When will Australia open borders for international students? A state-by-state breakdown

australia open borders
Australia open borders — soon-to-be reality or stalled by bureaucracy? Source: Greg Wood/AFP

It started with good news earlier this week. On Monday, Nov. 30, 2020, 63 internationals landed safely in Darwin. They’re the first to return since borders shut in March. Now, they’re in quarantine and set to start on campus in a few weeks. It’s the most positive news international students got in months, sparking talks of more pilot programmes to come. The question “When will Australia open borders to international students?” finally had a more positive reply — not just “maybe,” but “soon” or in a matter of months.

Then, came Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan’s statement. All Australian states are not ready with their plans to welcome internationals. Some did not even provide an indication when they will have their plans ready. “I wrote to all states and territories asking them to submit their plan for international student arrivals by the end of November,” Tehan said. What’s going on? What’s the process to get Australia to open borders again? Here’s a state-by-state breakdown of the latest state of affairs:

Australian Capital Territory (ACT)

ACT is expected to submit their plans to the Morrison government this week.

New South Wales

The New South Wales government is expected to submit their plans to the Morrison government this week. Previously, New South Wales Minister for Jobs, Investment, Tourism and Western Sydney Stuart Ayres was working to bring international students back early next year. The absence of international students due to the pandemic has left the state facing a AU$2.5 billion hit to its wider economy.

“Australia open borders” are three words international students are anxiously waiting for. Source: Greg Wood/AFP

Premier Gladys Berejiklian is championing the reopening of its borders so international students can return and boost the economy, and wants the state’s borders to open to international students within the next few weeks.

Northern Territory

The Northern Territory government is expected to submit their plans to the federal government this week. Charles Darwin University (CDU) is currently “holding discussions” for a charter flight for international students stranded in India in the first six months of next year, according to SBS Punjabi. “Following the success of our first pilot flight on Monday, CDU is working with the Northern Territory and Australian governments to arrange further flights in 2021,” said the CDU spokesperson.


No timeline yet from this northeastern state. Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk had ruled out expanding international arrivals to include students, saying it would put too much strain on the hotel quarantine system and that it was not the time to allow international students to enter despite other states rolling out the welcome mat, reported news.com.au.

South Australia

South Australia is currently working on its proposals for the return of international students. According to previous reports, South Australia’s pilot programme — which was proposed by Adelaide University, the University of South Australia (UniSA) and Flinders University — will see some 300 international students fly into the state between November 2020 and January 2021.

The South Australia pilot programme was announced in August 2020 but had previously been pushed back due to concerns about international arrivals. International students reportedly generate over two billion Australian dollars per year for the South Australian economy.


Paradise? Yes, but no timeline regarding the return of international students yet.


Victoria is currently working on their proposals for the return of international students.

Two shoppers on scooters make their way down the normally busy shopping precinct of Collins Street in Melbourne on July 22, 2020. Without Australia open borders, cities are suffering from the absence of billions in contribution by the international student community. Source: William West/AFP

Western Australia

Western Australia are currently working on a robust plan for the safe return of international students as soon as conditions permit.