Who is exempt from Australia's international coronavirus travel ban?

While Australia is restricting citizens and permanent residents from overseas travel, there are some notable exceptions.

By Brandon Loo , April 6 2020
Who is exempt from Australia's international coronavirus travel ban?

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.

Click this image to enlarge it
Click this image to enlarge it

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 this image to enlarge it
Click this image to enlarge it

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.

Brandon Loo

Brandon is our Perth-based writer with a focus on frequent flyer points and travel guides. On his travels, he enjoys tucking into local delicacies, discovering new cocktails, and making aeroplane food look good on camera.

PL
PL

27 Mar 2020

Total posts 3

Can international transit passengers still route via Sydney? We are UK holidaymakers due to fly Auckland - Sydney on Air NZ with hand baggage only hoping to remain airside to join same day BA0016 to London. In business class Does anyone have recent experience of similar?

10 Jul 2018

Total posts 108

Hi PL, go to the Home Affairs COVID-19 enquiry page and select 'I want to transit through Australia'. There is a lengthy form to fill out, but you can request an exemption that way.

PL
PL

27 Mar 2020

Total posts 3

Thanks Brandon. I submitted the exemption form for transit and will post the results here to help others.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

31 Mar 2020

Total posts 4

Please let me know how that goes

I am in Wellington NZ, and i need to get to London UK which atm looks like i will have to travel via Sydney

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

31 Mar 2020

Total posts 4

hey mate! Have you heard back?

29 Mar 2020

Total posts 2

ANZ Bank, credit card reviews, Velocity Frequent Flyer

Anyone who is normally a resident of a country other than Australia (i.e. tourists)

I'm an Australian citizen who flew out of Melbourne on 29th March to the UK, where I'm normally resident. At the airport an immigration officer explained to me that the definition of "not resident" was anyone who, in the last 12 months prior to departure date, had spent more days outside Australia than in. If you've spent the majority of your time in Australia then an exemption is needed. He spent a long time on the phone to an office checking my status. (I made it by nine days.)

30 Mar 2020

Total posts 3

Has any Australian Citizen succeeded in getting an Exemption to leave Australia yet? I'm a dual Aussie/British citizen and I'm seeking permission to head back to the UK for the duration of the crisis - I've filled out the online form requesting permission to leave for compassionate reasons (my family is all in the UK and I'm pretty worried about them) - and so far just got a response saying 'insufficient information in your request, please resubmit with more detail'.

Anyone managed to get an Exemption for leaving Australia?

S
S

13 Sep 2013

Total posts 109

Just stay put!
The last thing needed at the moment, is more people travelling around to wherever they feel is best for them. Here in HK it's kicked off again because of people doing exactly like what you've outlined.
They left HK because they thought it wasn't safe and went to Europe. Then they didn't want to be in Europe anymore so they headed back to HK. Some of them unknowingly brought the virus back which has no caused a second wave in HK.
Don't be selfish. Just stay put!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

31 Mar 2020

Total posts 4

that sucks dude! Im needing to transit via Sydney (going Wellington NZ to London UK, sadly bc of NZ's rules i cant go via Auckland which sucks bc AKL to London is availble with heaps of flight by Qatar Airways)

If you have trouble finding a flight to London (BA is suspending their service from 9th april to 22nd april) then try transit via Auckland, NZ

Ive submitted a form to be able to transit through Aus - waiting to hear back.

PL
PL

27 Mar 2020

Total posts 3

We had a seat on BA Sydney-London but were needing to connect from S Island New Zealand. Using the Australian link recommended by Brandon, we were eventually able to get an exemption to transit through Sydney airport. Unfortunately, NZ regulations did not permit us to move internally to Auckland international airport so we had to cancel all flights. There are no international flights from S Island, so we are stuck. But there are worse places to be......

31 Mar 2020

Total posts 2

I have an Australian passport and another European passport,

can i fly to Europe because i have a house there and bills to pay

that must be done in Europe, cannot use internet bank?

I wonder.

01 Apr 2020

Total posts 2

I'm an Aus citizen but resident of the UK. Came here on a holiday for 3 weeks and am flying back out on Friday. What do I need to show at the airport that I'm a UK resident (non resident in Aus)?

The border force link says I don't need to apply for an exemption.

29 Mar 2020

Total posts 2

Show your Australian passport (assuming you entered the country on one) to immigration/border force. They will check that you have been out of the country for the majority of the last 12 months.

01 Apr 2020

Total posts 2

Thanks! I was printing out my council tax statements etc. just as proof that I live in the UK but it sounds like I won't be needing those documents.

qatar

04 Apr 2020

Total posts 1

My husband is stuck in Europe. Left Sydney on 2nd March with Qatar. Qatar is still flying Doha/Sydney., but how does he get to Doha from Belgrade?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

31 Mar 2020

Total posts 4

Hello - Has anyone heard back yet regarding getting an exemption ? I appreciate they are busy but been waiting approx 4 days now - just wondering how long they usually taken per application ?

30 Mar 2020

Total posts 3

Mine eventually came through, it took over a week. They are clear that you can change your date of departure though, just not the port. Good luck!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

15 Jan 2013

Total posts 34

I helped a customer of mine get to Europe with an exemption on Friday, they actually only gave a verbal "approval" they received nothing physical like an email or anything, but he was able to checkin and Border Force had his exception approval in their system so he was cleared through, not ideal to not have it in writing, maybe they are ironing out the kinks, but seems to be working in some way.

30 Mar 2020

Total posts 3

Which process did your customer follow to get the verbal approval?

I just failed to get on a flight in Sydney, the exemption had not come through; I submitted the request last week. There doesn't seem to be any way to check on the application status to see if there has been a problem.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

15 Jan 2013

Total posts 34

I will find out and let you know.

08 Apr 2020

Total posts 1

So, I have a situation.. Im a kiwi living in Australia and have a 2 year youth mobility visa lined up for the UK which I have to be there to pick up between April 25th - May 25th. As I'm 31 now I cannot get this chance there for an O.E. again.

My original flights for end of April were cancelled leaving myself and my girl friend (who lives in England)... Well... Lost in the wind. Still waiting for an official word on the visa front but I am looking at flights toward the end of May.

TBH, its essential travel to me and I don't want to lose the girl nor the chance to live there.

I wanted to put this scenario out there to others for feedback before I email ahead. Any words are welcome..


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