Australia, 20 months after shutting its borders, will allow skilled workers and international students to enter the country next month, the government announced on Monday.
The move comes as the Australian government, faced with a severe labor shortage, turns its focus to economic recovery, with 72 percent of the country fully vaccinated.
The new rules go into effect on Dec. 1, the beginning of summer in Australia. Some categories of visa holders, including skilled workers, international students, and those on working holiday and prospective marriage visas, will be allowed to enter Australia for the first time since the start of the pandemic. Over 200,000 people will fall into those categories.
“The return of skilled workers and students to Australia is a major milestone in our pathway back,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Monday at a news conference. “The steps that we are taking today are about securing our economic recovery.”
At the start of the pandemic, Australia shut its borders to noncitizens, leaving hundreds of thousands of visa holders stranded outside the country and contributing to a significant worker shortage. Australia has relied on temporary workers for many industries, such as hospitality and agriculture. The travel restrictions also created a severe funding shortfall for universities.
Most tourists are still barred from traveling to Australia, except those from Singapore, South Korea and Japan, all countries that have established travel bubbles with Australia.
Visitors entering Australia will need to be fully vaccinated and return a negative PCR test within three days of boarding their flight. Upon arrival, they will need to follow some quarantine restrictions, depending on the state in which they arrive.
On Sunday, the first planes from Singapore arrived in Sydney and Melbourne under the new travel bubble arrangement, bringing the first tourists into the country since the start of the pandemic.