Australia re-opens international borders to citizens and permanent residents

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Australia reopens international borders for first time during Covid-19 pandemic

Australia is ready to take its next steps to safely reopen to the world, with changes coming to the international border.

Our government is setting out the framework for how international travel will look in the coming months.

With first dose vaccination rates at over 78 per cent and double dose rates nationwide at 55 per cent and on track to reach 70 per cent in some jurisdictions over the next week, our government has been finalising plans so Australian families can be reunited, Australian workers can travel in and out of our country, and we can work towards welcoming tourists back to our shores.

Within weeks, large parts of the country will be moving to Phase B and then to Phase C of the National Plan to safely reopen Australia and to stay safely open. Under Phase C, international travel is on track to reopen safely to fully vaccinated Australian travellers. Many countries around the world have now safely reopened to international travel and it will shortly be time for Australia to take the next step.

To enable fully vaccinated Australians to travel, our government is finalising new arrangements.

Following completion of home quarantine pilots in New South Wales and South Australia, it is anticipated that states and territories that are ready to do so will roll out:

  • Seven day home quarantine for Australian citizens and permanent residents fully vaccinated with a vaccine approved for use in Australia or ‘recognised’ by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA)
  • 14-day managed quarantine for anyone not vaccinated or vaccinated with a vaccine not approved or recognised by the TGA.

Australian citizens and permanent residents who cannot be vaccinated – for example, if they are under 12 or have a medical condition – will be treated as vaccinated for the purposes of their travel.

States and territories will begin this program at different times given their varying vaccination rates but we expect the system to commence in November.

Under Phase B and C of the National Plan, 14-day managed quarantine caps apply to unvaccinated arrivals. These will return to previous levels at Phase B of the National Plan. We will work with states and territories to remove all travel caps on vaccinated Australians.

In line with the National Plan, our government is balancing the need to minimise the risk that the spread of COVID-19 presents, with the need to live with the virus.

The Government’s intention is that once changes are made in November, the current overseas travel restrictions related to COVID-19 will be removed and Australians will be able to travel subject to any other travel advice and limits, as long as they are fully vaccinated and those countries’ border settings allow. Border settings and quarantine requirements in other countries continue to change and we strongly encourage all Australians to closely monitor DFAT travel advice, available on smartraveller.gov.au.

These changes mean there will be no travel restrictions if you are a vaccinated Australian entering or leaving our shores.

We will also work towards completely quarantine-free travel for certain countries, such as New Zealand, when it is safe to do so.

Testing is expected to continue to be a requirement of international travel, but subject to further medical advice, Rapid Antigen Tests may be used.

Australians who want to travel overseas once restrictions are removed will be able to access an internationally recognised proof of vaccination document in the coming weeks to prove their vaccination status abroad. The proof of vaccination for international travel will include a QR code that is readable globally, and will comply with the standards set out by the International Civil Aviation Organisation. Engagement with commercial airlines and foreign governments has already begun to ensure they are familiar with the system.

We know it has been an extraordinarily difficult 18 months for Australians overseas trying to come home and for Australians with family and friends overseas.

To maximise the number of Australians who can return, our government is also offering facilitated flights into any state or territory that agrees to commence seven day home quarantine trials for returning Australians.

More than 680,000 Australians have returned since the Government recommended people reconsider the need to travel abroad in March last year. The Government stands ready to assist more people to return with the cooperation of states and territories.

Australian citizens and permanent residents who have been vaccinated with a TGA-approved vaccine overseas can already visit their GP or local pharmacist in Australia to have their COVID-19 vaccination status updated in the Australian Immunisation Register, to be able to show proof of vaccination in Australia.

In coming weeks the government will finalise the processes for people to be able to show their vaccination status if they have had a TGA ‘recognised vaccine’. People who have received vaccines not recognised by the TGA, or who are unvaccinated, will be required to undertake 14 days of managed quarantine on arrival.

In addition to the four COVID-19 vaccines that have been approved and registered for use by the TGA – Pfizer (Comirnaty), AstraZeneca (Vaxzevria), Moderna (Spikevax) and COVID-19 Vaccine Janssen – the TGA has also been reviewing other vaccines in widespread use around the world for the purposes of determining ‘recognised vaccines’.

We need to ensure that we keep Australians safe without creating unnecessary obstacles to people who have been fully vaccinated overseas from coming to our country.

Today, the TGA has published its initial assessment of the data on the protection offered by the Coronavac (Sinovac) and Covishield (AstraZeneca/Serum Institute of India) vaccines and has advised that these vaccines should be considered as ‘recognised vaccines’ for the purpose of determining incoming international travellers as being appropriately vaccinated.

Declaring certain COVID-19 vaccines as ‘recognised vaccines’ is separate to a regulatory decision on whether they are approved for use for vaccination in Australia, which has not been made by the TGA.

The recognition of these two additional vaccines is a major milestone towards more Australians vaccinated overseas getting home sooner.

The TGA will continue its assessment of other vaccines for the purpose of determining ‘recognised vaccines’ based on the available data and data that is provided.

In coming weeks the Minister for Health will consider updates to the Biosecurity Act Emergency determinations to facilitate some of these changes for fully vaccinated Australian travellers as we move forward on the National Plan to get Australia back to normal and reopen our country safely.

