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Education abroad in 2021, COVID-19 and its implications

August 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken the world by a storm and has created a gloomy environment with clouds of doubt, anxiety, and uncertainty. The pandemic has affected several fields, jobs and most of all, education. With the world at a standstill, Education abroad at various destinations almost suddenly stopped. With a protocol for precautions, many countries sealed their borders and suspended flights across the globe.

International students, who had initially decided to study abroad during 2020, had no other option, but to either defer their admission or switch to online courses. We, at Edwise, as India's Leading Overseas Education Consultants, are helping students achieve their study abroad dreams by familiarizing them with the latest developments, changing protocols and updates from governments and universities.

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Frequently asked questions by students during this time are:

  • Are borders open for students to travel?
  • Can I apply for a student visa?
  • Can I apply now to study abroad for 2021 intakes?
  • Can students travel to study in UK, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, Germany, and France?
  • Are face to face classes going to be conducted in Fall 2021?
  • Do I need to quarantine when I travel to my study destination?

Is enrolment to study abroad open in 2021?

Given the current situation, enrolment to courses across destinations is open and on-going. However, different scenarios are playing out and students should pay close attention to new developments or updates for their respective choice of study. There are many intake options specific to destinations. While most courses have moved online, there are a few courses that are carrying out on-campus study or a hybrid model of learning. As most are online, being proactive is of prime importance.

United Kingdom

The United Kingdom is one of the worst affected countries. With a new variant emerging from there, a lockdown was imposed to contain the spread. Courses in UK have moved online.

As the pandemic progressed, the United Kingdom was once of the most gravely affected countries. Tackling the evolving challenges, and making vaccinations a priority for its population, the UK has now emerged victorious. With 44 million of its population fully vaccinated, the UK has now opened its borders for international travel.

Based on the latest update, dated 18th September, 2021, the UK government will be scraping its current traffic light system of red, amber and green countries based on levels of COVID-19 risk from October 4th, 2021. There will now be only one red-list. India is not on this red list, hence, there are relaxations that have been announced for travellers from India.

With Covishield - the Serum Institute of India produced Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine finally being approved by the UK government, from October 11, travellers will still need to take a pre-departure PCR test before travelling to the UK from India. However, they will no longer be required to undertake mandatory self-isolation for 10 days at the address mentioned on their Passenger Locator Form.

All passengers entering the UK will still need to fill the compulsory Passenger Locator Form before their departure to the UK. For those that are unvaccinated, they will still need to take a mandatory pre-departure test, a day 2 and day 8 PCR test, and self-isolate at their given address for 10 days upon entry.

For any queries, please check the UK government site: https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus

Canada

Canada is one of the most popular destinations for study abroad. As cases surged, universities in Canada moved their courses online. But as the situation gets better, relaxations are being introduced owing to vaccination drives. With a population of 37 million, around 4.2 million have been vaccinated.

After securing admission to a course at a university in Canada, students may apply for a Canadian Study Permit for upcoming intakes. Students that are granted their visas are travelling to Canada for their study.

Work extensions are also being granted to students who complete their courses in Canada.

When the Border Services Officer greets you, they look at several factors, including:

  • your reason for travelling to Canada
  • your ability to complete a minimum 14-day quarantine period (unless you're exempt)
  • if you either:
    • have time to complete your quarantine before you physically attend classes, or
    • can study online during your quarantine
  • Milk

You can only enter Canada if you have all of the required documents and your DLI is on the approved list.

A border services officer (BSO) will make the final decision on whether you're eligible to enter Canada when you arrive. When the border services officer greets you, they consider

  • your reason for travelling to Canada.
  • your ability to comply with all the mandatory COVID-19 requirements, unless you're exempt
  • your ability to comply with your approved DLI's COVID-19 readiness plan
    • This may include a 14-day quarantine period.
  • proof that you have enough money to support yourself and any family members who come with you to Canada.
  • the timing of your arrival
    • You should give yourself enough time before school starts, to
      • complete the mandatory COVID-19 requirements
      • meet any requirements in your approved DLI's COVID-19 readiness plan
    • If you arrive too early, you may be refused entry by the BSO.

