The “Outward Travel Restrictions Operation Directive” that came into force in March this year gives prospective travellers leaving Australia additional regulations to contend with. The directive states that Australian “citizens and permanent residents must not travel outside [leave] Australia unless exempt” and that prospective travellers may either fall into an exempt class or apply for an individual exemption via the Travel Exemption Portal.

As you may have already guessed, this directive is a part of the current response to the novel coronavirus. Australian Border Force gets its authority for these restrictions from a determination signed by the Health Minister under s477(1) of the Biosecurity Act 2015.

The classes of people generally exempt from restrictions include:

  • People who usually reside outside Australian
  • Crew members and workers “associated with the safety or maintenance” of aircraft or other vessels
  • New Zealand residents with a Subclass 444 visa
  • People “engaged in day-to-day conduct of freight”
  • People travelling to perform essential work at offshore facilities in Australian waters
  • Travellers on Official Government Business
  • People travelling directly to New Zealand who have only been in Australia or for the past 14 days and who have no intention to enter a third country.

The government advises that prospective travellers should apply for an exemption between 2 weeks and 2 months before the planned travel date and to only travel if it is essential that you travel now. Other advice is that flight cancellations and other disruptions to travel plans are likely so travellers should be prepared to support themselves during extended delays.

The directive gives guidance on what situations would generally be approved for an exemption. The simplest situation that would generally be approved is where a prospective traveller intends to leave Australia for “at least three months for a compelling reason”.

Other situations that are more complex, but would generally be approved include:

  • Attending the funeral of a close family member (regardless of the length of travel).
  • Travel due to critical or serious illness of a close family member.
  • Travelling to receive necessary medical treatment which is unavailable in Australia.
  • Travelling to collect a minor and escort them back to Australia.
  • Travelling to complete an existing work contract.
  • Travel to Australian territories which are outside the migration zone.
  • Leaving Australia for less than three months for other compelling reasons.
  • Travel for business.
  • Travel where the person has had approval of a request previously and the reasons are unchanged.
  • Travel which is in the national interest.
  • Travel which is in response to Covid, including travel to give aid.

Even these situations may not always be approved, travel to Papua New Guinea and India, in particular, is significantly more restricted.

The directive states that travel to Papua New Guinea poses a health risk to the Australian public and that individual exemptions to travel there “will not be approved until further notice, except in extremely limited circumstances”. It goes on to explain three circumstances where an exemption would be approved:

  1. Travel by a critical worker for the purpose of “providing assistance to Papua New Guinea’s Covid-19 response”
  2. Travel to carry out “critical safety roles”, and
  3. FIFO workers who are “critical to continued operations and project safety” but only after “appropriate private quarantine arrangements” have been made.

Applications for an exemption to travel to India, the other exception to the general categories of exemptions “will only be approved in the following limited circumstances:”

  1. Travel by a critical worker for the purpose of “providing assistance to India’s COVID-19 response”.
  2. Where travel is in Australia’s national interests.
  3. Where critically ill travellers seek urgent medical treatment not available in Australia.
  4. Travel for the death or funeral of a close family member.
  5. Travel to visit a critically ill close family member, and
  6. Travel for the purpose of escorting a minor to Australia if that minor is either an Australian citizen or permanent resident.

Those who fall outside the exempt classes must apply to the Border Force Commissioner for an individual exemption. People applying for individual exemptions must make their claims in a statutory declaration and supply evidence of their reasons to travel. Anyone who receives an exemption must take evidence of that exemption to the airport or they may not be allowed to leave the country.

A person seeking individual exemption must provide evidence of their claims; that evidence could come from a wide variety of sources and much more is relevant than you might expect. Evidence that could be relevant includes government documentation from any nation to prove citizenship, residency or relationships to other people. Other useful evidence would include flight itineraries, medical documents such as a letter from a doctor or confirmations of appointments and even receipts for shipping expensive or cumbersome goods to your destination (which may help to prove your intent to stay for at least three months).

M Duncan and Associates can assist if you need help  drafting your statutory declaration in the proper form or deciding what supporting evidence to provide.


Notwithstanding all of the above, India and Papua New Guinea have additional restrictions applied to them as follows:


“Individuals seeking an exceptional circumstances exemption to travel from Australia to India will only be approved in the following limited circumstances:”

Papua New Guinea

“Individuals seeking an exceptional circumstances exemption to travel from Australia to PNG will not be approved until further notice, except in extremely limited circumstances”

  • PNG has additional restrictions.
    • Exemptions for PNG are
      • critical workers doing PNG COVID relief
      • “persons undertaking safety critical roles”
      • FIFO workers critical to continued operations or safety IF they have quarantine arrangements
    • India, like PNG has only these exceptions
      • Covid relief workers
      • travel in national interests
      • medical treatment that is urgent, critical and unavailable in AUS
      • travel for critical illness, death or funeral of close family member
      • travel to escort a minor back to AUS
    • Individual exemptions required
      • travel for at least 3 months

If you would like further assistance drafting your statutory declaration in the proper form or deciding what supporting evidence to provide, please do contact M Duncan and Associates on 02 9699 9877 or send an email to [email protected].