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Australia clarifies rules for onshore international students, temporary migrants planning to travel overseas

Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Source: AAP Image/Joel Carrett

The Australian Department of Home Affairs has clarified rules for onshore temporary migrants planning to leave the country a day after Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that fully vaccinated eligible visa holders no longer need to apply for a travel exemption before entering Australia from 1 December.

The Department of Home Affairs on Tuesday updated its website detailing rules for international students and other temporary migrants planning to travel overseas, after SBS Hindi approached them with queries from onshore residents.

"From 1 December 2021, fully vaccinated eligible temporary visa holders can travel to Australia without the need to apply for a travel exemption," reads the latest information on the website.

"Temporary visa holders who are not included in the new arrangements for eligible visa holders, may apply for an inwards exemption before they leave." 


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Some of the eligible visa holders include: subclass 457 (Temporary Work Skilled visa), subclass 476 (Skilled – Recognised Graduate visa), subclass 485 (Temporary Graduate visa) and subclass 500 (Student visa).

A department spokesperson told SBS Hindi that the eligible visa holders may still be required to seek an inward travel exemption if they leave the country before 1 December. 

Onshore temporary migrants have welcomed the clarification from the Department.

"Until this morning, it was unclear whether onshore temporary migrants could travel to their respective countries as the Department of Home Affairs website suggested otherwise. We are glad that this confusion has been cleared," says a Sydney-based international student, who refuses to identify for the story.

The confusion started as the Department of Home Affairs website on Monday was not updated with the latest information announced by the PM. The website earlier read: "Temporary visa holders can depart Australia at anytime, but they will generally not be permitted to return to Australia without an exemption."

International student Ira Arora soon plans to travel India as Australia removed travel restrictions for eligible visa holders.
International student Ira Arora soon plans to travel India as Australia removed travel restrictions for eligible visa holders.
Supplied by Ira Arora

Melbourne-based international student Ira Arora said she had been waiting for the Australian government to allow restriction-free travel. 

"It's the best news for me and my family. I haven't seen them for past two years. I didn't travel earlier as I was unsure whether I would be able to return to Australia," she said.

The Department said temporary visa holders who are not included in the new arrangements for eligible visa holders may apply for an inwards exemption before they leave.

Their applications will get approval if they meet the requirements for an individual exemption from Australia's inward travel restrictions and have a strong compassionate or compelling reason to leave Australia.

On Monday, PM Morrison said Australia continues to take steps to reopen to the world safely.

"Consistent with the National Plan to safely reopen Australia, these changes will ensure we continue to protect the health of Australians while reuniting families and securing our economic recovery by opening our border to skilled and student visa holders.

From 1 December 2021, fully vaccinated eligible visa holders can come to Australia without a travel exemption. 

Travellers must have received a Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) approved vaccine, present a negative COVID-19 Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test taken within three days of departure and provide proof of their vaccination status.

They must follow the quarantine requirements in the state or territory of their arrival.

"The return of skilled workers and international students to Australia will further cement our economic recovery, providing the valuable workers our economy needs and supporting our important education sector," PM Morrison said.  

Qantas ground staff at the Brisbane domestic terminal.
Qantas to launch Melbourne-Delhi flights from 22 December.
AAP Image/Dave Hunt

On Monday, Qantas announced a new flight to India, which will operate on the Melbourne-Delhi route from 22 December. The Melbourne to Delhi leg will initially operate via Adelaide, while flights from Delhi to Melbourne will operate nonstop.

"The new Melbourne-Delhi flight will operate four times a week, year-round. Same day connections will also be available from Brisbane, Sydney and Canberra," it said. 

Qantas had last month announced Sydney-Delhi flights, which start next month.

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