National News

Visa holders, students to return next week

Visa holders will be allowed to come back to Australia as early as next week, after the government cleared the way for skilled workers and students to return.

Fully vaccinated visa holders will be allowed to travel to Australia without needing to apply for an exemption from December 1

The move has been welcomed by business groups and the university sector, indicating the decision would lead to an economic boost.

It comes just weeks after international borders reopened for Australian citizens, permanent residents and their families.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Australia's strong vaccination rates had allowed for more people to come back to the country.

"It means we can open safely so we can stay safely open," Mr Morrison told parliament on Monday.

"Australians have had to sacrifice much and they have earned being able to regain the many liberties that they had to forfeit over these past few years."

The government estimated more than 235,000 visa holders would be able to return to the country from December.

They include people on humanitarian visas, student visas, economic visas as well as those on temporary and provisional family visas.

The government has forecast an additional one million visas will be made available for all other travellers, at a date yet to be specified.

Those on eligible visas looking to travel to Australia will need to be fully vaccinated with a vaccine recognised by the medical regulator, provide proof of their vaccine status and have had a negative PCR test within three days of departure.

Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews said the arrangements would also allow for tourists from Japan and South Korea to travel to Australia without the need to quarantine from December 1.

"This is safe, it's important, and it's fair that we go through this process of reopening our borders," Ms Andrews said.

"We are taking this one very important step at a time."

Universities Australia chief executive Catriona Jackson said the decision would allow for a $3.1 billion increase to the national economy.

"This is great news which will give heart to more than 130,000 international students with visas waiting to return to Australia," Ms Jackson said.

"We look forward to further detail so we can work quickly to get students back for first semester next year."

Business Council of Australia chief executive Jennifer Westacott said multiple sectors would be able to benefit from the return of skilled workers.

"Business large and small have been crying out for these highly skilled workers," she said.

"This will be critical relief for businesses who are struggling to find workers just to keep their doors open and for those who need highly specialised skills to unlock big projects."

The latest vaccine statistics revealed 85.1 per cent of those over 16 have been fully vaccinated while 91.5 per cent have had one dose.

There were two new cases of COVID-19 in the Northern Territory, with authorities easing restrictions in locked down areas.

Fully vaccinated people in the remote community of Robinson River will no longer be subject to restrictions, with only the unvaccinated ordered to stay home.

Victoria reported 1029 new cases on Monday and a further three deaths, while NSW had 180 infections and one death .

In the ACT there were 11 cases registered.

© AAP 2021