Can you still leave and re-enter Australia?
The Covid-19 crisis has wreaked havoc on the lives of everyone, but migrants have been particularly hard hit.
Recent travel restrictions imposed by the Australian Government have left visa holders and applicants in limbo, wondering whether they can still enter the country. Or if they can leave in the event or an emergency.
Thousands of families have also been separated in the chaos, with some temporary residents caught offshore whilst their family members remain at home in Australia.
Since travel restrictions were announced in March, only Australian permanent residents and citizens can enter the country, unless you have an exemption.
Citizens and permanent residents
- Can travel to Australia
- Must enter 14-day quarantine in a designated hotel upon arrival
- Immediate family members (spouse, de facto partner, children, legal guardian) can travel to Australia, but family members that hold temporary visas must provide relationship evidence. You must first receive permission before arranging your flight and travelling via the online form mentioned below
Partner and child visa holders
If you hold the following visas, you can travel to Australia, you do not need a special exemption.
Child: subclasses 101, 102, 445
*Please note: prospective marriage visa holders (subclass 300) cannot travel to Australia at the moment.
New Zealand citizens
New Zealanders who ordinarily reside in Australia can enter with proof of address. This evidence of residency should be presented when you check in for your flight.
New Zealand citizens and residents who do not live in Australia can only transit through the country in order to return to New Zealand.
Temporary visa holders
If you’re a temporary visa holder (except for child and partner visa holders), there’s an online enquiry form you can fill in on the Department of Home Affairs website.
You should attach as much evidence of your situation as possible. For example, if you’re in a relationship with an Australian citizen but don’t yet have a formal partner visa, provide proof of your relationship, such as shared finances, joint property or birth certificates for any children you have together.
People who have compassionate and compelling reasons to enter the country can also submit an enquiry using the same form.
Whatever you do, don’t attempt to travel here unless you’re granted permission to do so.
The Commissioner of the Australian Border Force (ABF) may also consider exemptions for:
- People travelling here at the invitation of the Government to assist with the pandemic response
- Medical services and supply delivery
- People with critical skills, such as pilots and crew, medical specialists and engineers
- Diplomats working and living in Australia, and their family members
- For humanitarian or compassionate reasons, decided on a case-by-case basis
Exemptions must be granted before you travel to Australia. Requests should be accompanied by passenger details, case information and a supporting statement/evidence which details how you meet the grounds for an exemption.
International visitors are encouraged to depart, if possible, particularly tourists and anyone who doesn’t have the means to support themselves for at least the next six months through work, family or savings.
If you’re an Australian citizen or permanent resident, you won’t be permitted to leave the country whilst restrictions are in place. However, you can apply for an exemption.
Exemptions may be considered if:
- You’re travelling as part the pandemic response. For example, to provide aid
- It’s essential for business if you work in a critical industry. For example, import/export
- You require urgent medical treatment that isn’t available here
- You need to leave for urgent and unavoidable personal reasons
- On compassionate or humanitarian grounds
- It’s in the national interest that you travel
You don’t need to request an exemption if you’re ordinarily resident in another country. For example, if you’re an Australian permanent resident, but you actually live in the UK and have an address there.
The same applies if you’re part of airline/maritime crew, hold a New Zealand special category visa, travelling on Government business or work with inbound and outbound freight.
If you need an exemption, it’s highly recommended that you apply at least 12 hours before you need to travel and that you take evidence to the airport with you.
Bear in mind that other countries have also imposed border restrictions; just because you can leave Australia, it doesn’t mean you’ll be able to transit or land in other countries. Make sure you check what restrictions are in place along your entire route.
Transiting through Australia
New Zealanders and Pacific Islanders
If you’re a New Zealander or from a Pacific Island Forum country, you can transit through Australia on your way home, without an extension. You must however have a connecting flight booked and leave within 72 hours of arriving.
Your outbound flight must be leaving from the same state or territory as your arrival flight.
Other passengers need exemptions.
If you must transit through Australia, it’s advised that you arrive and depart on the same day.
Obtaining an exemption from the ABF doesn’t preclude you from having to meet the requirements of individual states and territories. Travel within Australia has become increasingly difficult due to internal border closures.
State and territory authorities will consider whether your transit time is short enough for you to avoid going into mandatory quarantine.
Remaining in Australia
There are many reasons why you might need or want to remain in Australia during the Covid-19 pandemic, even if you are a temporary visa holder.
Perhaps you have children at school here, or work in a critical area, or maybe departing just isn’t an option due to flight affordability.
The Government recently announced the relief measures and visa arrangements now in place for temporary residents who are staying onshore.
A number of measures were announced, including early access to up to $10,000 of superannuation, the new Covid-19 pandemic event visa stream of the subclass 408 and relaxed conditions in relation to the number of hours that some temporary visa holders can work.
The Department is still processing visas within the constraints of the current situation, so if you’re staying in Australia, you may be able to apply for other visas such as a partner visa or an employer-sponsored visa.
There is no reason why the Covid-19 pandemic should derail your long-term visa plans.
Check your options
If you’re confused by the options available or unsure how to lawfully remain in Australia during the current crisis, please contact us for a free visa eligibility check. Our Registered Migration Agents can recommend the best pathway for you, based on your individual circumstances and the current situation.