Countries around the world are taking measures in an effort to contain the coronavirus outbreak. Australia is enforcing travel restrictions and temporary regulations to protect its citizens and all foreigners on its territory.
The government previously issued a list of nationalities banned from entering Australia. The ban has since been extended to include most foreign nationals. This is a preventative measure and Australian visas and immigration policies are expected to return to normal once the virus is contained.
These temporary limitations now apply to the vast majority of potential visitors. However, travellers are advised to continue checking the news and official announcements for further developments.
Coming to Australia during the COVID-19 pandemic
As of October 22th, 2020, all travellers are banned from entering Australia, except for those belonging to an exempt category and those who have been issued an individual exemption.
Initially, Australia had imposed travel restrictions on foreign nationals arriving from the countries that had been affected the most severely by the coronavirus outbreak, including China, Italy, Iran, and South Korea.
It was announced on March 15, 2020 that cruise ships would be prohibited from docking at Australian ports and that passengers would be refused entry to the country.
As of March 20, 2020, the Australian travel ban extends to all non-Australian citizens or official residents.
This is the first time in history that the country has upgraded a travel ban to level 4, i.e. closing its borders and advising its own citizens not to travel.
Exemption to the COVID Australian travel ban
The Commissioner of the Australian Border Force (ABF) will grant an exemption to those foreign nationals who have a compassionate or compelling reason to travel. Exemptions will be decided on a case-by-case basis.
Moreover, individual exemptions may be issued for:
- Foreign visitors invited by the Australian Commonwealth Government to assist in the efforts against COVID-19
- Critical medical services arriving from international ports
- Professionals with critical skills (medical specialists, engineers, pilots)
- Diplomats currently residing in Australia and their immediate family
In order to obtain an exemption, travellers must submit an application with the ABF and should provide supporting documentation that proves their circumstances. The application should be completed at least 2 weeks but no longer than 3 months prior to travel.
Exempt categories who can enter Australia
Exempt categories who can travel to Australia without having to obtain an individual exemption include:
- Australian citizens
- Permanent residents of Australia
- Immediate family members of an Australian citizen or permanent resident
- New Zealand citizens usually resident in Australia and their immediate family members
- Diplomats accredited to Australia (holding a subclass 995 visa)
- Travellers transiting Australia for 72 hours or less
- Airline crew members (subject to self-isolation until their next flight)
- Maritime crew including marine pilots
- Those recruited under the Government approved Seasonal Worker Program or Pacific Labour Scheme
- Holders of a Business Innovation and Investment (subclass 188) visa
All international arrivals, including Australian nationals, may be obligated to quarantine themselves for 14 days.
Entering Australia from New Zealand during the pandemic
From Friday 16th, 2020, passengers coming from New Zealand can enter Australia without the need of an individual exemption, if they have been in New Zealand for 14 days or more prior to departure.
Can I travel to Australia under the new coronavirus policies?
Extraordinary travel restrictions have been put in place to lower the risk of infection. A complete ban applies to all foreign nationals apart from direct relatives of citizens of Australia and other few extraordinary cases.
Even travellers from other countries who hold visas for Australia may not visit the country until the entry restrictions are lifted. This may change as the situation develops so travellers should stay up-to-date with the latest information.
When the Australian border reopens, foreigners who wish to enter Australia should apply for an Australian visa online or at the nearest embassy depending on their specific circumstances. Travellers may still be required to go through fever and other health checks at the border.
How to stay in Australia during coronavirus
The Federal Government has created a new visa that allows eligible foreigners who are currently in Australia and whose visa is about to expire to remain in the country.
The COVID-19 Pandemic Event Visa is a temporary authorisation that grants the holder permission to stay in Australia if:
- They have 28 days or less left on their visa and no other visa option
- They can assist in fighting the pandemic in several critical sectors such as healthcare, disability and age care, childcare, and agriculture
Applicants must demonstrate that they have the necessary skills to work in the aforementioned critical sectors.
Those whose visa is about to expire but do not work in a critical sector in the fight against the pandemic should find out whether they can apply for a different visa and in the meantime, obtain a bridging visa.
Coronavirus in Australia: information for foreigners
Since its discovery in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December 2019, the coronavirus (COVID-19) has spread to infect individuals in several countries around the world, including Australia. The World Health Organization has therefore declared COVID-19 a pandemic.
Besides the usual health advice for Australia, experts recommend travellers to:
- Wash their hands frequently with warm water and soap
- Use hand sanitizer when water and soap are not available
- Carry a face mask
- Avoid contact with infected people
- Cover their face with a tissue or sleeve when coughing or sneezing
Those who feel unwell or wish to seek information on the coronavirus while in Australia should call the hotline 1800 020 080 for advice.
Leaving Australia during the pandemic
International visitors who are able to return to their home country safely are encouraged to do so.
However, they should note that several nations around the world are enforcing similar travel restrictions and closing their borders. Moreover, airlines are operating much fewer international flights than before the pandemic. Foreign citizens should ensure that they will be able to enter their nation before they depart.
Currently, Australian citizens and permanent residents are banned from travelling overseas. However, exemptions apply, including the following cases:
- Those who leave as part of the COVID-19 response
- Those who work in critical industries
- Those who need urgent medical care that cannot be provided in Australia
- Those who are in dire personal circumstances
- Those who can prove a compassionate or humanitarian case
- Those whose travel is considered a national interest for Australia
The above travellers must make an exemption application at least 48 hours prior to departure and must submit sufficient documentation to support their claims.
Transiting through Australia: do I need an exemption to the COVID travel restrictions?
Foreign citizens who transit through an Australian airport en route to a different destination do not need to apply for an exemption if they comply with the following conditions:
- Their connection flight departs from the same Australian airport
- They do not plan to leave the airport during their transit
- They comply with quarantine requirements if they remain in Australia between 8-72 hours
Those who wish to exit the airport before their connection flight must apply for an exemption.
Please note that flights to Melbourne are temporarily suspended.