Update on Travel Exemptions

Publication Date - 23/11/2021

Over the weekend, the Australian government made anannouncement, in a sign that the Australian international border is easing asAustralian vaccination rates increase.

From 1 December 2021, fully vaccinated eligible visa holderscan come to Australia without needing to apply for a travel exemption. Eligiblevisa holders include skilled and student cohorts, as well as humanitarian,working holiday maker and provisional family visa holders. (1)

Under these arrangements, travellers must:

  • Be fully vaccinated with a completed dosage of avaccine approved or recognised by Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration(TGA)
  • Hold a valid visa for one of the eligible visa subclasses
  • Provide proof of their vaccination status
  • Present a negative COVID-19 Polymerase ChainReaction (PCR) test taken within three days of departure.

Eligible Visa Holders

A full list ofeligible visas can be found here, however, some key visas that will be eligible are:

  • Subclass 400 – Temporary Work (Short StaySpecialist) visa
  • Subclass 457 – Temporary Work (Skilled) visa
  • Subclass 482 – Temporary Skill Shortage visa
  • Subclass 485 – Temporary Graduate visa
  • Subclass 494 – Skilled Employer SponsoredRegional (Provisional) visa

Importantly,Tourist visas are not on the eligible list, so tourists looking to holiday inAustralia will need to wait for further developments.

What does this mean for the processing of visas?

Currently, the Department of Home Affairs are prioritisingprocessing visa applications for travellers who are exempt from our travelrestrictions to support urgent travel. This has meant applicants who haveapplied for a 482 TSS work visa who could demonstrate that they have anoccupation on the Priority Skills Migration Occupation List (PMSOL) or have acritical skill or work in a critical sector had their applications finalisedquickly often within 1-2 weeks.

Those that weren’t able to obtain travel exemption approvalswere subject to processing times of 6 to 11 months. With the removal of travelexemptions, we suspect that the order of priority allocation within the TSSvisa program under Direction 93 will likely be updated. Currently, applicationsare processed in the following order:

  1. Applicants in Australia over applicants outsideof Australia
  2. Nominations lodged in relation to an occupationspecified in the Priority Migration Skilled Occupation List (PMSOL)
  3. Nominations lodged for an occupation within acritical sector not covered by point 2
  4. Nominations lodged in relation to an occupationto be carried out in regional Australia.
  5. Nominations lodged by an approved sponsor withAccredited Status not mentioned in point 2 or 3.
  6. Nominations lodged by a party to a labouragreement not mentioned in points 2, 3 and 4.
  7. All other nominations lodged.

Travel Requirementsby State/Territory

Although theAustralian government can set policy as it relates to international borders andtravel exemptions, Australian states and territories still set their owncriteria for entry by international arrivals. Below is a summary of the currentrequirements for entry into Australia for the Australian states and territories– current to 21 Nov 2021.

New South Wales

Permits international  arrivals by air if you are fully vaccinated with a TGA recognised COVID-19 vaccine (or are under 12 and accompanied by a  fully vaccinated adult). Evidence of COVID-19 vaccination may be requested.  Arrivals must follow NSW Health Guidelines for 14 days from arrival or until  you receive a negative COVID-19 test taken at least 7 days after arrival.  Further information can be found here.


Permits international  arrivals who are fully vaccinated or aged under 12 years 2 months. Travellers  are required to have an international COVID-19 vaccination certificate, an  international passenger travel permit issued by Service Victoria and a  negative COVID-19 test no less than 72 hours before departure for Victoria.  Upon arrival, a COVID-19 PCR test will be required within 24 hours and again  between 5-7 days after entering Victoria. Unvaccinated travellers are also  permitted to enter Victoria but will be required to undertake 14 days of  hotel quarantine. Some difference in rules apply to children under 12 years 2  months. Further information can be found here.

Western Australia

Borders for  international arrivals will be eased once the state hits 90% double  vaccination. This is currently expected late January/early February 2022.  Once that threshold has been reached, international borders will ease.  International arrivals will be required to be fully vaccinated, have a  negative PCR test 72 hours prior to departure and undertake a test on  arrival. Unvaccinated arrivals and other high-risk travellers will still be  required to complete a 14-day quarantine in a government-mandated facility.  Further information can be found here.


Permits international  arrivals but these are subject to Queensland’s international arrivals cap so passengers  may find flights difficult to obtain in practice. All international arrivals  must undertake a 14-day quarantine in a government nominated facility unless  you’re arriving from a safe travel zone. You’ll also need to obtain a  Queensland International Arrivals Registration before entering, if you’ve  been outside Australia for more than 14 days.

Once QLD hits 80% double  vaccination (expected 17 December or earlier), fully vaccinated Australians  and permanent residents can enter (uncapped). They’ll be required to have a  negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours prior to departure and undertake  home quarantine. Once QLD hits 90% double vaccination (no ETA for this yet),  there will be no restrictions or quarantine for fully vaccinated travellers.  If you’re not fully vaccinated, quarantine will be required in addition to  other relevant entry requirements. Further information can be found here and here.

South Australia

From 23 Nov 2021, all  arrivals to South Australia must apply through EntryCheckSA. Fully vaccinated  travellers must complete a 7 day quarantine (14 days for unvaccinated  travellers). It is expected that when SA hits 90% double vaccination, its  borders will open to fully-vaccinated travellers without the need for  quarantine. Further information can be found here and here.


Until 1 Dec 2021,  overseas arrivals will be treated as “high risk”. Only vaccinated Tasmanian  residents and specialist workers will be permitted to enter. If approved,  mandatory quarantine will be required. Further information about arrangements  post-1 December have not been made clear as yet. Further information can be  found here.

Northern Territory

Currently, all  international arrivals must complete a mandatory 14-day quarantine in a  government-mandated facility. Further information can be found here.


(1) https://minister.homeaffairs.gov.au/KarenAndrews/Pages/further-steps-reopen-australia-secure-economic-recovery.aspx