You may check the link below for further updates:
https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/services/coronavirus-covid19/students.html

United States (US)

On Monday, 25th October, 2021, President Joe Biden announced that the USA will be lifting restrictions on international travel for nationals from China, India and much of Europe on November 8th, 2021. This is a great relief for international students who wish to pursue their education in USA or are already enrolled to programs in USA. This allows them to travel to USA and study on campus.

Based on this announcement, there were guidelines issued for international travellers. These guidelines are mentioned below:

  1. International travellers have to be fully vaccinated to travel to the United States by plane. The individual must be vaccinated with an FDA approved or authorized vaccine or those that have been authorized for emergency use by the World Health Organization (WHO).
  2. Travellers are mandated to present a negative COVID-19 test result or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 before they board their flight to the USA. The test must be taken three days before travel.
  3. If the traveller is fully vaccinated, they have to present Proof of Vaccination and a negative COVID-19 test 3 days before travel as well.
  4. If the traveller is not vaccinated, they have to take and present a negative COVID-19 test taken 1 day before their travel.
  5. Along with the above mentioned guidelines, all passengers arriving in USA have to provide contact information to the respective before boarding their flights. This ensures that the travel process is safer and will help the government rapidly identify and contact people in case they have been exposed to the virus during their travel.
  6. Individuals will be considered to be fully vaccinated after 14 days have passed from the second dose of the vaccine.

If a traveller to the USA is not vaccinated, there are a set of guidelines that they need to follow:

  • The individual has to get tested within 3-5 days of arrival in the USA. They have to take a Nucleic Acid Amplification Tests (NAATs), such as an RT-PCR test or any antigen test.
  • Individuals are required to self-quarantine upon arrival in the USA. They are free to do so either at home or in a hotel.
  • If they test positive or develop Covid 19 symptoms, at any stage after their arrival, they need to isolate immediately, till they test negative.

(Those who have recovered from Covid 19 in the past 90 days, before arrival, are exempted from the above guidelines.)

  • If the individual intends on staying in the USA for 60 days or longer, they must get vaccinated in the USA, unless they have a medical contraindication, which forbids them from receiving the vaccine, or are too young to be vaccinated.

During their stay in the USA, individuals are required to follow the nation-wide mandates released by the CDC. They are required to wear a mask that covers their nose and mouth in indoor areas of public transportation (including airplanes) while traveling into, within, or out of the United States and indoors in U.S. transportation hubs (including airports).

These relaxations are a big win for international students who are looking to study in USA from India. As the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is an approved vaccine in the USA, students that are fully vaccinated are eligible for travel to study at universities in USA.

Effective from December 6, 2021, All passengers traveling to the USA who are 2 years or older, need to show proof of a negative COVID -19 viral test administered within no more than one (1) day before their flight (regardless of their vaccination status). Even U.S. citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents need to provide this proof.

Australia

During the pandemic, all colleges and universities in Australia shifted their classes online. Students had to complete their assessments online and were not permitted to attend campus.

In the media release of 1st October 2021 by the Prime Minister of Australia, it was said that the country is now prepared to move a step further to open its borders to the rest of the world.

Within a span of few weeks, most of the country will be progressing to Phase B and later on to Phase C of the National Plan to reopen the country safely and to stay safely open. Fully vaccinated Australian travellers will be permitted to travel internationally under Phase C. Many global countries have at present, safely reopened to international travel and now Australia too is ready to embark on this route.

  • All Australian citizens and permanent residents who are fully vaccinated with a vaccine acclaimed for use in Australia or recognized by the (TGA) i.e. the Therapeutic Goods Administration have to undergo home quarantine for seven days.
  • A person not vaccinated or vaccinated with a vaccine not approved/recognized by the TGA has to undertake managed quarantine for 14 days.

