Australian Immigration Law Update: How Does International Travel Work Now Australian Borders Are Opening?

by | Nov 3, 2021 | Migration, Travel Waivers

PLEASE NOTE: This information contained herein is valid as at 1 November 2021.  Please contact Nevett Ford Lawyers for specific advice and assistance as the situation regarding travel requirements is changing rapidly.

Who can enter Australia?

Currently, only Australian citizens and permanent residents and their ‘immediate family’ — which now includes parents — can come into Australia without requiring a travel waiver exemption.

Employer sponsored visa holders, tourists, students and others are still barred.  However, it is possible to submit a travel waiver exemption request for entry to Australia as a temporary resident visa holder if you meet the relevant criteria set out below.

The Commissioner of the Australian Border Force decision makers may grant you an individual exemption to enter Australia on a temporary residence visa if you are:

  • a foreign national travelling at the invitation of the Australian Government or a state or territory government authority for the purpose of assisting in the COVID-19 response
  • a foreign national whose entry into Australia would be in the national interest, supported by the Australian Government or a state or territory government authority
  • providing critical or specialist medical services, including air ambulance, medical evacuations and delivering critical medical supplies
  • a foreign national with critical skills or working in a critical sector in Australia
  • a foreign national sponsored by your employer to work in Australia in an occupation on the Priority Migration Skilled Occupation List (PMSOL)
  • military personnel, including those who form part of the Status of Forces Agreement, Commonwealth Armed Forces, Asia Pacific Forces and Status of Armed Forces Agreement
  • a person who resides on a vessel that seeks safe port at the closest appointed port for reprovisioning or safety reasons for a limited duration, supported by the relevant State or Territory government where safe haven is sought
  • a student who has been selected to take part in an International Student Arrivals Plan that has been approved by the relevant state or territory government, and endorsed by the Department of Education, Skills and Employment as satisfying the Protocols and Preconditions for International Student Arrivals.
  • a student in your final three years of study of a medical university degree, where you have evidence of a confirmed placement in an Australian hospital or medical practice. The placement must commence within the next two months, and provide medical services to the Australian public.
  • a higher degree research student enrolled in an Australian education institution (including Masters by research and PhD students) with evidence of a current research grant from a Commonwealth agency or support from a relevant government agency outlining why the research is considered essential and/or in Australia’s national interest and how their role is critical to the research.
  • a student completing year 11 and 12, with endorsement from the Department of Education, Skills and Employment (DESE), and support from the relevant state or territory government health and education authorities.
  • a student in the final two years of study of a dental, nursing or allied health profession university degree, where you have evidence of a confirmed placement in an Australian hospital or medical practice which begins within the next two months.
  • travelling for compassionate and compelling reasons.
  • a Prospective Marriage (subclass 300) visa holder in the following circumstances:
    • where the subclass 300 visa has been granted; and
    • the subclass 300 visa application was lodged at least 12 months before submitting a travel exemption request.

This means if you applied for a subclass 300 visa on or before 18 August 2020, and you have now been granted your subclass 300 visa; you are eligible for an inwards travel exemption on 18 August 2021.

You must hold a visa and an exemption to Australia’s travel restrictions before you travel. You can request an exemption online and must provide appropriate evidence to support your claims. Requests may be finalised without further consideration if insufficient evidence is provided. All documents need to be officially translated into English.

You need to apply for an exemption at least two weeks, but not more than two months, before your planned travel.

Your request must include:

  • traveller details: name, date of birth, visa type and number, passport number
  • proposed residential address and phone number in Australia
  • your reasons for coming: why you should be granted an exemption
  • a supporting statement: setting out how you meet one of the grounds for an exemption
  • accompanying evidence.

If you are not granted an exemption, you should not continue with your travel plans, as you will not be permitted to board a flight to Australia. If you are granted a travel exemption, you need to take evidence of that exemption decision to the airport.

Australians and Permanent Resident visa holders

Fully-vaccinated Australians are free to leave the country after one of the strictest COVID-19 travel bans in the world ended.

Australians have been restricted from leaving and coming in for 590 days, since March 20, 2020.

