Australian border travel exemptions update

By Oliver Jankowsky and Kristopher Kunasingam

Despite international borders being closed, non-citizens or permanent residents can still enter Australia, provided they are able to gain an exemption. Our office has successfully obtained numerous travel exemptions for clients recently. In this article, we share our recent observations about what needs to be done before a travel exemption request is submitted.

In our article Borders, travel restrictions and COVID-19 - update, we discussed the restrictions and circumstances where a person could travel, despite the general ban. Every two weeks or so, the Australian Border Force updates its policy on who is permitted entry to Australia. Whenever submitting a travel exemption request, we examine the latest policies before attempting the request. Key points are:

  1. Highlighting the disruption to business operations is key. The travel exemption is built around the premise that without the person being in Australia, there is going to be a disruption. The request should highlight the economic loss by not having the person here, as well as the potential loss of jobs if the project or job cannot continue. Project documentation and cost overrun estimates are some of the documents which can be used to support the claims.
  2. Evidence should not only be provided by the employer but affected parties as well. Besides providing documentation from employers about needing the person to travel to Australia, it is recommended that the related party validates the disruption. This can either be the end client or joint venture partner who can attest to the fact that by not having the person in Australia, it is going to disrupt operations or project outcome.
  3. Apply for the visa and exemption at the same time. If the person does not have a visa to travel, they are encouraged to first apply for the visa and the exemption after. If they already have a visa, they just need to submit the exemption request. In cases where multiple parties are linked to one project, it is best to lodge everyone’s application together and link the exemption request.

At this stage, sectors which are being afforded priority include those working in medical services, medical technology, infrastructure, telecommunications, mining, supply chain logistics, agriculture, food production, maritime industry, film and media, emerging technology and theology. It should be noted that merely working in these industries does not automatically mean someone will be allowed entry – the exemption is about addressing the disruption caused by them not being in Australia.

Upon arrival, they will be subject to a 14 day quarantine period at their own cost. The cost varies according to the state and number people arriving but the average is $2000 – $5000.

Feel free to contact us to assist with the travel exemption request and visa process.


Oliver Jankowsky

Oliver Jankowsky

Partner & Head of International Desks

Oliver is a corporate and commercial lawyer, with particular expertise in advising foreign clients on cross-border transactions.

Kristopher Kunasingam

Kristopher leads the firm's migration practice. He specialises in employment-related migration to Australia.

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