The Australian government has announced a new system to facilitate international travel during the COVID-19 pandemic: the VDS (Visible Digital Seal) system. Australians travelling abroad in the future will need to register using this system. Foreign travellers to Australia will also be required to apply for a visa Australia.
What is the VDS system?
The Visible Digital Seal system is Australiaʼs way of making international travel possible again. The system is intended to make it easier for travellers to prove that they have been fully vaccinated, one of several requirements that Australians must fulfil to be able to travel abroad. The VDS is available through the Australian Express Plus Medicare app. The app allows people to share all their information about vaccinations with the Australian authorities. This information is then processed and a special certificate, the Visible Digital Seal, is issued. Only individuals with a valid VDS may travel abroad.
The VDS system for travel to Australia
It is expected that the system will also be applied to persons from other countries who intend to travel to Australia. Dan Tehan, Australiaʼs Trade Minister, has already announced that the VDS system has been shared with all Australian embassies abroad. Through this system, shared with embassies and airlines, it is easy to check the vaccination status of travellers. Other countries also use their own systems to register vaccination certificates. Canada, for example, uses the ArriveCAN app to record vaccinations and test certificates of incoming travellers, and India uses the Aarogya Setu app at airports and on public transport. When Australia will open its borders, travellers will likely have to register through the MedicareExpress app.
The system is expected to be ready for use by the end of October.
The date for the opening of Australiaʼs borders is still unknown
Minister Tehan had said on 22 September that travel abroad for Australians would probably be possible again as of December. Based on the current trend of vaccinations in the country, the vaccination rate will be around 80% by then. This, according to the Australian government, is high enough to reopen the borders. Tehan also revealed that the government is in talks with other countries about so-called "travel bubbles" to make air travel between these countries and Australia easier.
It is also still unclear which vaccines will be accepted by the Australian government. Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Moderna and Johnson/Janssen will be accepted. However, the Chinese Sinovac and Sinopharm vaccines, and the Russian Sputnik V, are currently not accepted as valid vaccinations for incoming travellers.
A visa is also required to visit Australia
In addition to being able to use the VDS system, travellers to Australia must also take into account Australiaʼs visa requirements. This means that people from countries such as England and Ireland must apply for a visa in order to travel to this country. The visa will not have to be registered via the VDS-system, because Australia already has an online visa system where all visa applications are processed.
Travellers from the UK and Europe can choose between two visa types: the eVisitor visa and the ETA Australia. The visas are largely the same. It is possible to travel to Australia with both an eVisitor and an ETA. However, an ETA is a lot more expensive than an eVisitor. On the other hand, the ETA is available to more nationalities. If you are eligible for the eVisitor visa, this is almost always the better choice.