Since Covid-19 wreaked havoc on the world, travel to and from Australia for many Australian expats has largely been possible, with the exemption being allowed for that if you’re an Australian citizen or Permanent Resident (PR) who normally resides in another country, you would be free to leave Australia without the requirement to apply. This made it possible, where flights allowed for it of course, for Australian expats across the globe to visit friends and family, reconnect with their loved ones and still look after business interests on the ground in Australia.

However, on 1st August 2021, Health and Aged Care Minister, Mr Greg Hunt, sought to put an end to this, with an amendment to the Biosecurity Act 2015, which in short will remove this automatic exemption for Australian expats to freely leave Australia, and instead apply for a travel exemption to leave. This change is set to come into effect from Wednesday 11th August 2021.

The Current Rules

In March 2020, the Overseas Travel Ban Determination was introduced, which meant that for ordinary residents of Australia, they could not freely leave Australia without applying for a travel exemption, however Australian expats who usually reside in another country were free to leave without needing to apply. Of course this was still subject to their country of residence allowing them to return, which has proven difficult for many, however Australia was not stopping these expats from departing.

Based on the timing of this rule, and allowing Australian expats to freely leave if they normally reside elsewhere, Minister Hunt believes that sufficient time has been granted for them to return home.

The New Rules

Under the new rules, Australian citizens and PRs, who normally reside in a country other than Australia, will need to apply for a travel exemption to leave the country. The only other option if they are in exceptional circumstances, then an Australian Border Force (ABF) employee or the Commissioner may grant an exemption.

The rationale for the new rules was outlined in the Explanatory Statement released with the update to the Act, and is as follows:

  • Allowing room on repatriation flights for those who are genuinely stuck in other countries, which DFAT estimates is 30,000 to 40,000, with the majority stuck in India.
  • Ensuring the availability of quarantine facilities for those returning to Australia and prioritising this for those stuck outside of Australia.
  • Reduce the risks of Covid-19 being brought into Australia from other countries, both within and outside of quarantine.

Essentially, a key driver here appears to be the active discouragement of Australians returning to Australia for travel that is not absolutely essential.

How To Apply For An Exemption

Typically, exemptions have been granted for the following key reasons:

  • your travel is as part of the response to the COVID-19 outbreak, including the provision of aid
  • your travel is for your business or employer
  • you are travelling to receive urgent medical treatment that is not available in Australia
  • you are travelling on compassionate or compelling grounds
  • you are travelling for urgent or unavoidable personal business
  • your travel is in the national interest.

You can apply for a travel exemption at this link here.

To support your residence in another country, you would also need to provide supporting documentation, which would include the following:

  • foreign Government issued documentation such as a work pass or foreign driver’s license.
  • evidence of your residence overseas, such as a lease agreement or rates notice.
  • evidence that you are in fact employed overseas, such as a letter from your employer or a tenancy agreement for your company overseas.

We expect that this is going to have some serious ramifications for many Australians across the globe. We would certainly suggest doing your homework, planning ahead, and seeking professional advice for any travel or if you’re considering departing Australia for opportunities abroad or considering your repatriation plans.


Ally Wealth Management is the trusted ally in finance for Australians at home and across the globe. As both Australian expats and residents, the founders of Ally have a unique understanding of the common personal financial challenges faced.

Book your complimentary appointment with our team at Ally Wealth Management to discuss how we can help you to achieve your financial goals.

Ally Wealth Management Pty Ltd is a Corporate Authorised Representative of Sentry Advice Pty Ltd ABN 77 103 642 888. Sentry Advice holds an Australian Financial Services Licence (AFSL) No. 227 748.

General Advice Warning: The information contained herein is of a general nature only and does not constitute personal advice. You should not act on any recommendation without considering your personal needs, circumstances and objectives. We recommend you obtain professional financial advice specific to your circumstances.