From 11 August 2021, Australian citizens and permanent residents ‘ordinarily resident in a country other than Australia’ will no longer be automatically exempt from outward travel exemptions (see the relevant legislative amendment here).
This means that even a permanent resident cannot rely on an automatic exemption to travel overseas. You must apply for a travel exemption through the Travel Exemption Portal. Only in extremely rare and exceptional circumstances will an exemption be granted, and even then, only if a compelling reason for leaving Australia can be demonstrated.
Additionally, if you received a travel exemption approval before 11 August and have not yet travelled, you can use this exemption for a single departure from Australia. There is no longer a 3-month expiry on the exemption.
Will there be a transitional period?
Yes. Until 7 September 2021, those who are ordinarily resident overseas and who arrive at the airport without an exemption will be allowed to travel if their status as ordinarily resident overseas can be confirmed by an ABF officer at departure.
What if I'm outside Australia, but want to visit temporarily?
If you are outside Australia and want to travel to Australia then return to your country of residence, you must apply for an outwards exemption before you arrive in Australia.
Why the change?
The automatic exemption to overseas travel was introduced in March 2020. It was designed so that Australian citizens and permanent residents could return to their ordinary place of residence if they wished – not allow frequent travel between countries.
Given the evolving situation with COVID-19, the government is looking to reduce pressure on Australia’s quarantine facilities, reduce the risks posed to the Australian population from the pandemic, and prioritise the repatriation of those who have been stranded overseas. Removing the automatic travel exemption is a way for them to implement these priorities.
This is a significant change, as Australians or permanent residents returning home for urgent family or other emergencies will not be allowed to depart unless they apply for and receive a travel exemption. Practically, it is incredibly difficult to demonstrate the need to depart Australia on compelling or compassionate grounds.
The change may also deter those who are currently offshore, and have been granted a permanent visa (eg. a Global Talent visa) from entering Australia. Should they wish to return to their country of residence, the same requirement to apply for a travel exemption would apply.
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