Australia's Department of Home Affairs is now restricting Australian citizens and permanent residents from leaving the country, under a ruling in effect since 25 March, 2020.
This 'curve-flattening' measure is designed to stem the spread of the coronavirus abroad and prevent travellers from bringing it back to Australia, potentially sparking new cases.
However, there are still certain scenarios where overseas travel is required, and exemptions from the travel ban may apply.
General exemptions to leaving Australia
Australia's legislation cites some general exemptions to the travel restrictions:
- Anyone who is normally a resident of a country other than Australia (i.e. tourists)
- Crew members of aircraft and vessels
- Workers associated with the safety of aircraft and vessels, even if they are not operating that particular flight or cruise
- A person who is engaged in the day-to-day operations of inbound and outbound freight
- A person who needs to travel for essential work at an offshore facility
- A person who is travelling on official government business (including the Australian Defence Force)
Essentially, these provisions allow tourists and non-residents to leave Australia, while also enabling transport, freight and government business to continue without interruption. If you fit in this category, you don't need to apply for an exemption.
Special exemptions to leaving Australia
Australian citizens and permanent residents to request approval to travel overseas if they can demonstrate 'a compelling reason for needing to leave Australian territory'.
The Department of Home Affairs lists these examples:
- A person travelling as part of the response to the COVID-19 outbreak, including providing aid
- A person whose travel is essential for the conduct of critical industries and business
- A person receiving urgent medical care not available in Australia
- A person who is travelling on urgent and unavoidable personal business
- Travel on compassionate or humanitarian grounds
- Travel that is in the national interest
These suggestions cover most foreseeable scenarios ranging from work to personal reasons, but keep in mind that all applications are assessed on a case-by-case basis so there is no guarantee of an exemption.
How to request special exemption to leave Australia
To apply for an exemption to leave Australia, you need to submit a written application.
After you've read the rules, checked you're not already covered by a general exemption, and certain you need to travel, head to the dedicated COVID-19 enquiry form.
Tick the boxes to say you've read the Department's privacy and security statements, then select "I am an Australian citizen or permanent resident and need to travel outside of Australia" from the next list.
Next, you'll need to select what 'reason for exemption' fits you the best, as well as provide a detailed explanation of why you need to travel.
The form finishes off by asking for your passport details, proposed travel arrangements, contact details and a place to upload supporting evidence.
Click 'submit' to lodge your application. No timeframe is mentioned for when they'll get back to you, so try to submit your application as early as possible.
Note that upon returning to Australia you'll be required to be quarantined for 14 days in a hotel arranged and paid for by the Federal Government. This hotel will be located in your arrival city, not your final destination.