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Australian Migration Department has granted 3,000 exemptions to overseas travel ban Despite approving 2,937 requests for overseas travel, over 1,000 applications have been denied in the first six weeks of the ban.

Since March 2020 the coronavirus pandemic has prompted the Australian government to introduce strict restrictions on travel both to and from the country. Many other countries around the world have also halted international travel despite the World Health Organisation’s advice that such measures are largely ineffective in slowing the spread of diseases. As the law currently stands, Australians can only leave Australia during COVID-19 if they qualify for an exemption from the ban.

Speaking of travel authorisations more broadly, Border Force Commissioner Michael Outram told a Senate hearing on the coronavirus this month that “in some of the welfare or humanitarian cases, it’s kind of heartbreaking in a way … (but) I have to balance the advice … to protect our country and community from COVID-19.”


On 19 March 2020 Prime Minister Scott Morrison advised Australians not to travel overseas because of the pandemic. Many Australian disregarded the advice in the fortnight that followed, with 16,000 people leaving the country during that time.

On 25 March 2020 an official travel ban was imposed with the passage of the Biosecurity (Human Biosecurity Emergency) (Human Coronavirus with Pandemic Potential) (Overseas Travel Ban Emergency Requirements) Determination 2020.


Section 5 of the Determination states that Australian citizens and permanent residents must not leave Australia unless a general exemption applies or an exemption is granted. It also states that operators of aircraft and vessels must not leave Australian territory with a passenger who is an Australian citizen or permanent resident unless the person has an exemption.


The following categories of person have a general exemption from the travel ban and do not need to apply for an exemption in order to leave Australia:

  • Those ordinarily resident in another country;
  • Airline and maritime crew;
  • New Zealanders holding a Subclass 444 visa;
  • Those engaged in day to day conduct of freight in and out of the country;
  • Those doing essential work at offshore facilities;
  • Those travelling on official government business.


An exemption may be granted to a person if they propose to undertake overseas travel that is:

  • Essential for critical industries and business;
  • For urgent medical treatment that is not available in Australia;
  • For urgent and unavoidable personal business;
  • In the national interest;
  • Part of the COVID-19 response.

A person may also be able to get an exemption and be permitted to leave Australia on compassionate or humanitarian grounds.


As of February 2021 changes – Child and Partner visas

The first round of changes are planned to take effect on 27 February 2021 and will allow some Family Stream visas, which have been applied for outside Australia, to be granted while the visa applicant is in Australia. This will apply to people who are in Australia and who are not able to travel offshore because of border closures and travel restrictions.

The relevant Family Stream visas are:

  • Child (subclass 101)
  • Adoption visa (subclass 102)
  • Dependent child (subclass 445)
  • Prospective Spouse(subclass 300)
  • Partner (subclass 309)


As of 24 March 2021 changes – Parent visas

The second round of changes are planned to take effect on 24 March 2021 and will apply to eligible Parent visa applicants. This change will allow certain Parent visa applicants to have their visa granted while the applicant is in Australia, without requiring them to leave.

The relevant Parent visa are:

  • Parent visa (subclass 103)
  • Contributory Parent visa (subclass 173)
  • Contributory Parent visa (subclass 143)


So if you or anyone you know wishes to travel to or from Australia talk to us. Book an initial 30 minute consultation for a flat fixed fee for the initial 30 minutes to discuss your issue with a Master Migration Lawyer.

Book a Consultation

Call 03 9614 0218 or email to make an initial 30 minute consultation at our Melbourne office. (conditions apply)

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Note: this update, or any previous updates on this page, do not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Please call our office to seek professional advice before acting or relying on any of the content on this page