All those arriving in the country who are not vaccinated, will have to undergo managed quarantine for 14 days under Phase B and C of the National Plan. These will return to previous levels at Phase B of the National Plan. All vaccinated Australians will be free from travel restrictions. The government will work with states on the same. However, travelers will continue to be tested for Covid-19 as part of the requirement of international travel and Rapid Antigen Tests may be used.

Pfizer(Comirnaty), AstraZenece(Vaxzevria), Moderna(Spikevax) and COVID-19 Vaccine Janssen are the four COVID-19 vaccines that have sought approval and are registered for use by the TGA. In addition to these, the Agency has also been reviewing other vaccines that are used globally for the purposes of determining 'recognized vaccines'.

Along with the four approved vaccines, the TGA has advised that the Coronavac(Sinovac) and Covishield(AstraZeneca/Serum Institute of India) vaccines should be approved to consider incoming international travellers as being appropriately vaccinated. As of 2nd November 2021, Bharat Biotech's 'Covaxin' has also been designated as an approved vaccine. This enables fully vaccinated Indians to travel to Australia without having to quarantine on arrival.

As the country moves ahead on the path of recovery, the Minister for Health will consider updating the Biosecurity Act Emergency to determine some of these changes for fully vaccinated travellers as they move ahead on the National Plan to get Australia back to normal and safely reopen the country.

New Zealand

New Zealand, during the early progression of the pandemic, shut its borders to contain the spread within the country. Admissions to courses at universities in New Zealand are on hold indefinitely. Some universities like Massey and NMIT have online classes for about 20 hours a week. To assist students, pre-recorded classes are being made available in their respective time zones. Borders may open in Feb 2022, but may open earlier if the situation improves. Admissions to every course at the universities are on hold currently. The country is not processing or granting student visas, at the moment.

You may check updates on https://www.immigration.govt.nz/about-us/covid-19/border-closures-and-exceptions/border-entry-requirements

Singapore

On Wednesday, 27 October 2021, in response to the global Covid-19 situation, Singapore announced that it was looking to adjust its border control guidelines for international travel to allow nationals of other countries to travel to Singapore.

Based on the announcement, starting from 1 November 2021,

  • Individuals who are work pass holders, Student’s Pass holders, dependants, and holders of In-Principle Approval (IPA) letters will be allowed to travel to Singapore only if they are fully vaccinated with an approved vaccine with is on the EUL list by the WHO.
  • As vaccines are only available to individuals of 18 years and above, travellers below the age of 17 (born in or after 2004) are exempt from the vaccination rule.
  • Travellers to Singapore will have to present a negative Covid 19 test, a RT-PCR test, taken no longer than 48 hours before departure. They will also need to take a Covid test on arrival and stay at a managed and designated quarantine facility for 10 days.

The processing of applications for entry approval has already commenced.

Students who have already received their Student Pass will be required to apply for their entry approvals directly through the designated Safe Travel Office (STO) website.

Applications are assessed and entry ids granted on a case-by-case basis and subject to a specific quota. In order to avoid inconvenience, students are advised to prepare well before applying for entry approval to make the process as seamless as possible

Eligible applicants will be notified once the approval is granted and will have to make the payment promptly. Following the successful payment, an Approval Letters for Entry (ALE) will be issued to permit the student to travel to Singapore.

Things to be mindful of:

  • Applications for Approval Letters for Entry (ALE) can only be made after the Student Pass is approved.
  • If the student has received approval for the Student Pass, they can proceed to apply for entry approval.
  • The official timeline for the processing of applications for a Student Pass is between 4 to 6 weeks, as specified by the ICA. In some cases, it may take longer.
  • If students have not applied for Student Pass, they are advised to initiate the process as soon as possible.

Ireland

Ireland has restrictions and precautions in place to avoid accelerating the spread of Covid. On the education front, students can apply to a wide number of courses at universities in Ireland for the 2021 and 2022 intakes.

