Australia’s Borders and Your Visa

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We’re currently inundated with requests from excited people wanting to hop on the next plane to Australia now that Australia is getting ready to open for business with the rest of the world.

News reports include various teasers about travel and border re-opening, all of which indicate that all moves away from restrictions are linked to vaccination uptake in Australia.

It’s been a long hard 18 months for lots of people, both in Australia and outside.  And, while most of our clients just want to know when Australia is going to be fully open again, the answer is…. it’s complicated!

Here, we look at the most recent announcements as they apply to international travellers.  This information may change quickly.  There are different border controls within Australia for people travelling interstate, which consider “hotspots” – you can find further information by looking directly at that State’s information.

Is Australia open yet?

Australia’s international borders have been mostly closed since the health emergency began in March 2020.

Activity has been intense in Australia during the last six months, as the national COVID vaccination roll-out has taken off, and the nation prepares to re-open its borders to overseas visitors and workers.

Just today, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that Australian airline Qantas will open select international flight routes from the beginning of December 2021.

Australia has resisted re-opening until the community has an acceptable level of vaccination cover.  Initially the vaccine roll-out was slow but has picked up pace since mid-2021.  Re-opening will provide an incentive for everyone in Australia to roll up their sleeves.

States and Territories – whose governments control the borders – are progressively announcing easing of their own border restrictions.  New South Wales and Victoria will be the first to open, declaring the gates will open on the 1st November 2021, without the need for quarantine.  In the main, Australia’s target vaccination rate is 80% fully vaccinated.

Below you will find links to the various States and their borders – click on each State or Territory name to find out the current information about entering or leaving that area.

Current at 25th October 2021 Summary Double Vaccination Rate (% Aged 16+) Date borders re-open to fully vaccinated people
National Position (PDF) The Federal Government has produced a National Transition Plan. Border openings and closures are the domain of the State and Territory leaders. 73.08%
Victoria From 1st November, international arrivals who are fully vaccinated and test negative for Covid within 24 hours of arrival, no longer need to quarantine. 74.12% 1st November
New South Wales From 1st November, vaccinated travellers will be able to home quarantine for 7 days on arrival. Unvaccinated travellers must quarantine for 2 weeks in a hotel. 84.81% 1st November
Queensland International arrivals must quarantine for 2 weeks in a hotel. People who arrived into a different State must show evidence of 14 days quarantine on first arrival, or otherwise undertake quarantine in Queensland. 60.41% 17th December
Northern Territory International arrivals must quarantine for 2 weeks in an approved facility. 61.23% Yet to be announced
Australian Capital Territory International arrivals must quarantine for 2 weeks in an approved facility. A further announcement is expected on 1st December. 87.28% Yet to be announced
South Australia International arrivals must quarantine for 2 weeks in an approved facility. 62.26% Yet to be announced
Western Australia International arrivals must quarantine for 2 weeks in an approved facility. A further announcement is expected on 8th November. 59.31% Yet to be announced
Tasmania International arrivals must quarantine for 2 weeks in an approved facility. A further announcement is expected on 8th November. 71.93% Yet to be announced.

“Should I apply for a Visitor Visa and book travel now? “

Visitor Visas have mostly been held back from processing (except for people who have received travel exemptions).  We expect that processing of these visa applications will happen quickly once borders are re-open to international travellers.

As to whether you should book travel – we can’t advise on that.  We do suggest you keep an eye on news releases, and make a decision when it’s right for you.

“When New South Wales re-opens, can I travel into Sydney and then visit my family in another State?”

This will depend on the state of the border between New South Wales and where you want to travel to.  If there are still state border restrictions, you may find that to travel you will need an exemption pass and must undertake 2 weeks of quarantine.

The reason some States have stricter border controls is that their vaccination rates are lower, and their state health system cannot afford to have an outbreak of COVID.  Northern Territory, for example, has only 20 Intensive Care beds in the whole territory, and would struggle to provide health services in the event of a major outbreak.

“Are Travel Exemptions and Hotel Quarantine still required?”

Right now, inbound, and outbound travel exemptions are still required, as per the Departments’ rules.  Once borders open, we expect that changes will be made to the travel exemption platform and will be communicated widely.  The best place for up-to-date information on travel restrictions, is this website:  https://covid19.homeaffairs.gov.au/

Home quarantine for vaccinated travellers has been trialled in some States and will become the norm during the next phase.

If you’re not vaccinated, however, prepare for costly quarantine and restricted movements.

“I want to apply for Skilled Migration – should I start now?”

We believe that once borders re-open, States will start to roll out their Migration Plans, and will advise of their requirements for Subclass 190 and 491 visas.  Until now, State nominations have been mainly restricted to people already onshore.  It is a great time to prepare now for upcoming Skilled Migration, although until lists are announced, we cannot be sure that your occupation will be available.

You could prepare by beginning with your skills assessment and English test, which would put would-be applicants in the best position to jump on any opportunities moving forward, especially if those opportunities are subject to a cap.  If you’d like to explore you Skilled Visa opportunities, click here.  Alternatively, contact us if you would like to discuss your situation in more detail.

“Can I bring my parents into Australia now?”

The great news is that the Government has agreed to consider expanding the definition of “immediate family members”, to include parents.  When this materialises, it will mean parents will fall under one of the exemption categories for travel to Australia.  It has been a big concern for 18 months, that parents have been unable to gain travel exemptions, except where compelling and compassionate circumstances exist.  Under the new definition, parents could be granted an inbound travel exemption, on application.

Bear in mind that parents would still need to be granted a visa to travel, and that two weeks of quarantine is currently still a requirement for entry.

We have been busy with Parent Visa applications, both for permanent Parent Visas, and for the Temporary Sponsored Parent Visas.  We expect that, once parents are exempted to enter Australia, the department should start processing Visitor Visa and Temporary Sponsored Parent Visa applications already in the system.  The permanent Parent Visas are subject to capping, and the strong demand is resulting in longer processing times – right now we are witnessing wait times of more than 5 ½ years for the 143 and 864 visas, and future processing time is expected to increase even further.

If you’d like to explore your Parent Visa options, click here to complete out eligibility form, or contact us to discuss if your situation is more complex.

“I have a job offer waiting for me in Australia – will my Employer Sponsored Visa be processed soon?”

Employer Sponsored Visas have continued to be processed, but “critical skills” have been prioritised.  We expect to see an increase in demand for Employer Sponsored Visas in the next few months, as employers will embrace some certainty moving forward, and may have more confidence in employing staff.  We hope that processing for all Employer Sponsored Visas may speed up too – although we are seeing requests from the department for evidence that the job is still available before nominations are being approved.

If you have an offer of employment from an Australian employer, contact us today to discuss the best way forward.

“I am in a relationship with an Australian – can I enter Australia now?”

Partners of Australians may apply for an exemption to enter the country.  Partners who cannot show evidence of co-habitation may not have been able to obtain travel exemptions.  However, many Partner Visa applications have been processed quickly during the pandemic.  As borders re-open, it will become easier for partners of Australians to enter and consider their more permanent visa options.  Click here to explore your Partner Visa opportunities.


Emegico’s team of Registered Migration Agents are here to help guide you through this uncertain time.  We’d love to learn more about your situation and offer our professional advice. 

Current clients can contact the agent looking after their case.  If you’re new to us, start here and complete our visa eligibility assessment form, or you can contact us to start a conversation.

If you’d prefer to jump right in and get talking, you can book a consultation today.

Leanne Stevens

CEO, Emergico // Registered Migration Agent (#1171279)