Australia's borders are reopening: Where are we now, and what's next?

Removal of Travel Restrictions for Temporary Visa Holders

A significant announcement has been made by the Australian Government that from 1 December 2021 fully vaccinated eligible temporary visa holders will be able to travel to Australia without needing to obtain a travel exemption.

This is great news for existing temporary visa holders who have been unable to return to Australia because of the border restrictions, those temporary visa holders in Australia wishing to visit their family and friends overseas without the threat of being unable to return, and for businesses wishing to secure entry to Australia for new employees and transferees.

There are 28 visa types currently listed as ‘eligible temporary visa holders’, including the Temporary Skill Shortage visa (subclass 482) and the Temporary Work (Short Stay Specialist) visa (subclass 400).

New International Safe Travel Zones

International safe travel zones have been a topic of much conversation during the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite this, to date Australia has only had a safe travel zone with New Zealand, which was paused and reactivated as outbreaks occurred. At the time of writing a one-way quarantine-free travel exists from New Zealand to Australia, and individuals who have been in either Australia or New Zealand (or a combination of the two countries) over the past 14 days do not need to apply for a travel exemption.

From 21 November 2021 Singaporean citizens who are fully vaccinated are able to travel to Australia without seeking a travel exemption and quarantine-free to participating states or territories (at the time of writing this includes New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory and Victoria).

Australian citizens and permanent residents

From 1 November 2021, fully vaccinated Australian citizens and permanent residents can depart Australia without first needing to obtain a travel exemption. Children under 12 and people who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons are also able to depart Australia without a travel exemption. The ban on international travel for Australian citizens and residents that lasted for over 18 months was commonly referenced as one of the harshest COVID-19 related restrictions globally.

Quarantine, vaccination and COVID-19 testing requirements

The quarantine, vaccination status and COVID-19 testing requirements can be complex and vary depending on which state or territory in Australia an individual is travelling to. As these requirements continue to evolve quickly, it is important to seek advice specific to your circumstances. It is also important to not only consider the requirements of the state/territory you are flying into initially, but also any states or territories that you may be visiting afterwards, as several interstate restrictions continue to exist.

What's next

As we look to the end of 2021, it is anticipated that travel caps will remain in place for unvaccinated travellers whilst hotel quarantine is mandatory, simply to ensure that enough hotel rooms are available. For individuals who are fully vaccinated and do not need to hotel quarantine we expect to see flight caps removed and restrictions continue to ease.

More broadly, we would anticipate that 2022 will bring a surge of skilled migrants and visitors to address significant labour shortages due to travel restrictions and provide relief to the hospitality and tourism sectors that have been heavily impacted by COVID-19. The announcement regarding the removal of travel restrictions for fully vaccinated eligible temporary visa holders from 1 December is a significant step in the right direction.

Contact KPMG for further guidance or clarification.

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