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Australia COVID-19 Travel Exemptions

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Australia COVID-19 Travel Exemptions

In this article we cover who can enter Australia without an exemption; who can obtain a travel exemption and the process of applying for one.

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During the span of the COVID-19 pandemic, Milestone Migration has recieved many questions regarding travel exemptions and many application requests. In this article we will review the current travel restrictions and exemptions for entry to Australia. 

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Australia’s COVID-19 Restrictions

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Since the 20th March 2020, temporary visa holders have been unable to enter Australia unless they are in an exempt category or have been granted an individual exemption to the current travel restrictions.

Travel restrictions have also been applied for Australians to exit Australia.

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Who can enter without an Exemption?

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Certain individuals are automatically exempt from the inbound travel restrictions. This includes Australian citizens and permanent residents including partners and children approved under certain visa categories.

NZ residents are also permitted entry thanks to one of the first travel bubbles established for international travel.

You will need to carry evidence that you meet one of the listed categories when travelling.

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  • Australian citizens or permanent residents
  • Partner (subclass 100, 309, 801, 820) and Child (subclass 101, 102, 445) visa holders
  • NZ citizens and their partners and children who usually live in Australia
  • travellers from NZ
  • accredited diplomats to Australia
  • Transit passengers (less than 72 hrs)
  • airline & maritime crew
  • Govt approved Seasonal Worker Pogram or Pacific Labour Scheme visa holders
  • Business Innovation and Investment (subclass 188) visa holders

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Who can obtain a COVID-19 Travel Exemption?

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  • De-Facto partners of Australian citizens or permanent residents
  • Someone with critical skills or who will be working in a critical sector in Australia
  • A worker sponsored by their employer in an occupation listed on the PMSOL
  • Individuals providing critical or specialist medical services
  • Travel for compassionate or compelling reasons
  • Yr 11 or 12 student with support from the State govt.
  • Students in their final 2 years of study in a health profession where evidence of a confirmed placement commences in the next 2 months
  • Invited by the Aus Govt to assist in COVID-19 response
  • Individual whose entry is in the national interest as supported by the Australian or State Govt
  • Military personnel
  • Residents of vessels seeking reprovisioning or safety for a limited duration

If you do not meet the listed exemptions, Australian Border Force decision makers may grant you an individual exemption to be permitted entry to Australia.

It can be difficult to obtain approval for the exemption. Some individuals have reported applying up to 27 times before obtaining their approval for entry. It is a subjective assessment process and the application is assessed based on the strength of your evidence and argument. Unfortunately, it can also come down to luck based on who your application gets assigned to in the department.

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COVID-19 Travel Exemptions: Partner Visas

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Those in a de-facto relationship or holding a prospective marriage visa must provide significant evidence of their relationship up to the level of a partner visa application to obtain approval.

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COVID-19 Travel Exemptions: Employer Sponsorship Visas

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Those with critical skills are required to convince the Commissioner that their skills or the business they will be working for cannot obtain those skills from the local labour market and that the worker is essential in maintaining supply of essential goods and services. This can be very challenging to prove and requires a strong persuasive argument and supporting evidence.

So far, we have been able to obtain exemptions for some industries and occupations critical to Australia’s mining and logistics industries. This is a difficult process and can take several tries to get success. Employers must be willing to provide evidence and supporting statements to assist in the application process.

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 The Priority Migration Skilled Occupation List

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Immigration have released a “Priority Migration Skilled Occupation List”. The PMSOL identifies 18 positions that are critical for Australia to support Australia’s economic recovery from COVID-19. Visa holders sponsored in Occupations on this list are afforded priority processing of visas and entry to Australia. See the full list here

It is possible to obtain entry for Compassionate and Compelling circumstances, however this is still a very difficult argument and requires significant evidence of a compelling circumstance to permit entry.

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The COVID-19 Travel Exemption Process

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If you believe you can meet one of the individual exemption criteria, you can commence the process of obtaining an exemption to enter Australia.

There is a specific portal in which to apply for a travel exemption. The travel exemption is linked by the TRN number of your visa application.

You will need to support your application with evidence and a persuasive argument to show immigration why your entry should be allowed.

Once the travel exemption is approved processing will commence on your visa application. Remember even if given a travel exemption, you must have a valid visa to enter Australia. If you don’t meet the requirements, your visa application will be refused.

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If you are approved to enter Australia, there are specific requirements to travel.

This includes the need to provide evidence of a negative COVID-19 (PCR) test to your airline, taken 72 hours or less before your scheduled departure.

Airlines will deny boarding if you do not provide this evidence.

Please also note that masks must be worn on all international flights, including at airports.

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In this article, we’ve outlined the main points involved in Australian COVID-19 travel exemptions. Starting with those who can enter without an exemption, who can obtain an exemption, the process of applying for a travel exemption and the current requirements for international travel.

Of course, your eligibility for a travel exemption is dependent on your circumstances, as such, contacting a registered migration agent for an assessment is essential if you plan on travelling.

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