COVID-19 travel ban: Who gets permission to enter Australia?
Updated: May 22
If you are reading this, you probably already know something about the COVID-19 Australian travel restrictions. Briefly, the entry of most foreigners to Australia is prohibited by the Department of Home Affairs, even if they hold a visa.
The main goal of the Government is to protect the health of Australians and foreigners who are onshore. Unfortunately the travel restrictions also cause significant issues to visa holders. Families are separated, visa holders are stuck overseas and international students are unable to enter Australia and start the course they paid for.
To alleviate some of these issues, the Department of Home Affairs is willing to consider individual requests for exemption from the travel ban. Broadly, people who may be excepted are diplomats, workers in critical sectors and individuals with humanitarian or compassionate reasons to travel to Australia.
Plenty of speculation has been going round about the approval rates of exemption requests and who might be eligible. Thanks to a parliamentary inquiry by the Committee on Covid-19, we can now shed some light on this mystery.
In response to a question, the Australian Border Force Commissioner (Michael Outram) has provided the numbers of foreigners granted permission to enter Australia while travel restrictions are in place (period up to 6 May 2020).
In total, 6872 people were granted permission to enter. The majority of them (4967) were granted permission only to transit though Australia on their way to other countries. 801 people were granted permission on compassionate grounds. About 470 exemptions were related to work in critical sectors.
The Commissioner also provided the numbers of refused requests, which are remarkably low. However, the general impression among the migrant community and Migration Agents is that most requests actually get refused. It will be interesting to see if any further information floats to the surface and clarify this.
The Commissioner revealed his more altruistic side when he said:
"I have to make those decisions case by case, and it's hard...it's kind of heartbreaking in a way because people would ordinarily be able to come and see people who are critically ill, terminally ill or who have passed..."
The numbers show that the Commissioner decides about 72 inbound travel requests per day. He is also responsible for outbound travel requests, although some of them are delegated to his staff. Given the daily turnover figure, It is reasonable to assume that little time is spent on each request.
Visa holders who are unable to enter Australia will continue making requests for exemptions from the travel restrictions until they are lifted (hopefully in the second half of 2020). If you are thinking about requesting an exemption, be realistic about your chances and provide plenty of relevant supporting evidence. An experienced Migration Agent can help you build a compelling case. Source: Migration Institute of Australia
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