Australia reopens for foreign visa holders in an attempt to revive the economy

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CANBERRA / SYDNEY, November 22 (Reuters) – Australia will allow foreign visa holders to enter the country from early December, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Monday, the latest step in resuming international travel and supporting its economy.

Australia closed its international border in May 2020 and allowed only a limited number of citizens and permanent residents to enter in an attempt to limit the spread of covid-19.

Rules have been eased in recent weeks to allow foreign family members of citizens to enter, and Morrison said this will be scaled up from December 1 to allow vaccinated students, business visa holders and refugees to arrive.

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“The return of skilled workers and students to Australia is an important milestone on our way back,” Morrison told Canberra reporters. Australia will also allow vaccinated tourists from South Korea and Japan from December 1, he said.

The return of foreign students, worth about A $ 35 billion (US $ 25 billion) a year to the Australian economy, will be a major boost for the education sector.

More than 235,000 foreigners, including about 160,000 students, had visas to Australia by the end of October, state data showed.

Airport staff hold up welcome signs as the first international travelers arrive at Sydney Airport in the wake of easing border restrictions on the coronavirus (COVID-19), with fully vaccinated Australians being admitted to Sydney from abroad without quarantine for the first time since March 2020, in Sydney, Australia, 1 November 2021. REUTERS / Jaimi Joy

Many Australian universities have come to rely on foreign students, who make up about 21% of total enrollments, and the border closure has led to higher education facilities laying off hundreds of staff.

Many students who are locked out of Australia have said that they would switch to alternative universities if they could not start learning face to face in 2022. Read more

The relaxation of the border rules is also expected to reduce the shortage of labor, which threatens to hinder an economic recovery.

“This will be crucial relief for companies struggling to find workers just to keep their doors open and for those who need highly specialized skills to unlock large projects,” said Jennifer Westacott, CEO of the industry body, Business Council.

Boundary rules, rapid deadlocks and tough rules on social distancing helped Australia keep its coronavirus numbers much lower than many other comparable countries, with around 200,000 cases and 1,948 deaths.

Most new infections are reported in the state of Victoria, which registered 1,029 cases on Monday. New South Wales, home to Sydney, reported 180 cases. Other states and territories are covid-free or have very few cases.

($ 1 = 1.3824 Australian dollars)

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Reporting by Renju Jose and Colin Packham; Edited by Richard Pullin

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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