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Australia opening international borders – what does this mean for visa holders?

Caroline Hutchinson ||

Australia will reopen its international borders on Monday 21 February 2022, after one of the strictest and longest travel bans since the start of COVID-19 in March 2020. This decision comes after the National Security Committee of Cabinet agreed that the improving health conditions, such as the 23% decline in hospitalisations, allowed for Australia to reopen the international borders.

In late 2021, we saw the borders open to workers and skilled migrants working in critical sectors, in an effort to assist in Australia’s economic recovery. However, the upcoming reopening will further welcome all visa holders, tourists, business travellers and other visitors.

The news has been long awaiting for some visa holders, such as those individuals on bridging visas, who have been trapped onshore or offshore since the beginning of the travel ban and have been excluded from travel exemptions until now.

Vaccination is still a requirement, unless a vaccination exemption is provided. Quarantine and testing arrangements are dependent on the state the individual is travelling to. For example, fully vaccinated travellers arriving in NSW must provide evidence of a negative covid test prior to departure (PCR or rapid antigen test taken under medical supervision). Upon arrival in NSW they may go straight to their accommodation and take a rapid antigen test and isolate until a negative result. Another rapid antigen test is required on day 6.

Unvaccinated visitors will still have to undergo hotel quarantine even if they have been granted a vaccination exemption.

Despite ATAGI recommending on 10 February 2022, that the definition of “fully vaccinated” include a booster shot, and that the terminology be changed to “up to date” with vaccinations, at the time of writing, international travellers are still only required to provide proof of two doses of any approved COVID-19 vaccine. A booster, or third shot, is not yet required, but could be in the future.

If you require assistance with an Australian visa or employing skilled foreign workers, please contact our Employment & Migration team.

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