News report | | 18/02/2022 | ±2 minutes reading time

From 21 February 2022, travellers to Australia will no longer need a travel exemption to enter the country. An Australia visa is still necessary.

Visa and exemption

As a result of the coronavirus outbreak, Australia has had a travel ban in place since 2020. For a long time, only a very limited group of people were allowed to enter the country, such as Australian citizens returning home. All other travellers could only enter the country with a visa and an exceptional permit, a so-called travel exemption. These are issued by the Australian government and are valid for two months.

Since then, the travel rules have been relaxed several times. For example, since 1 November 2021, parents of Australian citizens are allowed to travel to the country again, and since 15 December, specific visa holders are welcome in Australia again. In theory, these groups are exempt from the travel ban, meaning that they only need a valid visa to travel to Australia. However, travellers with an eVisitor Australia visa (subclass 651) or an Australia ETA (subclass 601) also need to apply for an exemption in order to travel to the country. This means that the vast majority of direct family members of Australian citizens who wish to travel to Australia will still be required to apply for an exemption, despite the easing of restrictions.

Travel ban to be lifted on 21 February

This will change from 21 February onwards. The travel ban will then be lifted. Fully vaccinated travellers with a valid visa (eVisitor or ETA) may travel to Australia without an exception permit from that date. Although an exception permit is no longer required as of 21 February, other COVID-19 measures still apply. These may vary by region. For example, in the Northern Territory, there is no testing or post-arrival quarantine requirement, but there is a 14-day quarantine requirement on arrival in Western Australia.

Backlog of visa applications

Currently, the Australian Immigration Department is struggling with a large backlog of visa applications. This is largely because Australia did not approve tourist visas for a long time. These visa applications were put on hold, and now all have to be approved. However, the inspection of the mandatory travel exemption also leads to extra work for the immigration service. Although the majority of visa applications for Australia are approved on time, there can be considerable delays. It is expected that this backlog will decrease from 21 February onwards, as no more exemption applications need to be inspected.

The Australian Immigration Service says that visa applications from travellers who are exempt from the travel ban are currently given priority. Visa applications to Australia are often approved faster if one already has an approved exemption. After 21 February, these differences in delivery times are likely to be significantly decreased.

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