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Travel to and from Australia during COVID-19: ultimate guide

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If you are looking to enter or leave Australia, obtain a travel exemption, worried about the travel ban and travel restrictions in general, don’t stress we have created a comprehensive guide of everything you need to know about the Australian border closing. In this blog post we will cover the travel restrictions to and from Australia during COVID-10 and the following:

  1. Travel to high risk COVID-19 countries (such as India April 2021)
  2. Travel to New Zealand
  3. Travel to Papua New Guinea (PNG)
  4. Travel of those who are not Australian citizens
  5. Temporary Australian visa holders looking to return to their home country
  6. Temporary Australian visa holders who are looking to leave Australia for a short trip overseas
  7. Travel for 3 months or longer for Australian citizens and Australian permanent residents
  8. Automatic exemptions for Australian citizens and Australian permanent residents
  9. The meaning and implications of ‘ordinarily resident’
  10. APEC business travel card for Australian citizens and Australian permanent residents
  11. Critical skills and sectors

1. Travel to and from high risk COVID-19 countries

COVID19 infections have recently surged in India to the highest level of any country over the period of a week (adding 2.2 million cases which is 2x the number of cases in US during their peak in January. India added over 300,000 cases on Monday 26 April 2021 and had over 2800 deaths. As a result the Australian government has implemented new restrictions outlined below.

Q1. Are there restrictions on Australian citizens and Permanent Residents looking to depart a high risk country and arrive in Australia?
Yes. There are restrictions on Australian citizens and permanent residents (PR) looking to depart a ‘high risk country’ and arrive in Australia.

Q2. Which countries are currently considered high risk countries?
As of 21 April 2021, India is the only country listed, however further countries may be added by the Australian government at any time.

Q3. Will I need a COVID-19 test before boarding a flight?
Yes. Effectively immediately, anyone who has visited a high risk country within 14 days prior to entering Australia (including via a third country) will need to provide evidence of a negative polymerase chain reaction test (PCR test) 72 hours before boarding the flight to Australia.

Q4. I am looking to leave Australia and want to visit a high risk country, is this possible and how?
Anyone looking to depart Australia to a high risk country must apply for a travel exemption. However travel exemptions are only in very limited/urgent situations. Examples include:

  • Critical workers providing assistance to the country’s COVID19 response.
  • Travelling would be in Australia’s national interest.
  • Requiring urgent medical treatment for an illness that is not only critical but also unable to be treated in Australia.
  • Anyone seeking an exemption must provide supporting evidence.
  • The ‘exceptional circumstances’ exemption criteria outlined in the Outward Travel Restrictions Operation Directive does not currently apply to people seeking to travel to any high-risk COVID-19 country.

Q5. What happens if I have already applied for and been granted a travel exemption to a high risk country?
Those travel exemptions which have already been approved will be revoked unless the person has already left Australia.

Those who have travel exemptions which are now revoked will now need to re-apply for a travel exemption prior to leaving Australia.

Q6. Have the number of flights been reduced from India?
Yes. There are currently about 9000 Australians in India who are registered with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) as wanting to return home to Australia from India. The Australian government has announced that:

  • There will be a 30% reduction in the number of commercial flights directly from India to Australia.
  • The number of passengers boarding a government facilitated flight from India (arriving in Darwin’s quarantine facility) will also be reduced.
  • There will be a reduction to the number of passengers returning to Australia from India on government facilitated flights in May by 30%. Furthermore, 4 of the flights which are scheduled to depart India in May 2021 will be rescheduled to June 2021.

2. Travel to New Zealand (NZ)

Q1. If I want to travel to NZ from Australia do I need to quarantine? 

If you are looking to travel to NZ from Australia you are in luck! Quarantine free-travel is effective from 21:59 AEST on the 18th of April 2021. In order to travel to NZ from Australia on the quarantine-free flight you must meet the following criteria:

  • You must have spent at least 14 days in either Australia or New Zealand immediately before departing your flight (i.e you must spend all 14 days in Australia or travelling from New Zealand to Australia and return within 14 days)
  • You must meet the New Zealand government’s health pre-conditions.
  • All other normal entry requirements apply as usual such as immigration and biosecurity.

Importantly you should keep in mind that quarantine-free Australia New Zealand travel bubble can be paused or suspended at any time so it is important to stay up to date with the latest government advice.

Q2. I am an Australian citizen or Australian permanent resident looking to travel to NZ from Australia, will I need to apply for an exemption before departing Australia?

Australian citizens and permanent residents who have been only in Australia or New Zealand for the 14 days immediately before departure can travel to New Zealand without applying for an outwards travel exemption.

