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‘Thought I’d get travel exemption as I work in critical sector,’ says fully-vaccinated Indian international student

UTS student Taniya Jamwal with her Pfizer vaccination certificate. Source: Supplied by Taniya Jamwal

Like Taniya Jamwal, many temporary visa holders, especially in critically-important jobs may presume they can enter Australia if they have been fully-vaccinated for COVID-19. Ms Jamwal’s misunderstanding was dispelled when the Australian Border Force rejected her application for inward exemption stating her ‘circumstances do not outweigh the risk to the Australian community’.

An Indian international student at the University of Technology Sydney was under the impression that her Pfizer vaccination certificate and employment in the disability sector would strengthen her inward travel exemption application as she had planned to visit her ailing mother in India.

Taniya Jamwal’s hopes were dashed on 26 June when the Australian Border Force (ABF) rejected her application stating her “circumstances [to exit Australia] do not outweigh the risk to the Australian community”.


  • Indian student Taniya Jamwal denied travel exemption to enter Australia from India
  • Fully vaccinated, she works in the disability sector, wants to visit her ailing mother
  • Temporary visa holders including international students can exit Australia but will generally not be permitted to return: ABF

Ms Jamwal, who has received both doses of the Pfizer vaccine, had applied for an inward travel exemption on 10 June and supplied documents related to her mother’s illness along with her vaccination certificate.

“I thought I will get travel exemption as I work in the critical sector, which is one of the conditions listed on the Australian government’s website for inward travel exemptions. I’m not sure why I was denied permission,” she told SBS Hindi.

“I was hoping to make a quick return to Australia before my visa expires in August and I go on a bridging visa,” she added.

International Indian student in Sydney, Australia
Indian national Taniya Jamwal had applied for a travel exemption to visit her ailing mother.
Supplied by Taniya Jamwal

Ms Jamwal has again applied for an inward travel exemption on 30 June.

The ABF warned Ms Jamwal that her visa could also be cancelled if she tries to enter Australia after visiting India.

“You are not exempt from Australia’s travel restrictions. You are still subject to the travel restrictions and, should you attempt to travel to Australia, your visa may be considered for cancellation while those travel restrictions remain in force,” the email stated.  

In response to a query from SBS Hindi, the ABF said temporary visa holders are subject to conditions for being granted an inward travel exemption to enter the country.

“Temporary visa holders (including student visa holders) in Australia can depart Australia at any time, however, they will generally not be permitted to return to Australia,” a spokesperson stated in an email.

International students Australia
Taniya Jamwal’s hopes were dashed on 26 June when the ABF rejected her application saying her circumstances don't outweigh the risk to the Australian community.
Supplied by Taniya Jamwal

The ABF, however, didn’t comment on whether they had cancelled the visa of any student trying to return to Australia.

There has been some talk in Australia about allowing quarantine-free travel to fully-vaccinated residents to and from Australia. 

This comes in the wake of European Union Member States opening quarantine-free travel to people who had been fully vaccinated using a digital vaccine passport. This vaccine passport has been made available to the member states from 1 July.

A debate has been ongoing in Australia about having a similar travel protocol but no decision has been announced by the federal government yet. 

Students and international travelers in Delhi completing paperwork before being vaccinated against Covid-19 (
Students and international travellers in Delhi completing paperwork before being vaccinated against COVID-19.

The ABF told SBS Hindi that each case is unique and is considered individually based on the information and supporting evidence supplied to them by the applicant.

The spokesperson said temporary visa holders seeking to leave and then return to Australia may apply for an inward exemption before departing. But an application will only be approved if:

  • The applicant meets the requirements for an individual exemption from Australia’s Inward Travel Restrictions
  • They have a strong, compassionate or compelling reason to leave Australia supported by relevant documentary evidence, for example, attending the funeral of a close family member overseas, visiting a close family member who is seriously or critically-ill or seeking necessary medical treatment not available in Australia, or if travel is essential for business purposes

The ABF spokesperson elaborated that travel exemption will be given to those travelling from India to Australia under limited circumstances, which are as follows:

  • Critical workers providing assistance to Australia’s COVID-19 response
  • People travelling in Australia’s national interest
  • People travelling due to the death or funeral of a close family member in Australia
  • People visiting a close family member who is critically ill
  • People escorting an Australian citizen or permanent resident minor back to Australia, where the parents of the child are currently in Australia

On 25 June, the Australian government had told SBS Hindi that nearly 10,300 Australian citizens and permanent residents stuck in India had expressed their willingness to return to Australia.

“The number of Australians registered changes frequently according to people’s circumstances,” the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade had stated.

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