Fully vaccinated skilled migrants and international student will be allowed back in Australia from next month as the government loosens rules for certain visa holders.
From 1 December, people holding visas from 28 sub-categories such as skilled workers and students will finally be able to come to Australia without having to apply for a travel exemption.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he expected “about 200,000” people to take advantage of the loosened international border restrictions for those visa categories.
“The return of skilled workers and students to Australia is a major milestone in our pathway back,” he said at a press conference on Monday.
“It'll mean a lot for economies right around the country who need those workers and want to see those students return.
“And, so, from the first of next month we will start welcoming back the students, we’ll start welcoming back those on skilled visas that are desperately needed to ensure we are able to take full advantage of the economic recovery that we’re working to secure.”
Travellers must be vaccinated with a vaccine recognised by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) which, alongside the vaccines approved for use in Australia – AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson and Johnson – includes four vaccines used internationally: Coronavac, Covishield, BBIBP-CorV, and Covaxin.
They must also present a negative COVID test within three days of leaving their home countries.
Arrivals will still be subject to each state’s varied quarantine arrangements which currently only means quarantine-free travel to NSW, Victoria, and the ACT.
ACS CEO Rupert Grayston said the organisation welcomes the return of skilled migrants and international students to Australian shores.
“The pandemic has underscored how important the technology sector is to the economy and overcoming the chronic skills shortage Australia faces in our profession is critical to the nation’s future prosperit,” he said.
“However we shouldn’t overlook the importance of boosting the domestic supply of workers to meet the challenge of Australia becoming a leading digital economy by 2030."
Workers with these visas will no longer have to apply for exemptions to enter Australia. Image: Department of Home Affairs
Greens Senator Nick McKim said the news of easing border restrictions “will be celebrated by many thousands of people who hold visas for Australia”.
“The Greens join with them to celebrate all the children that will be reunited with their parents, all of the couples that will be reunited, all of the people that will be able to return to their jobs, homes, communities and lives in Australia,” he said.
“We also welcome the new temporary visa holders who will now be able to come to Australia and start a new chapter in their lives.”
Nearly 150,000 student visa holders are stuck outside the country, waiting to begin or resume their studies in Australia, and their arrival will be welcome news for Australia’s universities.
The sector was severely affected by closed borders and saw Australian universities shed some 17,000 jobs since the pandemic began.
Businesses will similarly welcome the return of skilled workers, along with the students and holiday travellers, which employers have been missing around the country.
Business Council of Australia CEO Jennifer Westacotta said Monday’s rule changes were “good for business, good for local workers, and good for the economy”.
“This will be critical relief for businesses who are struggling to find workers just to keep their doors open and for those who need highly specialised skills to unlock big projects,” she said.
“You can’t employ hundreds of Australians on a construction job if you don’t have a surveyor, and you can’t deliver an infrastructure pipeline without engineers.
“Businesses large and small have been crying out for these highly skilled workers.”