Student visa applications are being processed and granted and students have started travelling to Ireland for their study. Universities in Ireland have adopted a hybrid learning structure in which students attend on-campus classes for 3 days and the remaining days of instruction are conducted online. This divide helps students complete their degrees while also being safe and cautious. Work extensions are also being granted to students who complete their courses in Ireland.

Unvaccinated students arriving in Ireland must complete a 14-day mandatory quarantine as India is on the 'High-Risk' countries list. The student's quarantine period may finish earlier if a negative result of an RT-PCR test, taken no less than 5 days after their arrival in Ireland, is presented.

Students that have been fully vaccinated and can present proof of vaccination documentation, they do not have to complete the mandatory hotel quarantine on arrival in Ireland.

Based on the guidelines by the government of Ireland, A person is considered ‘fully vaccinated’ after receiving both doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca Vaccine (Covishield) and 15 days after the second dose.

All passengers arriving in Ireland must:

  • complete a COVID-19 Passenger Locator Form
  • provide evidence that you have a negative or a ‘not detected’ result from a COVID-19 Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) test carried out no more than 72 hours before you arrive into Ireland, or have evidence that you are exempt from this legal requirement

Students may refer to this link in case of any clarifications:
https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/3b8e1-mandatory-hotel-quarantine-your-questions-answered/#exemptions-from-mandatory-hotel-quarantine


France

In France, borders are open, and universities are accepting applications to courses. Students who secure admission to Universities in France can apply for a student visa for their education abroad and travel may travel through the air bubble agreement.

Based on the guidelines issues by the Government of France, fully vaccinated individuals who have been inoculated with an EMA approved vaccine do not need to self-isolate or quarantine upon arrival in France.

Effective from 9 June, The following terms have to be adhered to by passengers arriving in France:

  • A sworn statement certifying the absence of COVID-19 symptoms and any contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19;
  • For persons aged 12 years or more, a virological screening test (PCR) of less than 72 hours prior to boarding showing no COVID-19 infection or an antigenic test taken less than 48 hours before boarding, showing no COVID-19 infection
  • A sworn commitment to take an antigenic test or biological examination that may be conducted on arrival in metropolitan France;
  • A sworn commitment to self-isolate for seven days and another sworn commitment to take a biological virological screening test (PCR) at the end of the isolation.

Germany

Germany shut its borders at the start of 2021, due to the second wave of Covid-19 infections. All courses in Germany have shifted online across all universities and there are no on-campus classes being conducted currently. Students can apply to courses at universities in Germany. Student visa applications and processing are underway.

As of 6th July 2021, Germany has lifted the travel ban on passengers from India and a few other countries. Arriving passengers will be allowed re-entry into the country after producing a negative test on arrival.

Based on the guidelines issued,

  • - Passengers, who are fully vaccinated or have recovered from Covid- 19, do not have to quarantine. In lieu of a negative Covid test, individuals can present their proof of vaccination/ recovery before boarding a flight to Germany.
  • - All travellers from high incidence areas must register on www.einreiseanmeldung.de before entering Germany.
  • - People arriving from 'high incidence' areas who are not vaccinated, have to provide a negative Covid test before they depart to Germany. They also have to quarantine for ten days once they arrive into the country. However, if they test negative for Covid- 19, the quarantine period can be shortened to five days.

As of 13th May 2021, Non-EU and non-Schengen area nationals are permitted to enter Germany to begin quality vocational training only if they meet the following criteria:

  • The person has a visa for purposes of training or education (after completing a language course, if applicable).
  • The person presents documentation from the training institution confirming that the person's presence is necessary (in person and not only online) despite the current coronavirus situation.
  • Entry for the purpose of attending a language course to prepare for subsequent training is permitted if the person demonstrates upon entry that the training will begin directly after the completion of the language course (without any intervening travel home, which would require re-entry to start the actual training)

Students may check this link for further updates: https://india.diplo.de/in-en/vertretungen/-/2464164

If you seek personalised counselling, get in touch with Edwise today. Since we are up to date with the latest occurrences, our counsellors can help you take the next step to study abroad.

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Also read: 9 Questions You Must Ask a University



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