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Entering Australia during COVID-19 in 2021

COVID-19 cases dramatically decreased in Australia during the end of 2020 and the beginning of 2021. Australia, however, was one of the few countries which decided to take early action against COVID-19 by shutting its borders in March 2020 when the coronavirus pandemic first began. Whilst coronavirus cases in Australia have now averaged out at twelve per day, entering Australia has been difficult for many. It’s thought that substantial border restrictions will be in place for the majority of 2021.

Australia has vaccinated around 6.72 million citizens with at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, with 1.09 million having received both doses. Although Australia plans to vaccinate most of its residents during 2021, with the vaccination scheme rolled out in February 2021, the Department of Health Secretary, Brendan Murphy, highlighted the uncertainty surrounding the vaccines’ effectiveness in the long term.

“Even if we have a lot of the population vaccinated, we don’t know whether that will prevent transmission of the virus,” said Dr Murphy, going on to state his belief that Australia’s quarantine requirements for travellers would continue “for some time”.

At the beginning of June 2021, it was announced that Melbourne would extend their lockdown restrictions due to a cluster of new coronavirus cases coming to light. Whilst Australia is in a much better position in terms of coronavirus infections rates, the country has become notorious for wanting to take early action and keep cases under control quickly. 

Various Australian states are now allowing interstate travel, providing travellers present a negative coronavirus test or quarantine after arrival. Requirements vary from state to state with some cities still imposing stringent measures. Australia Police Commissioner, Grant Stevens, labelled the progressions in interstate travel as “a good step forward.”

Some of the Australian state travel requirements are as follows:

New South Wales

Interstate travel is permitted, although residents from Sydney are not allowed to leave the city unless for essential reasons. 

Victoria

Travellers from all over Australia must apply for a permit to enter Victoria.

Queensland

The Queensland government has extended border restrictions across greater Sydney, including the Central Coast, Blue Mountains, Wollongong and Shellharbour.

Western Australia

A hard border with New South Wales has returned, meaning no one who has been in the state since 11th June is permitted to enter.

Australian Capital Territory

New restrictions are preventing travel between greater Sydney and Canberra.

South Australia

South Australia has currently closed its border with New South Wales.

Northern Territory

All interstate travellers to the Northern Territory are required to complete a border entry form.

Tasmania

Those who have visited the following areas in the last two weeks are not permitted to enter Tasmania: City of Sydney, Randwick, Inner West, Woollahra, Waverley, Canada Bay and Bayside.

New Zealand

Travellers from Victoria will be welcome back in New Zealand this week. 

The continuation of border restrictions for most foreigners during the foreseeable future has left many people wondering how this will impact their plans to emigrate to Australia.

map of australia

Entering Australia: Who Can Currently Enter?

While the Australian border remains closed for most internationals, there are currently a select few who can enter, as outlined below:

  • Non-restricted Australian citizens and permanent residents
  • Immediate family of an Australian citizen or permanent resident (dependent child, legal guardian or spouse/de- facto)
  • Additional exemptions as determined by the Commissioner

You should refer to the Department of Home Affairs website for full requirements and exemption details.

Temporary visas such as visitor, working holiday and prospective marriage are generally unable to enter Australia at this present time. You should refer to the Department of Home Affairs website for updates.

The above individuals permitted to enter Australia must complete a 14-day hotel quarantine at their own expense.

With coronavirus cases now substantially lower than the beginning of 2020, Australia is now considering opening up travel to international students and international business travel to those from low risk countries under a traffic light system similar to the UK’s. Although Australia is a green list country, it is currently inaccessible to the majority of Britons. 

However, last week saw Australia set up a reciprocal agreement with the UK outlining the commitment to temporary entry to Australia to enhance business opportunities and support economic recovery. A statement from Downing Street declared “in line with each country’s respective immigration system, the parties will further explore opportunities to enhance the ability for citizens to live, work and travel in each country.”

The news comes as the UK are now considering allowing quarantine free travel to amber countries to those who have been double vaccinated. This would mean UK travellers with both doses of the coronavirus vaccine could visit countries such as Spain, France, Portugal and Greece without the need to quarantine. 

australia passport

When Should I Apply For My Australian Visa?

Australian visas continue to be processed, so it is still possible to apply amid COVID-19 restrictions.

Working holiday, skilled, parent and partner visas have a one year’s entry date, meaning you have 12 months from the date of your visa grant before you must enter Australia. Furthermore, skilled visas can take 6-8 months of preparation and processing before they are ready for lodgement, so it is worthwhile allowing yourself plenty of time.

Activating Your Visa Before The Initial Entry Date

The Department of Home Affairs recognises that because of COVID-19, travel plans have been disrupted and visa holders may not be able to activate their visas before the specified date. The Migration Institute of Australia (MIA) advised that “…generally the Department will not seek to cancel a Skilled visa where the only reason for doing so would be a breach of this condition related to the COVID-19 Pandemic.”

You can read more about activating your skilled visa on the Visa Go Australia website.

What Does The Future Of Australian Migration Hold?

Darren Chatt, a licensed migration agent for over 17 years, provides insight into what he thinks the future of Australian visa applications could entail. “Australia has long relied on overseas migrants to sustain and grow their economy; filling skill shortages and contributing to the tax system. Despite the temporary downturn in migration, I expect this to recover once the Australian border reopens. Australia will be looking for highly skilled people to help in the recovery of their economy post-COVID, so it is a good time to inquire about visas and new job opportunities.”

As lockdown continues to ease in Australia, the spotlight is very much on how Australia will rebuild its economy post-COVID. The Government has already announced numerous stimulus packages and brought forward construction projects to create jobs. Furthermore, the Australian Government has revealed a national ‘Technology Investment Roadmap’ to spur economic activity in the aftermath of Covid-19.

If you require Australian visa advice then you can speak with an experienced licensed migration agent at Visa Go Australia. You can keep up to date with exchange rates by visiting our British Pound to Australian Dollar currency rates page