Return of International Students

Latest NSW Government announcement

We are monitoring the current COVID-19 situation very closely and continue discussions with both Study NSW and with our government stakeholders about what this might mean for the Pilot as well as returning travel to Australia generally. We will update you if – and as soon as - any changes are confirmed. Please continue to check your UNSW email for updates specific to you as well this page for general updates on return travel and any changes to Government requirements.

The Australian Government has announced that from 15 December fully vaccinated international students will not require a travel exemption to travel to Australia. 

Requirements for entry into NSW remain the same (*students must have a valid visa, be vaccinated with an approved vaccine as well as obtain a negative COVID-19 PCR test before travelling), with details about requirements found on the Study NSW site.

This does not impact the flights under the NSW International Student Arrivals Pilot Plan, which are continuing.

UNSW is working through how we can continue to support international students in their return to Australia. Please monitor your emails and this page for updates.

Last updated: 30 November 2021.

Message from our President and Vice-Chancellor - Professor Ian Jacobs:

"This is an important step forward in bringing back our international students. The sooner we are able to do so, the better for the students who have patiently continued their studies remotely and the better for our community, so that the social and academic benefits of having talented international visitors can restart, along with the economic activity they bring for NSW. We hope to be able to welcome back all of our international students in the next few months and will continue to work with government and public health to make that happen as quickly, smoothly and safely as possible“.

Check out our Frequently Asked Questions below.

What is the program to return international students to NSW?

The proposal to return international students to NSW universities is a joint undertaking between the NSW Government, Study NSW and all NSW universities. It aims to progressively, and safely, return international students enrolled in our universities to NSW so they can continue their studies on campus.

The plan begins with a 3-month pilot that will bring back 500 international students to NSW on two chartered flights in December 2021, but more in 2022.

Our students who must undertake face-to-face learning to complete their degrees will be prioritised as part of this plan. Eligible students will also be required to complete the mandatory 14 day quarantine period.

This program is supported by the University sector and will be run in parallel to the current arrangements to return Australian citizens to Australia. The proposal has been approved by NSW Health and NSW Police. 

Please visit the Study NSW Return Program for further information about the program to return international students to Sydney.

Which students will get to return first?

Given numbers allowed by the initial program (a total of 250 for all NSW universities per flight) are quite small, UNSW will prioritise the return of continuing international students who need to complete physical components of their studies, including internship placements, to progress or graduate.

How can I register my interest?

The university will send you an expression of interest survey to complete to check your eligibility against the pilot requirements.

Who will be eligible?

To be eligible to return to Sydney, students must satisfy and agree to some requirements:

  1. Students will need a valid Australian Student Visa.

  2. Students will need to return a negative COVID-19 test no earlier than 72 hours before departure.

  3. For now, the pilot plan requires all inbound international students to be fully vaccinated with a TGA-recognised vaccine.

  4. You must be able to pay for your flights to Australia (see info below for approximate flight costs).

  5. Upon arrival in Sydney you must quarantine for 14 days in a Government provided accommodation (UNSW will pay your quarantine costs).

  6. You must adhere to all regulations relating to the quarantine period and will be monitored by NSW Police.

What happens next?

We will keep all students up to date with information as it becomes available. UNSW will make direct contact with students who have been allocated a place in the initial 2021 pilot via their university email.

For this first round of flights, all students who register their interest to return before the end of 2021 will find out the outcome of their application within 14 days. All students will be contacted again in early 2022 when the next round of flights are made available. 

Please be assured that we will continue to provide remote and online learning options for our students overseas for as long as that is required.

How do I prove I am vaccinated?

You must make available the official document you were given when you received your final vaccination.

The document must:

  • Be in English

  • Show the name/type of the TGA approved vaccination that you received; either Moderna (SPIKEVAX), AstraZeneca (VAXZEVRIA), AstraZeneca/Serum Institute of India (COVISHIELD), Pfizer (COMIRNATY), Janssen-Cilag (Johnson & Johnson), Sinovac (CORONAVAC), Bharat (Covaxin) and Sinopharm (BBIBP-CorV) (for 18–60 year olds).

  • Include your full name and date of birth matching your visa and passport

  • Include the date you received your vaccination.

Flight 2

Flight 2 will arrive in Australia on 24 Dec. The flight will be out of Colombo, Sri Lanka with connecting flights from India, Nepal, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Subsequent Flights

It is expected that there will be further flights from early Jan 2022.

How much will flights cost?

The below costs are indicative pricing only and exact costs will be shown to students that are offered a seat on a flight to come to Australia. Costs are in Australian Dollars and are subject to change.

Bangladesh - $2,949

China - $2,470

Hong Kong - $2,335

Paris, France - $3,270

Frankfurt, Germany - $4,370

India - $2,439

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia - $1,870

Kathmandu, Nepal - $3,068

Manila, Philippines - $2,270

Pakistan - $2,598

Singapore - $1,570

Seoul, South Korea - $2,370

Sri Lanka - $,977

Taipei, Taiwan - $2,470

Bangkok, Thailand - $2,070

London, UK - $3,570

Los Angeles, USA - $2,770

TBC, Vietnam - $2,070

For more information and terms and conditions please visit FCM Travel.

Singapore 'Vaccinated Travel Lane'

From Monday 21 November 2021 fully vaccinated Singaporean citizens will be able to enter Australia without the need to quarantine on arrival. This means that students from Singapore (unless you already have a seat on the 5 December flight), do not need to return as part of the NSW International Students Arrival Plan after 21 November. Seats for flights organised as part of the pilot will be allocated to students who currently are required to quarantine and have no option to return other than the NSW International Students Arrival Plan. 

