The proposed changes provide assurances to international students already in Australia and to those who have been unable to travel due to border closures. In addition, they will ensure that Australia remains a priority destination for international students in the post-pandemic time.
The proposed changes include the following:
- Grants of student visas in all locations lodged outside Australia will recommence, so visa holders will be ready to travel when borders reopen
- Visa application charges (VACs) will be waived for international students who lodge further student visa applications, if they were unable to complete their studies within their original visa validity due to COVID-19
- Student visa holders that are currently studying online outside Australia due to COVID-19 will have that online study counted towards the Australian study requirement for a post-study work visa
- Graduates who held a student visa will be eligible to apply for a post-study work visa outside Australia, if they are unable to return due to COVID-19
- Additional time will be given for applicants to provide English language test (ELT) results where COVID-19 has disrupted access to ELT services
These changes will not only support the education sector, but will also have positive effects on tourism, hospitality and retail sectors. In addition, the Government has previously relaxed work restrictions for international students working in the health, aged and disability care sectors during the COVID-19 pandemic. It has also been flexible in cases where the COVID-19 pandemic has prevented international students meeting their visa conditions, such as not being able to attend classes in person.
The planned international student return pilot program developed by The Australian National University (ANU) and the University of Canberra (UC) has been postponed due to the continued uncertainty over the global pandemic situation. Safe Passage Student Return (SPSR) pilot program has been previously approved by Australian Capital Territory (ACT) government in order to help boost the ACT’s $1 billion international education sector.
The plan would have brought 350 international students to Canberra campuses to recommence their Semester 2 studies in late July 2020. But given the recent COVID-19 outbreaks in Victoria and NSW, the universities have decided to delay the well-advanced pilot plan. However, this is not an end to the program and it will be revisited at a later stage when it is safe to do so.
Once Safe Passage Student Return (SPSR) is reactivated, all ANU and UC offshore international students will be formally invited to submit an application to participate in the program. Places on the program will be allocated in accordance with the selection criteria. Prior to making the decision to participate in the program, students will be provided with further details regarding the final costs, departure dates and any other arrangements.