Migration Law Update: Reopening Australia’s international borders

Australia’s International Borders

Written by Luke Musto, Associate (LLM – Migration Law)

Just over 18 months after the Australian international border was closed as part of the strategy against COVID-19, the Federal Government has now indicated that Australia will soon be reopening to the rest of the world.


When will Australia lift the international travel ban?

As of 1 November, the travel ban that has been in place will be lifted. This means fully vaccinated citizens, permanent residents and their immediate families will be able to leave Australia without seeking an exemption.

In addition, the caps on incoming passengers into NSW (i.e., Sydney Airport) will be removed which will see the number of flights dramatically increase.


What about State requirements?

While the Federal Government is lifting the blanket outgoing ban, individual State Governments are taking very different approaches to reopening.

NSW is leading the way with reopening, as it has announced that there will be no quarantine requirements for travellers who are double-vaccinated and have proof of a negative COVID test as of 1 November. The Victorian Government has also announced it will be following this model. For the time being, this will apply for international entry into Sydney Airport and Melbourne Airport.

On the other end of the scale, Western Australia will continue its stance as the Hermit Kingdom for the foreseeable future, with Premier Mark McGowan regularly signalling that there are no plans to reopen for the time being. It can be expected that once Western Australia and the other states reach the 80% double vaccination dose, they will also ease the travel restrictions.


Who can leave Australia for an overseas trip?

As of 1 November, all citizens and permanent residents who are fully vaccinated will be allowed to leave Australia without seeking a travel exemption.

It is important to note that Temporary visa holders did not ever need a travel exemption to leave Australia as part of the ban. After 1 November, if they wish to leave Australia they will still be able to do so, however, they will still need to seek an exemption requirement in order to be able to re-enter Australia.


Who can travel to Australia?

As part of the initial reopening, only Australian citizens, permanent residents and immediate family members of these groups will be able to enter Australia. With NSW pushing hard for a full reopening of borders, the decision as to when to approve other visa holders for entry still lies with the Federal Government. Prime Minister Scott Morrison has already indicated that the priority for the initial incoming arrivals and flights will be for Australian citizens and permanent residents who have been separated from Australia and family members during the pandemic. However, with Qantas continually adding additional flights to its schedule, it is likely that there will not be any need to give preference to Australian citizens and permanents residents for a very long time.

With this in mind it can be expected that skilled migrants and international students will next be allowed to travel to Australia, with even tourists being possible in time for Christmas and the summer holidays (it is expected that the initial tourists would be extended family members and family of temporary residents). This is supported by Scott Morrison’s own recent comments.


What are the vaccine requirements?

The Therapeutic Goods Administration allows the four vaccines that have been allowed for use in Australia. These are:

  • Pfizer (Comirnaty)
  • AstraZeneca (Vaxzevria)
  • Moderna (Spikevax)
  • Johnson & Johnson (COVID-19 Vaccine Janssen).

In welcome news, the TGA has also announced that for incoming international travellers they will also recognise two additional vaccines, Sinovac and Covishield. This is very good news for travellers in Latin American countries, like Chile, where the vaccine rollout has relied on Sinovac.


Who is an immediate family member?

As mentioned above, apart from Australian citizens and permanent residents, only immediate family of Australian citizens or permanent residents or New Zealand citizens usually resident in Australia will be able to enter Australia as part of the initial reopening.

The Department of Home Affairs will only allow entry for the following immediate family members:

  • a spouse
  • a de facto partner
  • a dependent child
  • a parent/legal guardian of a dependent child
  • a parent of an adult Australian citizen or permanent resident


Regarding the definition of parents, the Department will be adopting a broad approach and will include:

  • biological parents
  • legal (including adoptive) parents
  • step-parents
  • parents in-law.

Evidence will need to be provided as part of the application, and to minimise the risk of rejection it is important that the right documents are provided to the Department. Some stakeholders have already raised concerns as to the complexity of the incoming exemptions — please get in touch with our team if you needed guidance on the type of evidence to be provided.



The resumption of international travel is a long-awaited step as part of Australia’s reopening and as we learn to live with Covid-19. Whether you are an Australian citizen looking to return home for a visit (or travel overseas for a holiday), or a business planning to sponsor a skilled migrant in 2022, there is plenty to be excited about for the time ahead. It is important to keep in mind that travel will be different to how we remember it, however, and more bureaucratic with a need for additional exemptions and negative Covid tests. If you need guidance in relation to the new travel rules, get in touch with our experienced team today.

Harris Gomez Group opened its doors in 1997 as an Australian legal and commercial firm. In 2001, we expanded our practice to the international market with the establishment of our office in Santiago, Chile. This international expansion meant we could provide an essential bridge for Australian companies with interests and activities in Latin America, and in so doing, became the first Australian law firm with an office in Latin America.

We provide innovative technology and resources businesses with legal and commercial expertise to realise their global potential. Our goal is to see innovative businesses establish and thrive in the global market. We are proud members of Austmine.

To better understand how we can support your management team in the Region, please contact contact@hgomezgroup.com  

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