travel to Australia
Cyclists ride along the quiet walkway along Harbour Bridge in Sydney on July 19, 2021, amid a lockdown in Melbourne and Sydney as Australia seeks to contain a surge in coronavirus cases. Source: Saeed Khan/AFP

International students who cannot travel to Australia have been studying online for over a year now, and the situation is unlikely to change soon. Placement agents in Africa are advising students enrolled in Australian universities to start their studies online and postpone travel to Australia indefinitely, reports The PIE News.

One such agency is Koala Education Consultants, which operates in East and West Africa. “We strongly encourage all students to start their studies online as we wait for the borders to be opened,” read its notice to students. “Once the borders are opened priority will be given to students who have started their studies online and also hold a valid student visa. ”

The agency further warns that students will not be able to travel to Australia immediately after borders reopen. “There will be delays with visa processing once the borders are opened so we advise that you begin your visa application process right away as you start your studies online,” it said. Thousands are hoping to obtain their visa quickly, but students have been told to anticipate visa delays due to a large number of applications at the time. Those who submit their application early could travel to Australia in one of the first few returning batches.

travel to Australia

International students may not be able to travel to Australia yet, but they can still study online in the meantime. Source: Saeed Khan/AFP

When can international students travel to Australia?

There’s no concrete answer when international students can travel to Australia, which has kept students on edge since the country shut its borders in March 2020. Sydney is currently battling a spike in the highly contagious Delta variant infections, which has prompted New South Wales (NSW) Premier Gladys Berejiklian to pause its student pilot plan while the state remains in lockdown. The pilot plan would have seen 250 students brought into the state on charter flights every fortnight from as soon as this month, and was expected to be scaled up to 500 students a fortnight by the end of the year.

Africa alone sends around 9,000 international students to Australia each year, mainly from Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana and Uganda. Facing the prospect of losing these students to more welcoming study destinations, many universities have been encouraging a “start now, travel later” approach throughout 2021. Over 220 Australian universities have held a virtual recruitment drive throughout Africa via Koala Education Consultants, in a bid to secure international student enrolment despite unfavourable circumstances.

Students who are currently locked out of the country have been keeping an eye out on the fast-changing state policies for details on when they can travel to Australia. Earlier this month, New South Wales announced it would significantly reduce international student arrivals from July 14 and cap student visa holders proposed in the later stages of the reopening roadmap.

South Australia had previously announced its pilot plan to let international students travel to Australia and quarantine at Parafield Airport. In Victoria — home to the University of Melbourne, Monash University, RMIT, and La Trobe University — international student numbers have almost halved due to pandemic-related travel restrictions. This loss continues to affect fringe economic activities in the capital state, including the student housing market in Melbourne.