Effective December 15, 2021, the Australian government will allow fully vaccinated travelers in eligible visa categories to travel to and from Australia without needing to apply for a travel exemption. The government had previously planned to ease travel restrictions beginning December 1, but postponed those plans because of the identification of the omicron variant. In a press conference, Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed that the easing of travel restrictions will move forward as planned beginning December 15.
Eligible Visa Subclasses
As of December 15, the list of visa subclasses that are eligible for exemption-free travel to Australia will include, among other categories:
- Subclass 482 – Temporary Skills Shortage visas;
- Subclass 400 – Temporary Work (Short Stay Specialist) visa;
- Subclass 403 – Temporary Work (International Relations) visa;
- Subclass 417 – Working Holiday visas; and
- Subclass 500 – Student visas.
The Subclass 482 visa is a temporary work visa that allows employers to sponsor skilled workers to fill positions for which no qualified Australian worker is available. Loosening entry restrictions on 482 visa holders is seen as a means of filling critical labor gaps in Australia’s economy as the country seeks to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Notable visa categories that are not included in the updated travel guidelines include those for international tourism. A full list of visas that can enter Australia without the need of a travel exemption can be found using this link.
Updated guidance has also clarified that individuals on a bridging visa awaiting the outcome of a visa application must still obtain a travel exemption in order to enter or exit Australia.
While the Australian government is easing travel restrictions for some eligible visa holders, other restrictions related to the identification of the omicron variant will continue. In particular, non-resident foreign nationals who, within the past 14 days, have been in any of eight African countries – South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Malawi, and Mozambique – will not be able to enter Australia. This restriction applies even if the foreign national is a visa holder who is otherwise eligible for exemption-free travel.
Australian citizens, permanent residents, and their immediate family members arriving from these countries will need to undergo an immediate supervised quarantine for 14 days, subject to jurisdictional arrangements.
Recognized Vaccines and Proof of Vaccination Status
For travel purposes, the Australian government will consider an individual to be “fully vaccinated” if they have completed a course of a vaccine approved or recognized by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), including mixed doses. The current vaccines and dosages accepted for purposes of travel are:
- One dose of the Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) vaccine; or
- Two doses, at least 14 days apart, of the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Sinovac, Bharat Biotech, or Sinopharm vaccines.
At least seven days must have passed since the final dose of vaccine in a course of immunization for the traveler to be considered fully vaccinated. Travelers must present a print or digital copy of an International COVID-19 Vaccination Certificate (ICVC) as proof of immunization.