There will still be some COVID testing conditions on arrival to Sydney from Singapore, and more detailed information about this can be found on the NSW Health site.

I met all the criteria, why couldn’t I get on the flight?

There was an extremely limited number of seats – we prioritised students who were in the later stages of their degrees and needed to complete physical components of their students in order to graduate. Given the extremely limited capacity the University was unable to bring across all of the students that we wanted to, and on this occasion there were students with more urgent practical requirements than yours.

I could have made my way to a departure city – why wasn’t I considered?

Given the extremely small number of seats available we used several factors when determining priority – including proximity to the departure city. With so many responses to the EOI, we weren’t able to factor in every students ability to travel to the departure city, but we are working hard to finalise details for the next flight, and more in early 2022, with a view to giving as many students as possible the opportunity to come back for in-person learning.

I've been allocated a seat on this flight but can't take it. What do I do now?

If you wish to decline this flight please decline the offer in the FCM travel invite link so that the seat can be allocated to another student. You will be returned to the list for consideration for the next round of flights, however please know that the departure locations may differ for future flights and that there isn't a priority provided to students who decline an offer of a seat on a previous flight.

Why didn't I receive an Expression of Interest email?

All offshore international students (and HDR candidates) were sent an email to their contact details maintained on file and invited to express their interest in returning to Australia. 

If you did not receive this email and would like it, please contact the Nucleus: Student Hub or call +61 2 8396 7005, and you will be sent a link.

Do I need to apply for a new Student Visa?

Visit the Department of Home affairs (DHA) “How To” apply for a Student Visa (Subclass 500) UNSW recommends applying for your visa as soon as possible.

Please Note: You may receive the following soft warning when you apply for your Student Visa. The message that pops up in the student visa application form tells you the COE is invalid. This is because the start date of your COE has passed.

Immigration has advised that you can ignore the warning and continue with your application.

You do not need to contact UNSW or immigration about the message.

Who can I talk to if I am struggling with my health and wellbeing?

The global pandemic has had an undeniable impact on the wellbeing of our student community. 

UNSW is offering a range of support services to assist you as you continue to study online:

Monday to Friday 9am - 5pm:

If you need after hours support: 

  • UNSW Mental Health Support on 1300 787 026 for mental health acute care

  • 24/7 Medibank counselling available from your home country on +61 (2) 8905-0307

  • Lifeline - phone 13 11 14 for crisis support and suicide prevention.

If you are looking for mental health online resources: 

  • headspace - information for young people about coping with stress related to COVID-19

  • UNSW Mindhub has some great mental health and wellbeing tips an tricks 

  • Arc has some great events and activities to help you connect with other students.

More Questions? Check out these FAQs.


1. Why are international students being prioritised over Australian expats stranded overseas?

It is important to stress that not one quarantine place for Australians returning home will be taken away under this plan.

Under this plan, all quarantine places for students are in addition to those for returning Australians, and are being funded by universities, not government.

NSW has been prioritising the return of Australian citizens since the beginning of the pandemic, taking in not only those from NSW but those from other states who have not been able to quarantine on their own. As the NSW Premier has made clear, ensuring Australians are safely able to return home and allowing international students to come back are both important milestones in our State’s economic recovery.

2. What happens if I am not vaccinated?

You must get a TGA approved vaccine to be able to return as part of the pilot program.   

3. Do I need to return through the pilot program?

No, however, Australian and NSW borders are still heavily restricted to international arrivals.

The Federal Government has announced a phased approach to opening borders based on local vaccination rates and home quarantining, though this won’t properly come into effect until 2022. 

4. I am finding studying remotely difficult and would prefer to study on campus, can you help me?

We understand your disappointment about being unable to return to Australia to continue your studies and appreciate that you would much prefer to be studying on campus. Due to the COVID-19 risk, travel into Australia is limited. We can’t wait until we’re able to welcome all our students back to campus and we are continuing our work with governments towards that aim.

The University is committed to doing everything we can to support you and we will continue to provide remote and online learning options for our students overseas for as long as that is required. There is also a range of support services, resources and events available to support you while you study online.

Check out the Student Life Hub

5. I have commenced my studies offshore; can I continue to study remotely? 

Yes. Commencing international students can start their UNSW studies online. In most cases you will find your core compulsory courses are offered online and you will have a choice of elective options. The Term 1 Timetable will soon be available. However, there are some programs with components that cannot currently be completed remotely. This may be due to the need for specialist equipment or in some cases because of the requirements of external accrediting organisations. If you are studying one of these programs and you are not able to study onshore, your graduation may be delayed. 

If you would like further information about how your studies may be impacted, contact the Nucleus: Student Hub.

6. Will my online studies at UNSW be recognised by my home government?

  • Recognition of online studies by the Chinese Government - Chinese Government officials have confirmed that UNSW online courses will be recognised by the Chinese Service Center for Scholarly Exchange (CSCSE) if a student's study plan has been disrupted by COVID-19 and associated travel restrictions. 
  • Recognition of online studies by the Indian Government - The Indian Ministry of Human Resources Development is yet to make a final decision on recognition of online studies via foreign higher education providers. The Australian Government is continuing to make representations to their Indian counterparts and the UNSW India Centre is similarly making representations to relevant agencies in New Delhi. 


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