Source: Commonwealth of Australia, PRIME MINISTER OF AUSTRALIA The Hon Scott Morrison MP

View the media release here

Travel for vaccinated Australians and permanent residents

From 1 November 2021, Australian citizens and permanent residents aged 12 and over who are considered fully vaccinated will be able to leave Australia without needing an outwards travel exemption.

Fully vaccinated

Australia considers you to be fully vaccinated if you have completed a course of a Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) approved or recognised vaccine. This includes mixed doses.  Current vaccines and dosages accepted for the purposes of travel are:

  • Two doses at least 14 days apart of:
    • AstraZeneca Vaxzevria
    • AstraZeneca Covishield
    • Pfizer/Biontech Comirnaty
    • Moderna Spikevax
    • Sinovac Coronavac
  • Or one dose of:
    • Johnson & Johnson/ Janssen-Cilag COVID Vaccine.

At least 7 days must have passed since the final dose of vaccine in a course of immunisation for you to be considered fully vaccinated. Mixed doses count towards being fully vaccinated as long as all vaccines are approved or recognised by the TGA.

If you have not been vaccinated with the above doses or schedule, you do not meet Australia’s definition of ‘fully vaccinated.’ This includes instances where the dosing schedule or vaccine eligibility differs in your country of origin.

If you do not meet Australia’s definition of fully vaccinated, current border restrictions apply and you must continue to follow current border processes when leaving Australia or coming to Australia. This includes requesting a travel exemption and undertaking mandatory quarantine.

The TGA is evaluating other COVID-19 vaccines that may be recognised for the purposes of inbound travel to Australia in future. The most up-to-date information on approved and recognised vaccines is available on the TGA website.

Children under 12 and Australian citizens and permanent residents with acceptable proof they cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons will also be able to travel overseas without seeking an exemption.

Unvaccinated or partially vaccinated Australian children aged 12-17 years old entering Australia through New South Wales, Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory may also be eligible for reduced quarantine requirements.  They will only be eligible if their accompanying parents or guardians are all fully vaccinated.

Australian children aged 12-17 years who arrive into Australia will be considered as unvaccinated if they:

  • have not received any vaccination
  • have only been partially vaccinated with a recognised vaccine
  • have been partially or fully vaccinated with a non-recognised vaccine.

Australian citizens and permanent residents who do not meet the eligibility requirements must continue to follow the current border processes when leaving Australia or coming to Australia.

Temporary visa holders can leave Australia without needing an exemption. They do not need to be fully vaccinated, and do not need to show a vaccination certificate on departure.

Proof of vaccination when leaving or travelling to Australia

If you were vaccinated in Australia, you will need to show airline staff your International COVID-19 Vaccination Certificate (ICVC). The ICVC will be provided in PDF format for you to print or hold electronically on your phone.

If you were vaccinated overseas and do not have an ICVC, you will need to present a foreign vaccination certificate.

If you are an Australian citizen or permanent resident who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons, you will need to provide proof of a medical exemption. You should also check any requirements, particularly quarantine requirements, in the state or territory to which you are travelling.

If you are an Australian citizen or permanent resident departing Australia you need to show evidence that you have a medical contraindication reported to the Australian Immunisation Register (AIR) for all COVID-19 vaccines available in Australia. As proof you should provide your Australian COVID-19 digital certificate. You can otherwise provide your immunisation history statement.

If a temporary medical contraindication has been recorded on the AIR, the COVID-19 digital certificate will display a ‘valid to’ date. After this time, you will need to either:

  • check with your doctor to see if you can now get a COVID-19 vaccine; or
  • ask your doctor to update your status on the AIR if your medical contraindication is still valid.

If you are an Australian citizen or permanent resident returning from overseas who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons, you should check any requirements, particularly quarantine requirements, in the state or territory to which you are travelling as this will impact your travel arrangements.

Only eligible health professionals as defined on the Department of Health website can report medical contraindications to the AIR.  If you cannot demonstrate that your medical contradiction has been reported to the Australian Immunisation Register, you will need to apply for an exemption to leave Australia. 

Getting a vaccination certificate, including the International COVID-19 Vaccination Certificate, does not mean that you are fully vaccinated. For example, your vaccination certificate may show that you have only had one dose of a two-dose vaccine. If your vaccination certificate does not prove that you that you meet Australia’s definition of fully vaccinated, you cannot use it for leaving or entering Australia. It is your responsibility to know your vaccination status and ensure your vaccine certificate supports your eligibility to travel to and from Australia. 

You must also comply with all other requirements for coming to Australia.

Quarantine

You may be eligible for reduced quarantine requirements when you return to Australia.

Unvaccinated or partially vaccinated children aged 12-17 years returning to Australia will not be allowed to access schools for 7 days after arrival.  They will also not be able to visit high risk settings such as child care, aged-care residential facilities, disability care facilities or hospitals until 14 days after arrival. Exemptions apply for emergency medical care.

If the child is travelling with unvaccinated adult family members, then the entire family group will be subject to managed quarantine and passenger caps.

States and territories are responsible for determining and managing quarantine requirements for people entering from overseas. To find out about quarantine arrangements check State and Territory Information for travellers.

Source: Commonwealth of Australia (no changes were made)

Last updated: 29 October 2021

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