The Government has faced unprecedented challenges to implement Australia's extended COVID-19 Travel Ban within such a short time-frame and the process of arranging necessary exemptions is continuing with policy being developed urgently.

Many people have been impacted as a result of the immediate ban, including families and travellers who have been caught offshore. Here is what we know at this present point in time.

Australia's Inbound Travel Ban Exemptions

The Department has further updated their inbound Travel Ban guidelines. Currently, only Australian Citizens, Permanent Residents and NZ citizens usually resident in Australia (Subclass 444 Visa holders) can travel to Australia.

Partner (Subclasses 100, 309, 801, 820) and Child (Subclasses 101, 102, 445) visa holders can also come to Australia.

Immediate family members of an Australian Citizen or Permanent Resident (spouses, dependent children and legal guardians only) must apply for an exemption to travel to Australia. Proof of your relationship will be required.

Travellers transiting through Australia may also apply for an exemption, depending on their travel history and transit arrangements.

The below travellers can also apply for exemptions at the discretion of the Australian Border Force (ABF) Commissioner:

  • Foreign nationals invited by the Commonwealth to assist with COVID-19 relief or to act in the national interest;
  • Persons facilitating critical medical services, including air ambulance and delivery of supplies from international ports;
  • Persons with critical skills (for example, medical specialists, engineers, marine pilots and crews) by exception;
  • Diplomats accredited to Australia and currently resident in Australia, and their immediate family;
  • Persons needing to travel for humanitarian or compassionate reasons may be granted case-by-case exceptions.

Exemptions must be granted prior to these travellers undertaking travel to Australia.

You may wish to  visit the Government's website regularly as it is currently being updated almost on a daily basis.

In our experience, the time-frame for the exemptions process is unclear and has varied depending on the request.

Unfortunately, there are many circumstances where policies are yet to confirm if an exemption applies – such as return arrangements for Subclass 482 TSS Visa holders with a prior established residence in Australia who were caught offshore by the travel restrictions.

Many of these cases are being managed on a case-by-case basis at this stage and we are awaiting further clarity on policy arrangements.

Australia's Outbound Travel Ban

The Government has also exercised emergency powers under Australia's Biosecurity Act, which restricts Australian Citizens and Permanent Residents from travelling outside of Australia from 25 March 2020 for an initial period of 4 weeks, unless an exemption is granted. Heavy penalties apply for non-compliance.

The outbound travel ban does not apply to:

  • a person ordinarily resident in a country other than Australia;
  • airline and maritime crew and associated safety workers;
  • New Zealand citizens holding a Subclass 444 Visa;
  • a person engaged in the day to day conduct of inbound and outbound freight;
  • a person whose travel is associated with essential work at an offshore facility;
  • a person who is travelling on official government business (including a member of the Australian Defence Force).

New Zealand citizens who are permanent visa holders may apply to be exempt under the ABF Commissioner's discretion.

Under exceptional circumstances, exemptions may also be granted by the ABF to an Australian Citizen, Permanent Resident, or operator of an outgoing passenger aircraft or vessel with compelling reasons to leave Australian territory.

Temporary Visa Holders in Australia

We would also like to remind Temporary Visa holders in Australia that they will need to ensure they hold a valid visa and remain lawful.

Temporary Visa holders can apply forvisa extensions, request waivers for No Further Stay conditions and submit new applications for Visitor Visas.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.