australian universities are expected to lose three billion Australian dollars in international student revenue this year compared to 2019. As a result of this announcement, the rest of the country will be subject to fewer Covid-19 restrictions.

All the activities will be conducted in the state of New South Wales that were previously restricted to those who had not been immunised. Only public transportation, planes, and airports, as well as unvaccinated indoor hospitality staff, will be required to wear masks.

Following the government’s poor handling of the vaccine implementation drive, Prime Minister Scott Morrison promised that government intrusion into people’s lives would have a “use-by date”.

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