First international students return as Singapore travel bubble opens – Australian Aviation


A file image of a Singapore Airlines A350-900 in Melbourne. (Rob Finlayson)

The first international students to land in Australia in nearly two years landed on Sunday, as the two-way travel bubble with Singapore officially began.

Like Australian citizens and residents, fully vaccinated overseas students from Singapore with valid student visas were free to travel to Sydney and Melbourne without going into quarantine.

A number of passenger flights touched down in Sydney and Melbourne on Sunday, with returning Australians as well as international students on board.

The first flight to land from Singapore under the travel bubble arrangement was Singapore Airlines SQ227, which landed in Melbourne just before 8 a.m. on Sunday. Meanwhile, the first flight to Sydney from Singapore was SQ231, which landed at 12:15 pm.

It comes after Singapore added Australia as a Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) destination that allowed doubly vaccinated Australians to travel without quarantine to Singapore from November 8.

Initially a one-way traffic lane, the deal was later rendered by the Australian government, which went into effect on Sunday, November 21.

As the Australian government continues to block tourist visa holders, travelers from Singapore with a valid student or migration visa are now allowed to enter the country, for the first time since Australia imposed strict border policies in March 2020.

Universities Australia, representing 39 Australian higher education institutions, said Sunday’s opening in Singapore marked the start of recovery for the international education sector.

According to Universities Australia CEO Cationa Jackson, around 130,000 students enrolled in Australian universities remain stranded outside Australia.

Jackson said the first flights from Singapore on Sunday were a small but important milestone.

“We understand that these initial numbers are low, but they are a clear signal of the intention to allow many more students to return to the classroom and to our communities soon,” Jackson said.

Australia’s higher education sector relies heavily on international students, with around 21% of all university students coming from overseas. This figure is well above the OECD average of 6 per cent.

The Australian government has long suggested that international students and skilled migrants would be the next cohorts to see Australia’s entry restrictions relaxed.

An announcement is expected in the coming days and weeks, with the prime minister and federal treasurer recently hinting that foreign students and skilled migrants could start returning by the end of November.

“We have said on students in particular and skilled migration, we will see that happen in New South Wales next month at the end of November,” the Prime Minister said at the end of last month.

However, Morrison remains adamant that tourists and backpackers on working holiday visas will still not be welcome until the end of the year.

Meanwhile, Treasurer Josh Frydneberg has instead suggested that skilled migrants could be welcomed again in December.

“The next step the Prime Minister and our team are working on is ensuring that skilled workers can [come back]. “

“Bringing in this larger cohort of skilled workers as well as international students from overseas will be a very positive thing. As you know, we have already seen agricultural workers coming from the Pacific to Australia to help work on our farms, and we are looking at the first opportunity available, ”he added.

Asked whether the government has a specific date in mind for such a return, the treasurer replied “before the end of the year”.

It also comes as NSW prepares to launch a pilot program that will see 500 international students brought to the state from December 6, while Queensland will welcome international students in the new year.


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