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Travel to high-risk COVID-19 countries

Based on current health advice, National Cabinet has decided that travel to high-risk COVID-19 countries presents a serious health risk to the Australian community, such that travel exemptions for any travel from Australia to these locations will be limited to very urgent circumstances only. This advice applies with immediate effect to:

  • Republic of India

Individuals seeking an ‘exceptional circumstances’ exemption to travel from Australia to these high-risk COVID-19 countries will only be approved for the following very limited circumstances:

  • critical workers providing assistance to the country of destination’s COVID-19 response;
  • persons undertaking travel in Australia’s national interest; or
  • persons seeking urgent medical treatment for a critical illness that is unable to be treated in Australia.

Supporting evidence must be provided. 

The ‘exceptional circumstances’ exemption criteria outlined in the Outward Travel Restrictions Operation Directive does not currently apply to people seeking to travel to any high-risk COVID-19 country listed above.

Travel to New Zealand

Quarantine-free travel from Australia to New Zealand will commence at 21:59 AEST on 18 April 2021. In order to travel to New Zealand on a quarantine-free flight, you must:

  • have spent 14 days or more in either Australia or New Zealand immediately before your departing flight (this includes spending all 14 days in Australia or travelling from New Zealand to Australia and returning within 14 days)
  • meet the New Zealand Government’s health pre-conditions. All other normal entry requirements, including immigration and biosecurity, apply.

Be aware that quarantine-free travel could be paused or suspended at any time, so stay up to date.

Australian citizens and permanent residents who have been only in Australia or New Zealand for the 14 days immediately before departure can travel to New Zealand without applying for an outwards travel exemption.

Note: This only applies when New Zealand is the destination of travel. If you are transiting through New Zealand to another destination, you must apply for an outward travel exemption. More information can be found on the New Zealand safe travel zone webpage.

Travel to Papua New Guinea (PNG)

Based on current health advice, the COVID-19 outbreak in PNG means travel to PNG from Australia presents a serious health risk to the Australian community. People seeking an ‘exceptional circumstances’ exemption to travel from Australia to PNG will only be approved in extremely limited circumstances, for example:

  • for critical workers providing assistance to PNG’s COVID-19 response; and
  • people undertaking critical safety roles.

The ‘exceptional circumstances’ exemption criteria outlined in the Outward Travel Restrictions Operation Directive does not currently apply to people seeking to travel to PNG.


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 from several major airports across Australia.

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.

Temporary visa holders leaving Australia for a short trip overseas

Temporary visa holders in Australia can depart Australia at any time, however, they will generally not be permitted to return to Australia.

Temporary visa holders seeking to leave and then return to Australia, may apply for an inwards exemption before they leave, however applications will generally only be approved if:

  • the applicant meets the requirements for an individual exemption from Australia’s Inward Travel Restrictions, and
  • they have a strong compassionate or compelling reason to leave Australia supported by relevant documentary evidence, for example:
    • attending the funeral of a close family member overseas, visiting a close family member who is seriously or critically ill, or seeking necessary medical treatment not available in Australia, or
    • travel is essential for business purposes

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 for your business/employer
  • you are travelling to receive urgent medical treatment that is not available in Australia
  • you are travelling outside Australia for a compelling reason 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:

  • passport/s
  • 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 a 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.

Travel for three months or longer

If you are seeking exemption from Australia’s outbound travel restrictions on the basis that you are leaving Australia for three months or longer, your proposed travel must be for a compelling reason and you must provide evidence to support your claims.

This evidence must be provided in the form of a Commonwealth Statutory Declaration.

The Statutory Declaration must state you are making an application for travel exemption on the basis that you intend to be absent from Australia for more than three months.

Evidence may include:

  • confirmed flight itinerary, with return date of at least three months after departure date
  • confirmation of leave from employment for three months
  • enrolment confirmation for study
  • a doctor’s certificate to support your claim you are travelling in order to provide care for sick family members
  • any other matter you wish to raise in support of your request for exemption.

Note: A person who makes a false statement in a statutory declaration is guilty of an offence – refer to section 11 of the Statutory Declarations Act 1959.

Requests may be finalised without further consideration if insufficient evidence is provided, or is not provided in a Statutory Declaration.

The Australian Border Force will monitor compliance with periods of declared travel.

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 you have a compelling reason and it is essential that you travel now. Regular disruptions to travel plans (including flight cancellations and quarantine requirements in other countries and on return to Australia) and limits to consular assistance should be expected, due to the risks to public health. 

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.

Travel exemption requests that are submitted without appropriate documentary evidence to support your claim will not be approved.

You should apply for an exemption at least two weeks, but not more than two 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.

Automatic exemptions

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, even if they are usually resident in Australia
  • engaged in the day-to-day conduct of inbound and outbound freight
  • travelling in association with essential work at an offshore facility in Australian waters
  • travelling on official government business (including members of the Australian Defence Force and any Australian Government official travelling on a diplomatic or official passport)
  • travelling directly to New Zealand and you have been in Australia or New Zealand for 14 days or more immediately before your travel date*

*Please refer to the information under Travel to New Zealand on the top of this page.

Ordinarily resident

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.

Apply for travel exemptions

Commissioner's Guidelines and Operational Directives

For more information on how we assess travel exemptions, see our guidelines: