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Australia to allow more visa-holders to return as it faces skills shortage in post-Covid recovery

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Australia is set to allow eligible visa holders who are fully vaccinated to enter from Dec. 1 without needing to apply for a travel exemption, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced Monday.

Eligible visa holders include skilled workers, students, refugees as well as working holidaymakers.

“Steps we are taking today are about securing our economic recovery, steps we are taking today are about Australians looking forward, steps we are taking today is about taking Australia forward,” Morrison said at a press briefing.

“The return of skilled workers and students to Australia is a major milestone in our pathway back,” he added. “It’s a major milestone about what Australians have been able to achieve and enabled us to do.”

Australia closed its borders in March 2020 to everyone except Australian citizens and permanent residents due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Since then, over 500,000 temporary migrants have left the country, according to a parliamentary report in August. A lack of skilled migrants, along with low unemployment, have led to “major skill shortages in many sectors of the Australian economy,” a member of parliament said.

The country is expecting to take in around 200,000 eligible visa holders when restrictions lift on Dec. 1, but that number may be more, according to Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews. Those travelers would be subject to relevant quarantine arrangements, depending on which state they’re entering through.

States like New South Wales and Victoria as well as the Australian Capital Territory no longer require mandatory quarantine for vaccinated travelers.

After allowing vaccinated citizens from New Zealand and Singapore to enter this month, Australia will expand that provision to include those from Japan and South Korea, starting Dec. 1.

Japanese and South Korean citizens would need to depart from their home countries and hold a valid Australian visa to enter. They also need to be fully vaccinated and have a negative Covid-19 test prior to their departure.

Receiving tourists from South Korea, Japan and Singapore is an “important first step” for Australia’s plans to reopen to international visitors, Morrison said. “They are all very important tourist markets for Australia, and, so we are welcoming them back with open arms, and whether we can extend that to others over the course of between now and the end of the year, well, we will look very carefully at that.”

Fully vaccinated Australian citizens and permanent residents are already allowed to leave Australia from any state or territory without needing a travel exemption. Upon return, they would be subjected to the prevailing quarantine measures of the state they enter from.

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Written by Anelka Asante

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