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Australian Border Travel Restrictions & Exemptions

Who can enter Australia?

Australia’s borders are closed. Only Australian citizens, permanent residents, New Zealand citizens who are normally resident in Australia and immediate family members of Australian citizens and permanent residents can enter Australia. An immediate family member is defined as a spouse, dependent or legal guardian.

You can enter Australia without obtaining an individual exemption if you are:

Prospective Marriage (subclass 300) visa holders are considered temporary residents and cannot travel to Australia at present and only under very limited circumstances are obtaining a travel exemption.

A person’s intention to marry their fiancé is not sufficient, in and of itself, to satisfy the definition of de facto partner. If a Prospective Marriage visa holder considers they meet the definition of immediate family (eg because they are actually in a de facto relationship, or they are the parent of a minor child who is an Australian citizen or permanent resident) they should provide evidence of the relationship through the exemptions form and, if accepted by the Department they will be recorded as exempt.

What do I need to do before I travel?

Before you travel to Australia, you should complete the Australia Travel Declaration.

From 22 January 2021, if you are travelling to or transiting through Australia you must provide evidence of a negative COVID-19 (PCR) test to your airline, taken 72 hours or less before your scheduled departure.

If you do not have evidence of a negative COVID-19 (PCR) test, you should not go to the airport as your airline will not allow you to board the aircraft.
Masks must be worn on all international flights, including at airports. More information can be found at Department of Health website.

You will require a valid visa to enter Australia.

You may also require:

Travellers to Australia must complete all relevant declarations and forms so the government can arrange quarantine, and undertake contact tracing, in the event of a positive COVID-19 case.

Hotel quarantine is a mandatory requirement of entry to Australia.

Flights to Australia

Even once you have a travel exemption to enter Australia, you must remember that there are limited numbers of people permitted to enter the country each day and with limited flights it is becoming increasingly more difficult to find a flight without being ‘bumped off’ at the last minute.

As of 14 July 2021 the number of international flight arrivals into Australia will be halved.
The cuts to caps on international arrivals aim to reduce the pressure on hotel quarantine facilities as well as the concern over the increased infectiousness of the Delta variant.

This will see the weekly cap on international passenger arrivals into Australia tighten from 6,070 to 3,035. Within those numbers, the cap on arrivals into Sydney – which takes about half of the arrivals into Australia – will go from 3,010 to 1,505.

Be prepared for possible delays and disruptions to your travel.

Types of travel exemptions to enter Australia

The Commissioner of the Australian Border Force may grant you an exemption if you are seeking to travel for compassionate and compelling reasons and are working in a sector of critical need.

  1. Compassionate and Compelling Reasons
    Compassionate and compelling reasons include, but are not limited to, needing to travel due to the death or critical illness of a close family member.
  2. Critical Skills and Sectors
    The Commissioner of the Australian Border Force may grant an individual exemption if you are a non-citizen:

    • 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
    • providing critical or specialist medical services, including air ambulance, medical evacuations and delivering critical medical supplies
    • with critical skills required to maintain the supply of essential goods and services (such as in medical technology, critical infrastructure, telecommunications, engineering and mining, supply chain logistics, agricultural technology, food production, and the maritime industry)
    • delivering services in sectors critical to Australia’s economic recovery (such as financial technology, large scale manufacturing, film and television production and emerging
    • technology),
    • where no Australian worker is available
    • whose entry would otherwise be in Australia’s national interest, supported by the Australian Government or a state or territory government authority.

An individual can submit a request for a travel exemption under this category or a business can submit a request on their behalf. The applications of multiple travellers within the same group/business can be linked, so that the requests are considered together.

Where to apply for an exemption to enter or leave Australia?

You can apply for your exemption on

When should I apply for the travel exemption?

According to the Australian Border Security Department’s website, all requests should be submitted at least 4 weeks, but not more than 3 months, prior to travel. If you are travelling due to death or critical illness of a close family member, you can apply inside this timeframe and they will prioritise your application.

Documents required for travel exemptions

The Australian Border Security Department advises everyone who wants to apply for a travel exemption should include the following documents:

What is happening when I arrive in Australia?

When you arrive in Australia, you must enter mandatory hotel quarantine for 14 days at your port of arrival.

For state and territory border control information, please refer to:
ACT: Travel advice
NSW: COVID-19 Travel and transport advice
NT: Border controls
QLD: Self-quarantine
SA: Travel restrictions
TAS: Coming to Tasmania
VIC: Information for overseas travellers – coronavirus disease (COVID-19)
WA: COVID-19 coronavirus: Travel advice

Can I choose where I do my quarantine?

All hotel quarantine for returned travellers is pre-arranged. According to the information on the Australian Department of Border Protection’s website, it is not possible to advise in advance which hotel you will be staying in. This is determined on the day of your arrival. For more information and to apply for an exemption, refer to Exemptions for air and maritime quarantine in Australia

Will I be exempt from quarantining/self-isolation if I am vaccinated?

Australian Government advice for international travellers remains unchanged regardless of your vaccination status.

I am Australian Citizen/ Permanent Resident, can I leave the country?

If you are an Australian citizen or a permanent resident, you cannot leave Australia due to COVID-19 restrictions unless you have an exemption. You can apply online but you must meet at least one of the following:

Before considering travel, be aware:

When will the travel restrictions be lifted?

It is not known at this stage and it is unlikely to occur until the COVID-19 Pandemic has dramatically reduced on a global level. It is thought that there will be step-by-step approach to the re-opening of international borders.

Australia opened a travel bubble with neighbouring New Zealand late last year, but currently it only operates one-way with inbound flights to Australia. All New Zealand citizens and residents returning to New Zealand must enter mandatory hotel quarantine and have it booked prior to their return to New Zealand.

Australia has also discussed the option of travel bubbles with other low-risk places such as Taiwan, Japan and Singapore, but there is no further updates at this stage.

Approved entry and exit statistics

Overseas visitor arrivals to Australia increased to 22,610 trips and residents returning from short-term trips (less than one year) increased to 16,990 in April 2021. These are the highest numbers since COVID-19 travel restrictions were imposed in March 2020, according to data released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).
ABS Director of Migration Statistics, Jenny Dobak, said the increase was largely due to the introduction of the trans-Tasman travel bubble on 18 April 2021, which allows quarantine-free travel between Australia and New Zealand.

Arrival Key findings

All overseas arrivals to Australia in May 2021 (provisional estimates):

44,600 Australian citizens arrivals (39%), 9,900 permanent visa holders (9%), 52,300 New Zealand citizens (45%) and 10,100 temporary visa holders (9%).

Departure Key Finds

All overseas departures from Australia in May 2021 (provisional estimates):

What’s Next?

If you feel that you meet the criteria to seek an exemption to enter Australia and are still not quite sure how to proceed, we at Migration Downunder will be happy to assist you through the process.

Like all our services, we will charge a consultancy fee to provide any advice or assistance.

Read More:
Coronavirus (COVID 19) at glance for 8 February 2021
Covid-19 and the border
Coming to Australia
Immediate Family of Australian Citizen or permanent residents
Travel Restrictions
Coronavirus (COVID-19) information for international travellers
Prime Minister Media regarding Vaccination
Nearly 40,000 offshore applicants requested for exemption to Australia’s coronavirus travel ban since March 20
Coronavirus (COVID-19) FAQs for international travellers to Australia
Australia unlikely to fully reopen border in 2021, says top official

Published Fri 14 August 2020. Tags: ,


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