A Department of Home Affairs spokesperson confirmed to SBS Hindi that temporary visa holders continue to require a travel exemption to enter Australia unless they were given the approval to enter for inward travel.
- Temporary visa holders are not yet allowed to return to Australia without a travel exemption
- An online petition seeking freedom to travel overseas for temporary visa holders has garnered 50,000 signatures
- 'At least give us a timeframe on when can we return back freely': Temporary resident Tejas Anwekar
For those wanting to take a short overseas trip, the department's website states that inward exemptions will only be granted if there is a strong compassionate, or compelling reason.
People attending the funeral of a close family member overseas, visiting a close family member who is seriously or critically ill, seeking necessary medical treatment not available in Australia, or travelling for essential business purposes would be considered for inward exemption.
The further mentions that temporary residents only require an exemption to enter Australia and not for leaving the country.
"Temporary visa holders do not need an exemption to depart Australia," it notes.
An online petition demanding free travel for temporary visa holders has garnered over 50,000 signatures.
The petition initiated by Katie Stenson reads, “We work here, pay our taxes, received double vaccinations, and contribute to society. It’s discriminatory to stop us from visiting our friends and families after almost two years apart.”
Another petition, started by Jennifer Clayburn for temporary residents to automatically return back, has garnered over 16,000 signatures.
Stating "we want to be here in 2022 to see Australia back to life and success," the petition points out there are almost 1.5 million temporary visa holders.
For Tejas Anwekar, a temporary resident currently stranded in India, it has been a long wait of over a year to return to Australia. He said that even though the country is close to achieving its vaccination target, there is still no clarity about the timeframe for him to enter Australia.
Tejas Anwekar is currently stranded in India waiting for Australian borders to reopen. Source: Supplied for Tejas Anwekar
“I have signed a few petitions in the past to open travel for us, but nothing has really come through,” he told SBS Hindi.
"I am fully vaccinated so if the borders are open for permanent residents then why are we left behind? We should also be allowed to enter the country,” he said.
Another temporary resident, Lovenein Kaur, told SBS Hindi she is desperate to return to Australia after leaving the country in 2019.
"I want to come back to be with my grandfather who is very old and I want to be with him now,'' Kaur, who is currently stranded in the western Indian city of Mumbai, said.
Lovenein Kaur (R) wants to return to Australia to be with her grandfather (L). Source: Supplied by Lovenein Kaur
Kaur said she previously applied for a travel exemption, but was rejected.
“I have no idea when I will be able to see my family, simply because of the kind of visa I hold," she said.
Australia’s international borders have been shut for almost two years due to the impacts of COVID-19.