India has also announced an arrangement with Australia aiming to restart commercial passenger services following the suspension of regular international flights due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Speaking on December 13, federal health minister Greg Hunt said that the delayed border reopening for students and skilled labour would go ahead on 15 December, as announced on November 29. Students were supposed to begin arriving in the country from December 1, a plan that the government delayed as a result of the emergence of the omicron variant of Covid-19.

From December 15, students will be able to return to Australia without needing to apply for a travel exemption.

“We are on track for that, that’s been reconfirmed over the weekend,” Hunt said.

“We said on 29 November that we, we’re intending to reopen on 15 December. That has been through the National Cabinet process.

“Victoria is taking steps yesterday, and so that reopening is scheduled, will be going ahead, and has been reaffirmed over the weekend in consultation with the prime minister, the National Cabinet discussion, and the advice from the chief medical officer. So, that’s still ongoing.”

India’s ministry for civil aviation has also announced that it has established an air bubble with Australia, whereby Australian nationals and those with valid visas who are eligible to enter Australia/New Zealand will be permitted to travel.

“All the pieces of the jigsaw falling in place”

It is for airlines to ensure that there is no travel restriction for Indian/ Nepalese/ Bhutanese nationals to enter the destination country before issue of ticket/boarding pass, it added.

President of AAERI and managing director of Global Reach Ravi Lochan Singh said the “stars are aligning for Australia bound students from the sub-continent”.

“India and Australia have now got a firm travel bubble in place that includes Nepal and Bhutan based travellers flying through India. Air India and Qantas have started regular flights direct flights between Delhi and Sydney / Melbourne. All the pieces of the jigsaw falling in place. Book your flights,” he wrote on social media.

The PIE previously reported that the border opening delay had cost international students who had booked their flights and accommodation in the first weeks of December significant amounts of money. Despite the delayed reopening plan, a handful of students have been able to arrive, with 250 returning to New South Wales as part of a pilot plan on December 6.

Agents had previously said that border situation was “very confusing” for Australians and international students, with some states allowing students back before others.

The government has said arrivals must comply with requirements in the state or territory of their arrival, and any other state or territories that they plan to travel to.

Travellers arriving in New South Wales and Victoria are required to self-quarantine at home or private accommodation for 72 hours after arriving, Queensland and South Australia require 14 days mandatory quarantine.

From December 20, fully vaccinated arrivals to the Northern Territory will not be required to quarantine but will be required to stay in a “Covid-safe zone” in Alice Springs, Katherine or Greater Darwin for 14 days.

Western Australia will welcome back students from February 5, 2022. Tasmania has not yet announced a date that students can return. Some universities – like the University of Canberra in ACT – are “currently updating details” regarding international student return.

The federal government has endorsed International Student Arrival Plans for four states: New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria and South Australia.

“From 15 December 2021, fully vaccinated international students can travel to participating states and territories in Australia, quarantine-free without needing to apply for a travel exemption,” the Homes Affairs website states.

“Students who are not eligible to travel without an exemption may be able to travel to Australia under an International Student Arrival Plan. There are also limited travel exemptions available for international students who can meet specific criteria including some health/medical students and PhD research students.”

Stakeholders have previously expressed concerns around a lack of a unified and coordinated approach by Australia.

In a joint press conference with Moon Jae-In, president of the Republic of Korea, on December 13, Australia’s prime minister, Scott Morrison, said that on Wednesday [December 15] “we will move again forward”.

“The borders will be reopened both to Korea and Japan and for skilled migration and for students”

“The borders will be reopened both to Korea and Japan and for skilled migration and for students, as we conclude the pause that we announced several weeks ago,” he said, adding that some 20,000 Korean students come and study in Australia.

All fully vaccinated nationals from Japan and South Korea will, from December 15, be permitted to arrive in “participating” states quarantine-free.

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