Due to the current COVID-19 situation in Australia, including state and territory border restrictions, business closures and social distancing requirements, international visitors are encouraged to return home when possible to do so.
Temporary visa holders should be aware that if they wish to return to Australia while COVID-19 restrictions are in place, they will generally need a travel exemption. For more information about the Commissioner’s Exemption, see Coming to Australia.
Temporary visa holders returning home
Temporary visa holders impacted by COVID-19 can make arrangements to return to their home country, if border restrictions in that country allow.
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.
Remember the COVID-19 situation continues to change.
Check each week:
- border restrictions
- availability of flights.
Commercial flights are available in several major airports across Australia. These airlines are currently operating flights departing Australia:
Airlines flying include: Air India | Air New Zealand | Emirates | Qatar Airways | United | Singapore Airlines | Cathay Pacific Airways | SriLankan Airlines | Malaysia Airlines | China Airlines | Xiamen Airlines | Garuda Indonesia Airline | China Southern Airlines | China Eastern Airlines | Asiana Airlines
You may also wish to find out if there are any private or government repatriation flights to your home country.
If you would like further assistance to return home, you can contact your embassy or consulate in Australia.
You can also register your details.
We will provide your information to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, which may provide this information to your home government (either overseas or represented by the embassy, consulate or High Commission in Australia). However, if you require assistance from your Embassy or Consulate, you are strongly advised to contact them directly.
This service is only for temporary visa holders.
Australians and permanent residents
If you are an Australian citizen or a permanent resident you cannot leave Australia due to COVID-19 restrictions unless you have an exemption. You can apply online but you must meet at least one of the following:
- your travel is as part of the response to the COVID-19 outbreak, including the provision of aid
- your travel is essential for your business/employer
- you are travelling to receive urgent medical treatment that is not available in Australia
- you are travelling outside Australia for three months or longer
- you are travelling on compassionate or humanitarian grounds
- your travel is in the national interest.
You must provide evidence to support your claims. Requests may be finalised without further consideration if insufficient evidence is provided. Evidence may include:
- marriage certificate/s
- birth certificate/s
- death certificate/s
- proof of relationship (for example, shared tenancy agreement, joint bank account etc.)*
- proof that you are moving to another country on a long term basis such as leases, job offers and evidence your goods are being transported
- proof of your current valid visa, including in Australia and/or overseas
- letter from a doctor or hospital about any medical treatment/condition with statements on why travel is necessary
- letter from your employer, or other evidence that you are travelling for an essential business reason
- statement or evidence to show when you wish to return to Australia
- any other proof you may have to support your claims.
*For information about providing proof of your relationship refer to Evidence of relationship.
All evidence supporting a travel exemption claim needs to be officially translated into English.
Australians who want to travel overseas should see Smartraveller to get advice on the risks before deciding to travel.
You should only travel if it is essential due to the risks to public health, regular disruptions to travel plans (including flight cancellations and quarantine requirements in other countries and on return to Australia) and limits to consular assistance.
If you apply for a travel exemption, you must read and acknowledge advice about travel risks, including delays returning to Australia. You must ensure that you have sufficient resources to support yourself overseas for a significant period of time in the likely event of flight cancellations and other disruptions to your travel plans.
You should apply for an exemption at least two weeks, but not more than three months before your planned travel. Please make only one request per person. Duplicate requests will delay assessment. The majority of travel exemption requests to depart Australia are finalised within 48 hours, but some complex requests may take longer.
If you are not granted an exemption, you should not continue with your travel plans. If granted an exemption, you must take evidence of that exemption decision to the airport.
You are exempt from travel restrictions, and can leave Australia without applying for an exemption if you 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.
You are considered ordinarily resident in a country other than Australia if international movement records show that you’ve spent more time outside Australia than inside for the last 12 to 24 months. You do not need to carry a paper record of your movements with you. If required, Australian Border Force officers at airports can check your movement records in their systems.
If you do not think you need a travel exemption, you can present this evidence when you check-in at the airport. However, if you have any doubt about whether your circumstances fall within the definition of ordinarily resident, we recommend you lodge a request for assessment at least two weeks prior to your intended departure.
APEC business travel card
If you hold an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Business Travel Card (ABTC) you are not automatically exempt. You can apply for an exemption and provide evidence to support your claims. For more information on travelling using your ABTC see Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Business Travel Card (ABTC) for Australian citizens.
Critical skills and sectors
If you have any questions about critical skills and sectors, and the travel exemption process or an existing critical skills travel exemption application please complete an online enquiry form.
Apply online for an exemption
Please make only one request per person. Duplicate requests will delay assessment. If you are not granted an exemption, you should not continue with travel plans, as you will not be permitted to depart Australia. If you are granted a travel exemption, you will need to take evidence of that exemption decision to the airport.
For more information on how we assess travel exemptions, see our guidelines: