Australia’s Borders Open to Several Foreign Visa Holders

The Australian government announced it would open the country’s borders to foreigners from next week, prioritizing some travelers’ groups.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Monday that skilled immigrants, international students and citizens from Japan and South Korea would be authorized to travel to Australia from December 1. But all must meet several requirements, including being fully vaccinated against Covid-19.

Australia became one of the countries with the strictest controls when the pandemic began. It closed its borders in May last year, allowing only a select number of citizens and permanent residents to enter its territory as part of its efforts to reduce Covid-19 transmissions.

Over the past few weeks, authorities relaxed rules to allow foreign relatives of Australian citizens to enter. But, from now on, the measure will be expanded to allow the arrival of temporary and provisional business visa holders, vaccinated students, humanitarian workers, and refugees, Morrison said.

Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews said travelers had to meet some requirements before entering the country. All entries must test negative for Covid-19 within three days before arriving, she stated.

Also, South Koreans and Japanese who wish to visit Australia must have a valid visa and be fully vaccinated. If tourists fail to meet the vaccination requirement, they must undergo a mandatory quarantine period, she explained.

Speaking to reporters in Canberra, the prime minister said skilled workers and students’ return to Australia was a “major milestone on our pathway back.” The government expects 200,000 travelers to arrive in the country between December and January.

Australia’s national economy is heavily dependent on foreign labor and students. However, it has been affected by the pandemic’s chokehold on international travel.

According to official government data, over 160,000 students among 235,000 foreigners had valid visas for travel to Australia.

International students leave 35 billion Australian dollars ($25 billion) of revenue to the country’s economy annually. Therefore, their return could significantly boost the Australian education sector.

Authorities also expect that lifting strict border restrictions will ease labor shortages, which threaten to hamper the nation’s economic rebound.

Jennifer Westacott, chief executive of the industry body, the Business Council, said: “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 specialized skills to unlock big projects.”