Australia’s international border will be further eased from next week under substantial changes announced by the federal government on Monday.
From 1 December, Australia’s travel bubble will be expanded and skilled workers, eligible visa holders and international students will be able to arrive quarantine-free, subject to some conditions. Here’s what you need to know.
What’s changing for international travel?
From 1 December, there will be a significant relaxation of the nation’s international travel rules allowing fully vaccinated eligible visa holders to come to Australia without needing to apply for a travel exemption.
Foreigners including working holiday-makers, temporary and provisional visa holders will be able to enter Australia from next week under the changes, subject to limited conditions.
The minister for home affairs, Karen Andrews, said travellers would need to be fully vaccinated with a Therapeutic Goods Administration-approved vaccine, provide proof of their vaccination status and present a negative PCR test within three days prior to departure in order to enter Australia.
Travellers must comply with the quarantine requirements in the state or territory of their arrival.
Who will be able to come to Australia?
Overseas students and skilled workers will be able to fly to Australia from 1 December provided they’re fully vaccinated and test negative to the virus within three days prior to flying. The prime minister, Scott Morrison, said it would be a “major milestone” for the nation’s economic recovery.
Some 200,000 students and eligible visa holders were expected to travel to Australia between now and January, subject to the quarantine arrangements in their state of arrival when the changes come into effect.
Australia will also reopen its borders to refugees and humanitarians under the relaxed restrictions.
Morrison said it would be the government’s “highest priority” to secure flights for Afghan visa holders in the first stages. The federal government allocated an initial 3,000 humanitarian visas when Afghanistan fell to the Taliban in August.
“I always saw that number as a floor, not a ceiling,” he said.
“It was a topical conversation I had with quite a few leaders when I was overseas, particularly in the UK and in Canada. We are all working together on what is a very challenging issue.”
Are there any changes to the travel bubble?
Japanese and Korean citizens will join Singapore and New Zealand as international “safe travel zones” from 1 December provided they are fully vaccinated and receive a negative Covid test within three days of departure.
The travel bubble has been operating since 1 November, when one-way quarantine-free travel resumed from New Zealand to Australia. On Sunday, it was expanded to allow fully vaccinated Singaporean citizens to arrive.
Under the arrangements, tourists from Japan and Korea will be able to travel from their home countries quarantine-free without needing to seek a travel exemption, provided they hold a valid visa.
“They will need to depart from their home country, they will also need to be fully vaccinated and provide proof of their vaccination status,” Andrews said.
“They will need to hold an eligible visa and … have a negative PCR test within three days … of their departure.”
What about other tourists?
Morrison said Australia’s high vaccination rates allowed him to make the “important first step” in relaxing Australia’s border rules, as was laid out in the national plan. More than 80% of eligible Australians were now fully vaccinated.
“Japan and Korea and Singapore are all very important tourist markets for Australia … I make those decisions in the national interest above all others,” he said.
“As circumstances change, that is the time to ask [governments] to move back, which is what the national plan was designed to do.”
It will be a “step by step” approach to welcoming tourists from other nations, including Europe, which had again become the epicentre of the virus.
Morrison said that between now and the end of the year the government would “look carefully” at extending free travel.
Fully vaccinated Australians, permanent residents and their immediate family members have been able to return home since 1 November.
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