Australians have likely accepted that leaving the country for leisure is almost out of the question. The reality is for some, it might be unavoidable and that means dealing with a lot of hoops to eventually re-enter.
The national borders were effectively closed in late March banning residents from leaving the country and stopping non-residents from entering, unless extenuating circumstances were involved.
Since then, there’s been little change in that policy meaning everyone’s supposed to bunker in until the coronavirus pandemic is over. The reality is, however, it’s not a total ban and some people are leaving and re-entering the country. Let’s explain what the process is if you need to leave for a special reason.
For Australian citizens or permanent residents wanting to re-enter
If you’ve been overseas during the coronavirus crisis or needed to visit a family member in need, you’ll be able to return to Australia, according to Home Affairs advice. In fact, any of the following are technically allowed to the enter the country without too much trouble, provided supporting documents are shown.
- Australian citizen
- A permanent resident
- An immediate family member of an Australian citizen or permanent resident
- A New Zealand citizen usually resident in Australia
As with everyone returning or entering the country, you’ll be subjected to a mandatory 14-day quarantine.
New Zealand citizens who usually reside in the country under the 444 visa will also be able to re-enter with proof of Australian residency. If you don’t usually live in Australia, you’ll only be able to transit through.
For non-residents wanting to get to Australia
This is where it gets a little trickier. As there is a ban on travelling for leisure, you’re going to need a good excuse to be exempted.
The Home Affairs website says it will consider travel exemptions for those in the following categories:
- Foreign nationals travelling at the invitation of the Australian Commonwealth Government for the purpose of assisting in the COVID-19 response or whose entry would be in the national interest
- Critical medical services, including air ambulance and delivery of supplies, that regularly arrive into Australia from international ports
- People 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
- Case-by-case exceptions for humanitarian or compassionate reasons.
In order to get one of these exemptions, you’ll need to fill out an application, including your details, case information and supporting statements. It recommends completing the exemption application form at least one week before you travel but not more than three months ahead of that date.
For international students or those on visas
When Australia announced the international travel ban, it included students enrolled in Australian universities too. In May, the government announced its three-step plan to ease restrictions and the third phase, likely to occur in July, included allowing international students to return to the country.
At this stage, that’s the advice and it means international students still have no clear information on the date they could ideally return. Just last week, however, a pilot scheme allowing up to 350 international students to be flown into Canberra on a chartered flight was announced showing there is some movement there.
For those in Australia with a working visa, it’s not so clear cut either. The department recommends sending off an enquiry with your specific case and reasons for travel to check whether a re-entry is possible. It’s recommended you don’t plan your travel until you check in first.
Like everything in coronavirus times, the terms are not ideal. Still, if you’re in need of visiting a sick loved one or have to urgently travel for work, it’s good to know it’s not entirely impossible.