Australia’s border policies from 1 November 2021

By Kristopher Kunasingam and Mark Dunphy

The Federal Government has released its guidance on Australia’s border policies from 1 November 2021. After close to 18 months of strict movement control, steps are being made to allow more movement in and out of Australia. We examine the latest policies.

Who can travel and what should I know?

Fully vaccinated Australian citizens or permanent residents will be allowed to travel overseas. Vaccinated travellers are those who have received vaccines approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). At the time of publication, these are: AstraZeneca Vaxzevri, Pfizer/BioNTech Comirnaty, Moderna Spikevax, Janssen-Cilag COVID Vaccine, AstraZeneca COVISHIELD and Sinovac Coronavac.

Travellers will need to have proof of their vaccination status when travelling. The best form of this is the vaccine certificate downloaded from the MyGov portal.

Vaccinated Australian citizens or permanent residents do not need to apply for an exemption. Travellers are required to undertake a Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test 72 hours prior to boarding their flight, returning a negative result.

What are the rules for those under 12?

Children under 12 who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons will be able to travel overseas and do not need to apply for an exemption.

What if I received my vaccine outside of Australia?

Australian citizens or permanent residents who received their vaccines overseas will need to obtain a vaccination certificate from the government of the country where the vaccine was administered. The certificate must capture the full name, date of birth or passport number, vaccine brand and dates the doses were administered. If the certificate does not capture all this information, the person is treated as an unvaccinated traveller.

What happens when I return?

Fully vaccinated Australian citizens or permanent residents will be required to provide a negative PCR test within 72 hours of their flight.

The Federal Government has deferred to the States on the quarantine protocols. For now, NSW and VIC have indicated that vaccinated Australian citizens or permanent residents will be allowed to quarantine at home on arrival. At the time of publication, the States have not released guidance on the duration and specifics of the home quarantine program. We will provide an update once details are available. We will also bring you updates on the quarantine protocols for the other States once published.

Unvaccinated travellers, including those who do not have vaccination certificates with all of the information captured above, will need to undertake hotel quarantine for 14 days at their own cost.

What if I am unvaccinated?

Unvaccinated Australian citizens or permanent residents will need to apply for a travel exemption to depart. The rules around unvaccinated travellers are the same as those that applied during the pandemic. The purpose has to be:

  • travelling as part of the response to the COVID-19 outbreak;
  • travelling for business;
  • travelling to receive urgent medical treatment that is not available in Australia;
  • travelling for a compelling reason and for three months or longer;
  • travelling on compelling or compassionate grounds;
  • travelling for more than three months and for a compelling reason;
  • travelling is in the national interest; or
  • ordinarily a resident in a country other than Australia.

Based on our dealings with the Australian Border Force (ABF), these present a high bar and one should not make travel plans until securing the exemption. In September 2021, the refusal rate for outward travel was 37.8%, with travelling for more than three months for a compelling reason being the highest approval category.

What if I am a temporary visa holder?

Examples of temporary visa holders include Subclass 482 (TSS), 485 (Graduate visa), 417 (Working Holiday), 500 (Student), to name a few.

ABF has indicated those on temporary visas can depart to their home country but will need a travel exemption to re-enter. This is no different to what is currently in place. ABF has also indicated to check in regularly on changes, suggesting these restrictions will ease in the future.

We will continue to bring you updates as they appear, especially for those on temporary visas, Subclass 820 partner, bridging visas and a few others, as the policies have not been updated. Until then, we recommend deferring travel plans for non-Australian citizens or permanent residents.


Kristopher Kunasingam

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

Mark Dunphy

Mark is an employment lawyer experienced in litigious and non-litigious applications of employment and industrial relations law.

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