As travel disruptions resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic continue, international students face uncertainty around when they will be able to return to their study destinations.
With constant updates and rule changes from country to country, it can be confusing to keep up with the most recent information on travel restrictions. This is especially true for international students, who have had to navigate online learning while staying on top of the latest travel announcements.
Below are the rolling updates on travel for international students enrolled at universities in the US, the UK, Australia and Canada. This article will be updated as the rules change, so check back regularly.
On 27 April 2021, the US secretary of state announced an exemption to Covid-19 travel restrictions for international students starting from 1 August 2021.
The national interest exemptions (NIEs) will now be extended to international students from all countries with valid F-1 and M-1 visas intending to begin or continue an academic programme commencing 1 August 2021 or later.
Students with these visas do not need to contact an embassy or consulate to seek an individual NIE to travel.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) you should take a viral test three to five days after arriving. If your test comes back negative, and you are fully vaccinated with a vaccine approved by the FDA or authorised for emergency use by the World Health Organization, you do not have to isolate.
If you are not fully vaccinated with an approved vaccine, you also need to take a viral test three to five days after arriving, and self-quarantine for a full seven days after travelling, even if the test is negative.
Higher education institutions themselves all have individual policies around vaccines, so be sure to check Covid-19 policy with your institution.
More than 660 US colleges, including the entire University of California system, Georgetown University and Stanford University, have announced that vaccines will be mandatory for students coming onto campus.
It is also important to note that different US states currently have different requirements that you must follow upon arrival. You can use this travel planner from the CDC to get important information on travel restrictions and guidance for the US state you are visiting.
Under current rules, international students can travel to the UK.
All travellers to the UK must fill in a passenger locator form and submit it within 48 hours before their arrival in the country. The form will ask for passport information, travel details and the address where you will be staying in the UK. You can complete the form online via the UK government website.
From 7 January 2022 international students will no longer need to take a pre-departure Covid-19 test when travelling to England. From 9 January 2022 students will be able to take a rapid lateral flow test (not the free NHS provided lateral flow tests) instead of a PCR test on day two after arrival into England. These changes only apply to fully vaccination travellers. Travellers will also not need to self-isolate while waiting for a test result from 7 January 2022.
Remember, there are slightly different Covid-19 restrictions in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, so be sure to check the rules for the nation in which you’ll be studying and adhere to any local restrictions.
On 15th December 2021, the UK scrapped its red list, meaning there are no countries from which travellers are unable to travel to the UK from.
On 15 December 2021 Australia opened it's borders to international students for the first time in nearly two years.
International students are now able to re-enter the country without special permits. All incoming students must be fully vaccinated with vaccines recognised by Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration. Students must also take a Covid-19 test 72 hours before arrival, have tested negative and must self-isolate for three days upon arrival.
These measures are only in place in the states of New South Wales (NSW), Victoria and Australian Capital Territory while other states such as Queensland, Tasmania and Western Australia are beginning to relax rules on travelling across states.
The state of Queensland has announced that from 1am on the 22 January, fully vaccinated international travellers will no longer be required to quarantine on arrival. They will be required to take a rapid antigen test within 24 hours of arrival. Unvaccinated travellers will still have to quarantine for 14 days.
Students should stay up-to-date on quarantine and testing requirements for each state.
International students can travel to Canada under current restrictions as long as the following requirements are met:
You must have proof of a negative molecular Covid-19 test taken within 72 hours of the start of your travels
You must have a valid student visa, known as a study permit, or a letter of introduction that shows you were approved for a study permit
You must be attending a designated learning institution (DLI) with a Covid-19 readiness plan approved by its province or territory
You do not need to quarantine upon arrival in Canada if you have had a full course of an approved vaccine, but you will need to upload proof of your approved vaccine to the ArriveCAN platform before arrival.
If you are not fully vaccinated, you must quarantine for 14 days upon arrival in Canada, even if you have a negative test.
All arrivals into Canada may be subject to randomised Covid-19 testing at the border.
You can check if your university is a designated learning institution using this search tool from the Canadian government.
The Covid-19 readiness plan is the responsibility of your university, and it must describe how the institution will manage the mandatory two-week quarantine for international students. This includes where you will quarantine, travel arrangements to quarantine locations and support in procuring essential items such as food and medication. It is worth contacting your university directly to learn the specifics of their Covid-19 readiness plan.
If you are an international student in Canada and want to leave the country, you will only be allowed to return if your institution is an approved DLI.
As well as bringing your valid study permit or letter of introduction approving your study permit and a valid letter of acceptance from a DLI with you when you travel, you’ll also need to prove that you have enough money to support yourself once in Canada.
This article was first published on 2 February 2021. We will update it regularly as travel restrictions and guidance changes.
What are the current travel restrictions for international students? Here are live updates for key study-abroad destinations