Travel restrictions to Australia affecting international education

Coronavirus (COVID-19) has had significant effects on almost all industries. The Australian Government Department of Education is working across agencies and with states and territories to implement measures to manage the risk of Coronavirus on the education sector. Here is a summary of how the travel restrictions have affected Australia’s international education and students.

Exemptions for Year 11 and 12 students

On the 22nd of February the Australian Government announced limited case by case exemptions for international students from China in Year 11 and 12 (and their accompanying guardians) who hold a valid student visa, permitting them to enter Australia to commence the school year—where they can meet public health requirements.

  • This is in recognition of the importance of the final two years of school.
  • The exemptions will be considered on case by case basis. This process is being managed by the Department of Education, Skills and Employment.
Impacts of travel restrictions on Student visa holders:
  • Some students had their visa cancelled on arrival in Australia. All affected students have been and will continue to be notified.
  • The Department has made legislative instruments to regularise the status of a small group of students and visitors in Australia whose visas were cancelled on arrival in Australia the day after the travel restrictions commenced.
  • Similar instruments are being drafted to regularise an even smaller group of students and visitors who returned offshore, following cancellation of their visas.
  • Student visas will not be cancelled unless a student has attempted to travel to Australia. If you have a concern about the welfare of an individual student please escalate to the Department.
  • Anyone whose temporary visa been cancelled during the Coronavirus measures is advised to email [email protected]. The Department will then consider revocation of the cancellation.
  • Visa holders subject to current travel restrictions are unable to access or check their visa conditions in (VEVO). This does not mean there is an issue with the grant or status of the visa.
What the Department has done
  • Visa processing continues. The Department is approving student visa applications which meet all the visa requirements so that they can travel as soon as travel restrictions are lifted.
  • Many student visa applicants cannot meet health, character and English language criteria as key services in China are still closed due to closures.
  • If a student has remained outside of mainland China for more than 14 days after 1 February 2020, they are able to travel to Australia.

Visa status and Bridging visas

Student visas cannot be extended
  • If a student wishes to extend their stay in Australia, they will need to lodge a new visa application (including a new student visa or a visitor visa).
  • It is not possible for the Department to waive this legislative requirement.
  • If a student requires additional time in Australia to complete their study, they only need to apply for a new student visa at least six weeks, but no more than three months prior to their existing student visa. 
Bridging visas are unable to be extended
    • Bridging visas are also not able to be granted if the student is outside
    • If a student’s bridging visa expires and they are outside Australia, they will need to apply for another visa once the travel restrictions have been
    • If they have applied for a visa that can only be granted in Australia (for instance the subclass 485 Temporary Graduate visa), they will need to apply for a visa that enables travel to Australia (such as a tourist visa).

What is the Department doing to assist?

Travel restriction exemptions for Years 11 and 12 for Chinese students
  • Entry to Australia has been restricted since 1 February as part of the
    Australian Government’s response to the COVID-19 epidemic
  • The Australian Border Force Commissioner has the discretion to allow entry in compelling and compassionate circumstances
  • Allowing Years 11 and 12 students to commence or continue their studies relies on the ABF Commissioner exercising this discretion on a case by case basis
  • Criteria have to be met
Who is eligible to apply?
  • Chinese international students enrolled in Year 11 and 12
  • Holding a current international student visa granted on or before 22 February 2020
  • Not currently unwell
  • Not travelling from or via Hubei Province
  • Have a stable address for self-isolation
  • Willing and able to meet self-isolation and any other state or territory requirements
  • One current guardian visa holder may travel with each student
How do students apply
  • Opt-in process at jurisdiction level
  • Overseen by the Department of Education, Skills and Employment
  • Coordinated across all jurisdictions and multiple government agencies
  • Student and guardian information and evidence gathered locally and aggregated upward to allow the ABF Commissioner to consider application
    • School
    • State education authorities
    • State health authorities
    • DESE
    • ABF Commissioner
What will happen when exempted students travel
  • Health screening applied in China before departure
  • Australian Border Force will provide uplift authority to enable boarding
  • Health and bio-security screening at the Australian border on arrival
  • May fly onward from point of entry to destination provided masks are worn
  • Must self isolate for fourteen days on arrival in compliance with state/territory health requirements
  • State and territory health authorities monitor students’ self-isolation
Important message
  • Students must only book travel once an exemption has been granted
    • Anyone travelling without an exemption may be denied boarding and turned back at the Australian border
  • Students must supply their flight details to their school well before flying
    • The Australian Border Force needs this information to alert airlines to permit

boarding at point of departure

  • Students must observe self-isolation and other requirements upon arrival
    • Not doing so may result in visa cancellation
VisaEnvoy’s Coronavirus action plan

The VisaEnvoy team have plans in place to ensure ongoing operation for our current and prospective clients. We are able to work entirely remotely in the event that self-isolation is required or the offices are closed, including accessing client files, emails and phones, lodging applications, and accessing documents.

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