Q3. What if I am transiting through New Zealand to another final destination?

It is extremely important to note that this only applies when New Zealand is the destination of travel. If you are transiting through New Zealand to another destination, you must apply for an outward travel exemption.

3. Travel to Papua New Guinea (PNG)

Q1. Can I travel to Papua New Guinea (PNG) from Australia during the COVID-19 outbreak in PNG?

No. However people seeking an ‘exceptional circumstances’ exemption to travel from Australia to PNG will only be approved in extremely limited circumstances, for example:

  • for critical workers providing assistance to PNG’s COVID-19 response; and
  • people undertaking critical safety roles.

The ‘exceptional circumstances’ exemption criteria outlined in the Outward Travel Restrictions Operation Directive does not currently apply to people seeking to travel to PNG.

4. Non-citizens

Q1. I am a not an Australian citizen and I wish to return to Australia. Will I need an exemption?

Anyone on a Temporary visa should be aware that if they wish to return to Australia while COVID-19 restrictions are in place, they will generally need a travel exemption.

5. Temporary visa holders returning home

Q1. I am a temporary visa holder and I would like to return home to my home country. Can I do this?

If you are on a temporary visa and would like to return to your home country, you may do so if the border restrictions of that country allow you to return home.

Q2. I am a temporary visa holder and would like to return home to my home country, do I need to apply for a travel exemption? 

Temporary visa holders do not need an exemption to depart Australia. They can leave at any time, as long as border restrictions in their home country allow them to return.

 Q3. I am a temporary visa holder, do you have any useful and practical tips?

  • The COVID19 situation can change at any time, as a result it is important to regularly check the border restrictions and availability of flights.
  • You may wish to research the availability of commercial flights along with any private or government repatriation flights to your home country.
  • Contact your embassy or consulate in Australia
  • Register your details (only available for temporary visa holders) so that Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) can provide your information to your home government (this will be either overseas or represented by the embassy, consulate or High Commission in Australia). It is strongly recommended that you also contact them directly.

6. Temporary visa holders leaving Australia for a short trip overseas

Q1. If I am a temporary visa holder can I leave Australia? If so, can I return?

Yes, as a Temporary visa holder you can leave Australia at any time. However, you generally will not be permitted to return to Australia.

Q2. What about an exemption to return to Australia?

Temporary visa holders looking to leave Australia and then return to Australia, can apply for an exemption before they leave to return to Australia.

In order to be granted an exemption to travel to Australia, the following criteria must be met:

  • you must meet the requirements for an individual exemption from Australia’s Inward Travel Restrictions, and
  • you must have a strong compassionate or compelling reason to leave Australia supported by relevant documentary evidence. For example: you are attending the funeral of a close family member overseas, visiting a close family member who is seriously or critically ill, or seeking necessary medical treatment not available in Australia, or (2) travel is essential for business purposes.Travel for 3 months or longer for Australian citizens and Australian permanent residents

Q1. I am an Australian citizen or Australian permanent resident and looking to depart Australia. Can I leave?

Due to COVID19 if you are an Australian citizen or Australian permanent resident you cannot leave Australia unless you have an exemption. You can apply here for an exemption if you meet at least one of the following criteria:

  • your travel is as part of the response to the COVID-19 outbreak, including the provision of aid
  • your travel is for your business or employer
  • you are travelling to receive urgent medical treatment that is unavailable here in Australia
  • you are travelling outside Australia for a compelling reason for three months or longer
  • you are travelling on compassionate or humanitarian grounds
  • your travel is in the national interest.

Q2. Will I need to provide evidence?

Yes. You must provide evidence. If insufficient evidence is provided the request may be finalised without further consideration. You may like to consider using the following for evidence:

  • passport/s
  • marriage certificate/s
  • birth certificate/s
  • death certificate/s
  • proof of relationship (for example, shared tenancy agreement, joint bank account etc.). For more information on how to prove your relationship click here
  • proof that you are moving to another country on a long term basis such as leases, job offers and evidence your goods are being transported
  • proof of your current valid visa, including in Australia and/or overseas
  • letter from a doctor or hospital about any medical treatment/condition with statements on why travel is necessary
  • letter from your employer, or other evidence that you are travelling for a business reason
  • statement or evidence to show when you wish to return to Australia
  • any other proof you may have to support your claims.

7. Australian citizens or Australian permanent residents looking to travel for three months or longer

Q1. Will I need to provide a Statutory Declaration?

