Travel Restrictions & Exemptions
With the advent of the COVID-19 global pandemic, the Australian Border Force has been empowered with restricting travel in and out of Australia.
Australian citizens and Australian permanent residents are usually able to enter Australia, however, temporary visa holders can face severe imparities when entering Australia during a global pandemic such as COVID-19.
Travel restrictions are subject to change in response to the circumstances surrounding COVID-19.
What is important to note is that the Department of Home Affairs controls the granting of visas for non-citizens. The Australian Border Force, which is part of the Department of Home Affairs at the present time, regulates the entry and exit of individuals.
Inwards Exemption Categories
- Australian citizen
- Australia permanent resident
- An immediate family member of Australian citizen or permanent resident
- A New Zealand citizen usually resident in Australia
- A person who has been in New Zealand or Australia for 14 days or more immediately prior to arrival by air in Australia
- A diplomat accredited to Australia, including their immediate family members
- A person transiting Australia for 72 hours or less
- Airline crew or maritime crew
- A person recruited under the government approved Seasonal Worker Program or Pacific Labour Scheme
- A person who holds a Business Innovation and Investment (subclass 188) visa
You will need to carry evidence that you meet one of the above categories when travelling. Additional evidence may be required.
Outwards Exemption Categories
- Temporary visa holders who have arranged a flight to return their home country
- Australian citizen or PR who has compassionate and compelling reasons to travel
Individual Exemption Requests
If you are not in any one of the exemption categories, you can apply for individual travel exemption online through the government website or contact us for professional assistance.
Possible Reasons for Inwards Travel
- 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 completing Year 11 and 12, with endorsement from the federal Department of Education, Skills and Employment (DESE) and; support from the relevant Australian State or Territory government health authority and education department. Further information regarding this process can be found at the Department of Education, Skills and Employment website
- a student in your final two years of study of a medical, 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
Possible Reasons for Outwards Travel
- your travel is as part of the response to the COVID-19 outbreak, including the provision of aid
- your travel is for your business/employer
- you are travelling to receive urgent medical treatment that is not available in Australia
- you are travelling outside Australia for a compelling reason for three months or longer
- you are travelling on compelling or compassionate grounds
- your travel is in the national interest
You will need to apply for an exemption at least 2 weeks prior to your planned travel date, but no more than 2 months before.
Please note, you should not continue with your travel plans if your travel exemption was not granted as you will not be permitted to board a flight.
Compassionate & Compelling Reasons to Travel
I have been asked by many of my clients whether their reason to travel can be granted the exemption. The truth is, everyone thinks their reason to travel is compassionate and compelling.
[Updated August 2021] Travel to India
The Department of Home Affairs has recently announced that Australian citizens and permanent residents have more reasons to travel to India than before. We have summarised the changes in the table below:
[Updated August 2021] Travel to New Zealand
The Australian and New Zealand government has announced the quarantine-free travel also known as “travel bubble” at 21:59 AEST on 18 April 2021.
In order to travel to New Zealand on a quarantine-free flight, you must have spent at least 14 days immediately prior to your departure either in Australia or New Zealand and meet relevant health criteria for either country.
To be able to travel to New Zealand without travel exemption, you must be an Australian citizen or permanent resident. If you are a temporary visa holder, please make sure your visa condition does not restrict you from travelling and you have travel exemption approved.
[Updated August 2021] Travel to Papua New Guinea (PNG)
Due to the recent outbreak of COVID-19 in PNG, travel exemption will only be approved in extremely limited circumstances if you:
- work for critical sectors providing assistance to PNG’s COVID-19 response;
- are undertaking critical safety roles.
The ‘exceptional circumstances’ exemption criteria outlined in “Outward Travel Restrictions” documents does not apply.
This restriction may be eased when the circumstances have improved in PNG. You can check the Department of Home Affairs website for updates.
How long will it take?
The majority of travel exemption requests to depart Australia are finalised within 48 hours, and the travel exemption applications to come to Australia are normally finalised within a week (7 days) time. Duplicate applications or complex circumstances may delay the assessment.
Travel Exemption Q&A
Answer – Yes, there is a mandatory 14 day quarantine period in a designated facility/hotel.
Answer – No, but can apply for an individual exemption.
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.
Answer – Not qualified for a travel exemption, unless there are compelling and compassionate reasons for your travel.
Answer – Yes.
Answer – Yes, apply for an exemption.
No exemptions, unless you have a current valid visa i.e. Spouse/De Facto Partner, Dependent Child/ren; Legal Guardian.
Answer – No.
Answer – Yes, apply for an exemption.
Answer – Yes, if you are either a spouse; a de facto partner; a dependent child/ren; a legal guardian. If you hold a Partner (100, 309, 801, 820) or Child (101, 102, 445) visa you do not need to request an exemption. There is a 14 day quarantine period.
Answer – Yes, apply for an exemption.
Answer – You can apply online by clicking here.
To secure a travel exemption you are not making an application for a visa but rather an application to the Australian Border Force for permission to either enter or exit Australia.
How I can help you?
To discuss how I can help you with an exemption application please book a chat with me.
The travel exemption application process is designed to be user-friendly for individuals, without the need for migration lawyers. However, sometimes circumstances are such where you may prefer to outsource the process to a migration lawyer.