Australian travel ban in effect

26 March 2020

Maria Jockel , Legal Principal and National Leader, Migration Services
Accredited Immigration Specialist Lawyer

The Australian government has just announced that a travel ban has been introduced which will prevent Australian citizens and permanent residents departing Australia, except in exceptional circumstances.

This is in addition to the recently announced entry bans applicable to any non-Australian citizens or permanent residents who have not been granted prior permission to enter Australia on exceptional circumstance grounds.

Whilst the Australian government does not appear to have such powers in its migration legislation, these provisions have been enacted through the Biosecurity (Human Biosecurity Emergency) (Human Coronavirus with Pandemic Potential) (Overseas Travel Ban Emergency Requirements) Determination 2020 and came into effect on 25th March 2020 at 12:00pm AEDT.

The government has determined that an Australian citizen or permanent resident must not travel outside Australia by air or sea, unless an exemption is granted to them.  The operator of an outgoing aircraft or vessel must also not leave Australia with an Australian citizen or permanent resident on board unless an exemption has been granted to the Australian citizen or permanent resident.  The Determination is in force for an initial period of 4 weeks.  A further revision of this arrangement can occur towards the end of the period to assess whether it continues to be necessary.

A person who fails to comply with the Determination may commit a criminal offence and be imprisoned for a maximum 5 years, or, be fined 300 penalty units (AU$63,000).


Announced exemptions include:

  • a person ordinarily resident in a country other than Australia;
  • a person who is member of the crew of an aircraft or vessel (other than an outgoing aircraft vessel) or is a worker associated with the safety or maintenance of the aircraft or vessel;
  • a person engaged in the day to day conduct of inbound and outbound freight;
  • a person whose travel is associated with essential work at an offshore facility;
  • a person who is travelling on official government business (including a member of the Australian Defence Force).

Exemptions need to be granted in writing by an employee in the Australian Border Force.  An Australian citizen or permanent resident will need to set out exceptional circumstances (by providing a compelling reason) for needing to leave Australian territory.

Just over one quarter of Australian citizens were not born in Australia.  Many of these citizens are still dual nationals – often with elderly or sick parents or relatives living abroad.  This legislation is unprecedented and may have far reaching consequences for those Australian citizens and permanent residents (many of whom are dual or multi-nationals), who have family commitments abroad, and are seeking to depart Australia to deal with  family emergencies or possibly just because they have now lost their employment in Australia and may have opportunities or commitments elsewhere. 

Our migration services team is here to help. If you need advice during this time, please get in touch.