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Australian Travel Exemptions Update: Who is coming & going

Our updates all lately seem to be qualified with ‘this is constantly changing and we will keep you updated’.

This morning the Federal Government announced a reduction of commercial caps by 50% by 14 July 2021 or earlier in some States. What does that mean for entries to Australia over the coming months?

What will the international caps be?
International arrivals will now be capped at 3,035 people a week, down from 6,370. It is inevitable that this will lead to flight disruption and the current quarantine rules still apply, although the Government also announced that they will trial allowing vaccinated travellers quarantine for seven (7) instead of 14 days. We will keep you updated!

Temporary visa holders

On what grounds can temporary visa holders enter Australia?
All temporary visa holders continue to need a travel exemption to be allowed to enter Australia, which is processed by the Australian Border Force Commissioner (ABF).

It is difficult to get these applications approved unless the application falls under one of the limited exemptions.

What are the current exceptions to the Inward Travel restrictions?
These are very limited:

  • have 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, agriculture, primary industry, food production, and the maritime industry).
  • be delivering services in sectors critical to Australia’s economic recovery (such as financial technology, large scale manufacturing, film, media and television production and emerging technology), where no Australian worker is available.
  • be sponsored to work in Australia in an occupation on the Priority Migration Skilled Occupation List (PMSOL)

What if I am a temporary visa holder already in Australia, can I depart?
Yes, temporary visa holders can depart at any time – but will have difficulty in returning to Australia unless you can get a travel exemption.

If I really have to go overseas, do I have to apply for permission to re-enter whilst I am overseas, or can I apply before I leave so I know whether I will be allowed to come back?
You can apply for an in-bound exemption before you depart Australia and we recommend doing this before you depart.

If you depart without a travel exemption approval, you may not be able to come back, even if your company supports you and really wants you back.

Before you leave, you should apply for an exemption:

  • strong compassionate or compelling reasons to leave Australia supported by relevant documentary evidence, for example:
    • 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
  • travel is essential for business purposes; AND
  • you meet the requirements for Australia’s Inward Travel Restrictions (see above).

If the reason why you are departing Australia is to visit your family or for a holiday, your travel exemption will most likely be refused.

Why is it so hard?
Because only around 3,000 incoming passengers are allowed into Australia each week. This number includes returning Australians.

What if I have had COVID-19 or have already been vaccinated?
It makes no difference with the travel exemptions at present. The Australian Government is applying the same rules for everyone although the Government stated they are going to trial letting vaccinated travellers quarantine for seven (7) days instead of 14 days. More updates to come on this!

If I apply for a travel exemption, how long does it take to receive an answer?
The travel exemption requests are applied online and generally take between a few days and up to 3 weeks to be processed.

Before travelling and COVID-19 (PCR) Test
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.

Everyone travelling to Australia is required to complete the Australia Travel Declaration at least 72 hours before departure for Australia.

The Australia Travel Declaration collects contact details in Australia, flight details, quarantine requirements and health status.

Quarantine when arriving in Australia
Under the current arrangements, unless arriving on a quarantine-free flight from New Zealand, all travellers arriving in Australia, including Australian citizens and permanent residents, are subject to mandatory quarantine for 14 days at a designated facility, such as a hotel, in their port of arrival.

Travellers will be required to pay for their quarantine costs, which varies between the different States & Territories of Australia.

Is it possible to self-isolate at home and avoid quarantine?
No, it is almost impossible to get an exemption for quarantine. There are very limited exemptions that may apply (e.g. travelling from New Zealand or serious medical reasons).  We are all watching this space anxiously and will send a further update as soon as we have any news!

Outbound – Australians leaving Australia

Am I allowed to leave if I am an Australian citizen or permanent resident?
If you are an Australian citizen or a permanent resident you cannot leave Australia due to COVID-19 restrictions unless you have an exemption to depart.

To get an exemption, you must meet at least one of the following:

  • 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 3 months or longer
  • you are travelling on compelling or compassionate grounds
  • your travel is in the national interest.

What evidence do I need to provide if I will be leaving Australia for three months or longer?
If you are seeking to leave Australia for three months or longer, your proposed travel must be for a compelling reason and you must provide evidence to support your claims, in the form of a Commonwealth Statutory Declaration. If this is not provided, your request will be refused.

Can I request to leave Australia for a holiday/visit family overseas if I am a dual citizen?
No. If the reason why you are departing Australia is to visit your family or for a holiday, your exemption request will be refused. Exemptions are only granted if you meet the above listed reasons for Australian citizens and permanent residents.

What if I usually live in another country? 
An automatic exemption may apply if you are considered to be ordinarily resident in a country other than Australia, when you check-in at the airport. This is when it can be demonstrated that you have spent more time outside of Australia than inside the country for the last 12 to 24 months.

What if I need to travel to India?
Due to the current health situation in India, the ABF may only approve an exemption to allow Australian citizens and permanent residents to travel from Australia to India in the following limited circumstances, where supporting evidence is provided:

  • critical workers providing assistance to India’s COVID-19 response
  • people travelling in Australia’s national interest
  • people seeking urgent medical treatment for a critical illness that cannot be treated in Australia
  • people travelling due to the death or funeral of a close family member
  • people visiting a close family member who is critically ill
  • people seeking to travel to India to escort an Australian citizen or permanent resident minor back to Australia

Travel to New Zealand

Outward travel exemption and quarantine may not be required for those residing in Australia, if travelling on a quarantine-free flight. These rules are subject to constant change, depending on the State/Territory of residence.
See here for the most up-to-date information.

DISCLAIMER This information is current as of date of publication and subject to change. The information contained in this publication is of a general nature only. It should not be used as legal advice. To the extent permissible by law, Ajuria Lawyers and its associated entities shall not be liable for any errors, omissions, defects or misrepresentations in the information or for any loss or damage suffered by persons who use or rely on such information. Liability limited by a scheme approved under Professional Standards Legislation.

Have more specific questions about your visa? Get in touch with Ajuria Lawyers today.

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Author Navpreet Kanwar

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