Small numbers of international students will return to Australia from mid-year.

A pilot plan developed by the NSW Government to welcome international students back to Australia has been welcomed by Tourism Accommodation Australia as a move which will directly benefit hospitality businesses across the state.

The plan, put together in conjunction with NSW Health and NSW Police, will see 125 foreign students allowed into Australia each week to continue their studies on campus and gain employment in sectors approved under their visa.

The allowance will be on top of the 3,000 returning Australians allowed in each week, with students to undertake mandatory quarantine at approved student accommodation at no cost to taxpayers. A site for this to take place has been selected, with contract negotiations well underway.

International students can take up jobs in sectors approved under their visa, including hospitality.

NSW Treasurer, Dominic Perrottet, said the plan was a gradual approach to allow the process to be carefully managed and ensure community health was not compromised.

“International education is our second most valuable export, and we need to do what we can to help students return and revive this sector as quickly as possible,” Perrottet said.

The plan from NSW follows a similar proposal put forward by Victoria in April, under which 120 students would be allowed back into Victoria for study and work purposes after quarantining in a separate facility to returning Australians.

Tourism Accommodation Australia CEO, Michael Johnson, said international students were a vital piece of the puzzle in addressing the ongoing skills and labour crisis for hospitality businesses.

NSW Treasurer, Dominic Perrottet.

“This was a problem before COVID and it is even worse now due to the lack of international students, working holiday makers and temporary visa holders,” Johnson said.

“Hotels particularly are crying out for skilled staff like chefs, cooks and front-line staff such as food and beverage and room attendants. Many can’t open some rooms because they don’t have the staff to service them. Others have their restaurants closed on certain days.”

“We welcome and encourage a safe way to begin bringing these students back into the country.”

The estimated economic impact of closed international borders on students and tourism was AUD$1.5 billion per month to NSW alone, significantly hampering the state’s pandemic recovery.