[ABC News] The date at which Australia lifts its international arrivals caps and Sydney Airport becomes the country’s gateway to the world is fast approaching.
But the commencement of international travel won’t apply evenly for everyone, as some visa categories aren’t included and state border closures remain a barrier for some Australians keen to travel.
Here’s what’s changing next month, and who’ll benefit from it.
When is international travel allowed in Australia?
From the start of November, fully vaccinated citizens, permanent residents and their families will be able to leave Australia for any reason, and limits on the number of people allowed into the country via NSW will be scrapped.
On that same date, NSW will ditch quarantine requirements, so people flying to Australia will be able to get off a plane in that state and (providing they’re vaccinated and have returned a negative test) walk out into the Sydney sunshine.
But there are some caveats here.
The federal government, which controls visas, says not everyone will be allowed to enter the country from that date, as it won’t be issuing some visas in order to restrict travel and prioritise the return of Australians who’ve been stuck overseas.
State border closures may also mean many Australians won’t be able to travel overseas and return to their hometown without quarantine.
What does this mean for everywhere other than NSW?
According to a national vaccination plan agreed to by National Cabinet, a “gradual reopening” of the international border for all parts of the country is linked to states and territories reaching 80 per cent full vaccination rates.
New South Wales and the ACT are the only jurisdictions to have reached that milestone.
Victoria and Tasmania are on track to reach 80 per cent in early November.
South Australia, Western Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory are due to reach it in December.
However, not all states and territories have confirmed they will commence international travel the moment the milestones are hit.
Some, like WA, are not expected to resume international travel until next year, while others are piloting home quarantine programs that could allow for more international arrivals while maintaining some isolation measures.
Queensland has announced home quarantine for fully vaccinated international travellers will be allowed when it hits 80 per cent, while Victoria’s government says it is considering what the changes mean for its border arrangements with NSW.
Unless further announcements are made before November 1, people who want to travel to a state other than NSW from overseas will be subjected to usual state border rules upon their arrival in Sydney.
So they may not be able to travel home, for instance to Perth or Brisbane, without quarantining as per those states’ rules.
Who is allowed to leave Australia to travel overseas?
Australian citizens and permanent residents who are fully vaccinated will be allowed to leave the country freely from the start of November.
Travellers aged 12 and over will need to be fully vaccinated with a “recognised vaccine”. Those vaccines include:
- Pfizer (Comirnaty)
- AstraZeneca (Vaxzevria)
- Moderna (Spikevax)
- Johnson & Johnson (COVID-19 Vaccine Janssen)
Temporary visa holders are generally permitted to leave the country, however under the rules in place from November 1 they would not be allowed back in.
Who is allowed to travel to Australia? Can international students return?
When it comes to being allowed in to the country, it will still only be Australian citizens, permanent residents and the immediate family members of those two groups.
The Commonwealth government has made no decision to let in other visa holders, including skilled visa holders, student visa holders, international visitors travelling under an ETA or other international visa arrangement.
Asked on Friday when those groups would be allowed in, Prime Minister Scott Morrison only replied: “not yet”.
If international entries want to avoid hotel quarantine, which has a very limited number of spots, they’ll need to be vaccinated with an approved vaccine like the ones listed above.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration says the Chinese-made Sinovac and Indian-made Covishield vaccines — neither of which are available in Australia — will also be considered “recognised vaccines” for incoming international travellers.
Under current arrangements, the only airport international arrivals can fly into without quarantine will be Sydney.
Can my parents travel to Australia?
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 30 per cent of people living in Australia last year were born overseas.
Many of those Australians have endured the pandemic unable to see mum or dad.
Until now, the definition of “immediate family” for the purposes of entering the country has not included the parents of adult Australian residents.
However, the federal government says it is looking at changing the definition to allow non-Australian parents of citizens or permanent residents to enter the country.