Australia is moving on to the next phase of ending one of the world's strictest COVID-19 travel bans by permitting certain foreign visitors to travel there from December 1.
People who are eligible for certain visas, including working holidaymakers, skilled migrants, international students, and family visa holders will be able to travel to Australia from December 1; as well as Japanese and South Korean tourists, provided all are fully vaccinated. Australia's prime minister Scott Morrison called the move an "important step forward" on Monday as he announced the update.
Morrison's news follows earlier changes to Australia's travel policy. Since November 1, Australians living overseas have been able to travel home for the first time in almost 20 months without requiring an essential reason. Fully vaccinated visitors from New Zealand and Singapore have also been permitted to travel to Australia under the new policy, and Australians are free to travel overseas.
However, there's still no definitive date for when international tourists from elsewhere will be allowed to join them but early 2022 is the likely timeframe. In the meantime, here's what you need to know about the new rules and what changes are expected.
Who can travel under Australia's new border policy?
Australia's prime minister Scott Morrison announced on Monday that skilled migrant workers and international students could travel to Australia from December 1, as long as they are fully vaccinated and eligible for the relevant visas. These arrivals must comply with the quarantine requirements in the state or territory they land in, and any of the ones they plan to travel to.
Fully vaccinated citizens of Japan and South Korea will also be permitted to travel to Australia from December 1, but only to states and territories that have opened their borders for quarantine-free travel such as New South Wales, Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory. A similar agreement has been in place with Singapore since November 21.
As of December 1, fully vaccinated Australian citizens and permanent residents living abroad, and fully vaccinated visitors from New Zealand are also free to travel to Australia without requiring an essential reason. People living in Australia are also permitted to travel internationally, provided they are fully vaccinated. Children under 12 and those who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons are also permitted to travel to and from Australia.
What vaccines are accepted for travel?
To be considered fully vaccinated, individuals must have received the recommended two doses of the AstraZeneca, Covishield, Pfizer, Moderna, Sinovac, Sinopharm or Bharat vaccines, or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. At least two weeks must have passed since the last required dose was administered.
Are COVID-19 tests required?
Yes, everyone over the age of five must present a negative PCR test result before flying to Australia. The results can be uploaded online, or presented to airline staff, during the check-in process. The test must be taken no later than 72 hours "before the scheduled departure of your first international flight", according to the Australian Embassy.
Do arrivals need to quarantine?
Quarantine has been scrapped for fully vaccinated Australian citizens and permanent residents living in New South Wales, Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory, as these places have reached specific vaccination targets that have allowed them to reduce quarantine measures. Returning children between the ages of 12 and 17 who are not fully vaccinated will need to quarantine at home for seven days and take a second PCR test within 24 hours of arrival into NSW, Victoria, or the ACT and another on day five of quarantine.
Visitors from New Zealand, South Korea, Singapore and Japan can also travel quarantine-free to these destination under the agreements of their travel bubbles. Other states and territories in Australia require international arrivals to either quarantine at home or in a government-designated facility, as they have not yet reached vaccination targets that would allow them to safely resume quarantine-free travel.
What airlines are flying to Australia?
Major airlines such as Hawaiian Airlines, Etihad, Emirates and Air New Zealand have been ramping up operations now that Australians can travel again. Qantas Airways, Australia's national carrier, is operating three weekly return flights between Sydney and London and three weekly return flights between Sydney and Los Angeles to meet "pent up demand".
When can tourists visit Australia?
There is still no definitive timeline for when international tourists from elsewhere can travel to Australia—though early signs point towards early 2022.
"On international visitors, well, we’ll see how Australians coming back first goes," Prime Minister Scott Morrison said recently. "We don’t want to see what’s happened in other parts of the world where people have moved too fast," he added.
The Australian government has laid out more information about traveling to and from Australia during the COVID-19 pandemic on its health ministry's website.