Yes. If you are applying for an exemption to leave Australia for 3 months or more you must prove that your travel is for a compelling reason by providing evidence to support your claims. You must complete a Commonwealth Statutory Declaration. More information about statutory declarations can be found here.

Q2. What must I state in my statutory declaration?

You must include that you are applying for a travel exemption on the basis that you intend to be absent from Australia for 3 months or more. Please note that if you make a false statutory declaration you will be guilty of an offence. Please see section 11 of the Statutory Declaration Act 1959 for more information.

Q3. What happens if I do not provide a statutory declaration? 

If you do not provide a statutory declaration your request to travel for three months or longer may be finalised without further consideration.

Q4. What evidence could I include?

Evidence may include:

  • confirmed flight itinerary, with return date of at least three months after departure date
  • confirmation of leave from employment for three months
  • enrolment confirmation for study
  • a doctor’s certificate to support your claim you are travelling in order to provide care for sick family members
  • any other matter you wish to raise in support of your request for exemption.

Please note that all evidence must be officially translated into English.

Q5. Will the Australian Border Force monitor compliance?

Yes. The Australian Border Force will actively monitor to ensure compliance.

Q6. Do you have any other useful tips?

Constantly monitor the Smartraveller website to stay up to date with advice and risks before travelling.

Keep in mind that due to COVID19 there are regular disruptions including flight cancellations, quarantine requirements, border closures, lock downs etc for other countries not just Australia. You should also keep in mind that there may be limited consular assistance during this time due to the risks posed to the health of the public.

You should ensure that you have sufficient funds and resources to support yourself prior to leaving the country especially in the event there are disruptions as mentioned above.

Don’t forget to take evidence of the exemption decision with you to the airport when you depart Australia.

Q7. When should I apply for the travel exemption? 

You should apply for an exemption at least two weeks, but not more than two months before you plan to leave Australia. It is recommended that you submit only one application as any duplicate applications will delay your processing time. Complex travel exemption requests regarding leaving Australia may take longer than the standard processing time of 48 hours.

 

8. Automatic exemptions for Australian citizens & Australian permanent residents

You are exempt from travel restrictions, and can leave Australia without applying for an exemption if you are:

  • ordinarily resident in a country other than Australia
  • an airline, maritime crew or associated safety worker
  • a New Zealand citizen holding a Special Category (subclass 444) visa, even if they are usually resident in Australia
  • engaged in the day-to-day conduct of inbound and outbound freight
  • travelling in association with essential work at an offshore facility in Australian waters
  • travelling on official government business (including members of the Australian Defence Force and any Australian Government official travelling on a diplomatic or official passport)
  • travelling directly to New Zealand and you have been in Australia or New Zealand for 14 days or more immediately before your travel date*

9. Ordinarily resident

Q1. What does ordinarily resident mean?

If your records show that you have spent more time outside Australia than inside Australia over the last 12 to 24 months then you will be considered ‘ordinarily resident’ in a country other than Australia.

Q2. Will I need to carry paper records of my movements with me?

No, the Australian Border Force officers can obtain records at the airport regarding your movements in their systems.

Q3. I am unsure if I fall within the definition of ordinarily resident, what should I do?

If you have any doubt about whether your circumstances fall within the definition of ordinarily resident, it is recommend you lodge a request for assessment at least two weeks prior to the date you wish to depart.

10. APEC business travel card

Q1. Will I automatically be exempt if I hold a APEC business travel card?

No. If you hold an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Business Travel Card (ABTC) you are not automatically exempt. You will still need to apply for an exemption and provide sufficient evidence of support. For more information on travelling using your ABTC click here.

11. Critical skills and sectors

Q1. I have a question about critical skills sectors and the travel exemption process, what should I do?

You should contact the Australian government by filling out this online form

 

IMPORTANT NOTICE: ImmiAdvisor recommends you obtain your own independent immigration, legal, accounting, financial or taxation advice as appropriate. It is solely your responsibility to evaluate the accuracy, completeness and usefulness of all information provided through this blog/website. In no event will ImmiAdvisor Pty Ltd or the author of this article be liable to you or anyone else for any decision made or action taken by you or anyone else in reliance upon any information contained on or omitted from this blog/website. Immigration law is complex and is subject to constant regulatory and policy change.  The information provided here may therefore be outdated and no longer accurate.  The information provided above is a general guide only – it is not tailored for your specific circumstances or immigration purposes and you must under no circumstances rely on this information for immigration planning or the lodgement of an application with the Australian government or related bodies.  In order to ensure your eligibility is accurately assessed and to allow for tactical decision making that would best suit your desired immigration outcome, it is essential that you consult with a capable immigration advisor registered with the relevant body.

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