Travellers are allowed visit any country but there are many rules in place depending on where you are going.

Some nations have mandatory quarantine periods, others require negative COVID-19 tests.

The end of the ban also means some Australians who have been trying to get home for months — 46,800 are currently registered with authorities as trying to return — can finally fly into Sydney and Melbourne.

What are the rules on travel for Australians?

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced the end of the travel ban — in place since March 2020.

It means fully vaccinated Aussies and permanent residents from any part of the country are now free to leave, which started from 1 November 2021.

Previously, everybody needed an exemption if they wanted to leave, which could be hard to get and was only issued for compassionate reasons and later for travel over three months.

Returning was hard due to the flight caps imposed to limit numbers in hotel quarantine. For many states, and for unvaccinated Aussies, restrictions remain.

Each destination country has different rules in place for testing and quarantine, while each state and territory in Australia has different rules on returning.

Leaving Australia

Do I need a COVID-19 test before flying out of Australia?

It depends on the country you are travelling to.

Special COVID-19 PCR tests for travel — costing around $150 each — are needed for many places.

These must be done at private clinics, rather than the free testing sites, so you can get a certificate with your details, rather than a text message.

What about getting tested on arrival?

Some nations need more tests on arrival.

In the UK, for example, you do not need one before flying but you need a $40 rapid flow test two days after arriving, arranged through the UK government.

Do I need an exemption to leave Australia if I am an Australian Citizen or Permanent Resident visa holder?

Not anymore, if you are a citizen or permanent resident and you are fully vaccinated.

You’ll need to provide evidence of your vaccination status when you check in at the airport.

If you’re not fully vaccinated, you still need to apply for an exemption to leave Australia, unless you want to go to New Zealand.

People living in Australia on temporary visas, who have always been allowed to leave without permission, will still require permission to return so cannot yet travel freely except in limited circumstances.

What are Australia’s approved vaccines?

TGA approved vaccines are Pfizer (Comirnaty), AstraZeneca, (Vaxzevria), Janssen-Cilag (COVID-19 Vaccine Janssen), Moderna (Spikevax), Coronavac (Sinovac) and Covishield (AstraZeneca/Serum Institute of India).

Covaxin and BBIBP-CorV vaccines have also recently been added to the list.

Australia says children over 12 need to be vaccinated.

Mixed jabs given overseas are also now recognised by the Australian government. 

Returning to Australia

Do I need a COVID-19 test before travelling back to Australia?

Yes. You will not be allowed on the plane home without a negative test from a lab which does PCR tests for travel.

It has to be done fewer than three days before your flight.

You will have to pay for it, from around $150 in the UK to over $200 in Fiji.

The Australian government says the test result can be digital, such as in an email, or on paper.

It must state your full name, date of birth or passport number, plus the result, testing method and date and time it was collected. It must also be in English or be a certified, translated copy.

Travel insurance is essential, in case you do test positive, or become sick with COVID-19 or anything else and carefully check the insurance terms and conditions to ensure you are covered.

You will also need to get a COVID-19 test when you arrive back in Australia.

Do I need to quarantine after arriving in Australia?

Not if you’re vaccinated with a TGA-approved vaccine and landing in NSW, Victoria and the ACT.

You are considered fully vaccinated if you have had the second jab a week before travel.

NSW was the first to confirm the scrapping of all quarantine for vaccinated travellers.

Victoria soon followed, and the ACT said it would replicate the rules in NSW.

Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory have recently revealed their reopening plans but currently either have quarantine requirements, or a hard border closure until vaccination rates increase.

This means travel into those states and territories will remain difficult.

Do I need to be vaccinated?

To return to Australia without quarantine for those states which allow it, you must be vaccinated.

Proof of vaccination must be shown in English via a national or state/provincial-level authority or an accredited vaccination provider.

The easiest thing for Australians to do is set up an international vaccine passport before leaving.

Contact us today 
Nevett Ford Lawyers – 
Immigration Lawyers Melbourne & Australian Citizenship Lawyers
Telephone: +61 3 9614 7111
Email: melbourne@nevettford.com.au
Visit our website: www.nevettford.com.au