How to leave Australia during COVID-19

Guner Hussein

Guner Hussein

Guner is the Principal lawyer at GSL with over 4 years of experience in Migration law.

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How to leave Australia during COVID-19

How can you leave Australia with current travel restrictions?


In my previous column, I discussed about ways on how to come to Australia depending on the type of visa one currently holds.


In this column, I would like to discuss how one may obtain consent to travel outside of Australia depending on the type of visa one holds.


Temporary visa holders returning home

Temporary visa holders do not need an exemption to depart Australia. They can leave at any time, as long as border restrictions in their home country allow them to return.


If one would like to return home, they can either:


  1. contact their embassy or consulate in Australia;
  2. register their details with Department of Home Affairs here who will provide their information to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). DFAT may provide this information to their home government (either overseas or represented by the embassy, consulate or High Commission in Australia). This service is only for temporary visa holders.


Australians and permanent residents

If one is an Australian citizen or a permanent resident they cannot leave Australia due to COVID-19 restrictions unless they have an exemption. One can apply online but one must meet at least one of the following:


  • their travel is as part of the response to the COVID-19 outbreak, including the provision of aid 
  • their travel is essential for the conduct of critical industries and business (including export and import industries)
  • they are travelling to receive urgent medical treatment that is not available in Australia
  • they are travelling on urgent and unavoidable personal business
  • they are travelling on compassionate or humanitarian grounds 
  • their travel is in the national interest.


One should apply for an exemption at least two weeks, but not more than three months before your planned travel. Only one request per person is allowed. Duplicate requests will delay assessment.


One is exempt if they are: 


  • ordinarily resident in a country other than Australia
  • an airline, maritime crew or associated safety worker
  • a New Zealand citizen holding a Special Category (subclass 444) visa
  • engaged in the day-to-day conduct of outbound freight
  • associated with essential work at Australian offshore facilities
  • travelling on official government business, including members of the Australian Defence Force.


If one does not think they need a travel exemption, one can present evidence of the above when they check-in at the airport. However, if one has any doubt about whether their circumstances fall within the definition of ordinarily resident, one should lodge a request for assessment at least two weeks prior to their intended departure.


Travel exemption requirements for individuals in critical sectors or with critical skills

The Commissioner of the Australian Border Force may grant an individual exemption if they are a non-citizen:


  • travelling at the invitation of the Australian Government or a state or territory government authority for the purpose of assisting in the COVID-19 response
  • providing critical or specialist medical services, including air ambulance, medical evacuations and delivering critical medical supplies
  • with critical skills required to maintain the supply of essential goods and services (such as in medical technology, critical infrastructure, telecommunications, engineering and mining, supply chain logistics, agricultural technology, food production, and the maritime industry)
  • delivering services in sectors critical to Australia’s economic recovery (such as financial technology, large scale manufacturing, film and television production and emerging technology), where no Australian worker is available
  • whose entry would otherwise be in Australia’s national interest, supported by the Australian Government or a state or territory government authority.


If you require to travel back home and would like to know how to submit a successful visa application to return to Australia, please download my free visa application checklist here.


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