Australian Immigration COVID-19 update

Australian Immigration COVID-19 update

To help keep our visitors who are looking to migrate to Australia informed of the latest COVID-19 updates, please find the latest relevant updates below. We will update this page regularly, so we recommend you bookmark and check back periodically. The timestamp for the last time this list was updated is 2020-10-22 09:57:05

Australian Immigration COVID-19 update

Update as at 21 October 2020

Changes to outbound travel exemptions

Australian citizens and permanent residents are still not permitted to leave Australia under COVID-19 border restrictions unless a travel exemption is obtained. To date, the travel exemption criteria has been limited, but a recent change has expanded the criteria to allow travel if:

  • The travel outside of Australia is essential for your business/employer, or
  • The travel outside of Australia is for three months or longer.

Other outbound travel exemption criteria remains the same, including outbound travel to receive urgent medical treatment not available in Australia, outbound travel on compassionate or humanitarian grounds, or outbound travel in the national interest.

Outbound travel exemptions should be applied for at least two weeks, but not longer than three months, before the date of planned travel.

Automatic exemptions still exist for Australian citizens and permanent residents to depart Australia in limited circumstances, including if you are ordinarily considered a resident outside of Australia, are a New Zealand citizen holding a Special Category (subclass 444) visa or you perform essential work at Australian offshore facilities.

Electronic Travel Authority (ETA) App

Until now the processing of ETAs has been suspended as part of Australia’s COVID-19 border response. ETAs will now be processed again via the Department of Home Affairs’ new Australian ETA app. The app accepts applications from Brunei, Canada, Hong Kong (SAR), Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea and US passport holders. Please note a travel exemption is still required, in addition to the ETA, to enter Australia.

The ETA mobile app is available on the Android and Apple app store.

Update as at 16 October 2020

From Friday 16 October 2020, individuals travelling from New Zealand are no longer required to apply for a travel exemption or undergo mandatory quarantine upon arrival in Australia. This carve out is not limited to New Zealand citizens, it applies to all individuals who meet the following criteria:

  • have been in New Zealand for 14 days or more prior to travel, and have not been in a designated COVID-19 hotspot, and
  • travelled to Australia on a quarantine-free flight.

Quarantine-free flights will only carry passengers who have been in New Zealand for 14 days or more prior to travel and have not been in any COVID-19 hotspots. Please contact your airline for further details on how to book quarantine-free flights. All travellers must present a completed COVID-19 Declaration Form when checking into quarantine-free flights at the airport. Dedicated “green” and “red” zones have been created at Australian airports to separate passengers on quarantine-free flights from all other inbound arrivals who must still undergo mandatory quarantine.

Quarantine-free travel from New Zealand is available into New South Wales and the Northern Territory only at this stage. Please note that a valid visa is still required to enter Australia. New Zealand citizens are generally eligible for a Special Category (subclass 444) visa upon arrival in Australia. Other nationalities should confirm their visa requirements prior to travel.

Please note the New Zealand travel bubble does not apply to New Zealand citizens who are outside of New Zealand. It would be necessary for overseas-based New Zealand citizens to return to New Zealand for 14 days or more before being eligible for quarantine-free travel into Australia.

These travel and quarantine-free requirements do not yet apply to Australian citizens travelling to New Zealand. The New Zealand border remains closed for now. Please feel free to bookmark this website for further updates.


Update as at 10 September 2020

Expanded travel exemption criteria

The Department of Home Affairs will now allow additional categories of persons to be automatically exempt from travel restrictions to enter Australia. This means that the following categories of traveller are not required to apply for a travel exemption prior to arrival in Australia:

  • an Australian citizen
  • a permanent resident of Australia
  • an immediate family member of an Australian citizen or permanent resident
  • a New Zealand citizen usually resident in Australia and their immediate family members
  • a diplomat accredited to Australia (holding a subclass 995 visa)
  • a traveller transiting Australia for 72 hours or less
  • airline crew
  • maritime crew including marine pilots
  • recruited under the Government approved Seasonal Worker Program or Pacific Labour Scheme
  • holder of a Business Innovation and Investment (subclass 188) visa

Family members of Australian citizens or permanent residents will still require a visa before entering Australia.

Labour market testing for employer sponsored permanent residence applications (186 & 187)

Further to our update on 2 September, the Australian Government now expects positions to be advertised on its Jobactive website before a subclass 186 or 187 (ENS or RSMS) permanent residence application is lodged. Although it is not strictly a requirement, the Government has indicated it will look at job advertising undertaken when it considers if there is a genuine need for an overseas worker to fill a permanent position in Australia. The rationale is to ensure that job opportunities for Australian workers are being prioritised in the current economic environment.

Please note that job advertising is expected to occur for all positions nominated for a 186 or 187 visa, including those which were exempt from labour market testing (LMT) at 482 visa application stage. Unfortunately international trade obligations or other LMT exemptions/alternatives will not be recognised for a permanent 186 and 187 application.

It is not clear when the expectation to advertise positions for a proposed 186 or 187 application commences, although it is likely from 1 October in line with the enhanced LMT requirements for the 482 visa program (see our update below from 2 September). It is also unclear whether a full 4 weeks of job advertising (or a lesser period) is required on Jobactive for 186 and 187 applications; the Department of Home Affairs will likely clarify this in due course.

In line with the above, we can expect the Department of Home Affairs to scrutinise 186 and 187 applications in relation to Australian workers you may employ in similar occupations, including:

  • if there have been any retrenchments, stand downs or reductions of hours in the past 12 months
  • if there have been any reduction in pay and conditions in the past 12 months
  • if there are any temporary visa holders on conditions less favourable than comparable Australian workers recruitment of temporary visa holders beyond the ordinary scope of the business.

If any of the points above apply to your business and you wish to use the 186 or 187 programs in future, please contact your PwC Australia immigration representative for assistance.

Updates as at 2 September 2020

New Priority Migration Skilled Occupation List (PMSOL) introduced

A new skilled occupation list underpinning the 482 visa program has been released today. To be known as the Priority Migration Skilled Occupation List (PMSOL), it comprises 17 occupations focussing on the engineering, health and IT sectors. The 17 occupations and ANZSCO codes are:

482 visa applicants who are sponsored by Australian businesses in a PMSOL occupation can access priority processing and easier access to travel exemptions in order to enter and work in Australia. The existing skilled occupation lists (the STSOL and MLTSSL) remain active and 482 visa applications based on these lists will continue to be processed. However, 482 visa applications based on the PMSOL will be given priority.

Enhanced labour market testing measures

Please note that enhanced labour market testing measures must accompany all 482 applications from 30 September onwards (not just those applications lodged using a PMSOL occupation). In addition to the requirement for two national job advertisements, sponsors must also advertise roles on the Government’s job active website.

For subclass 482 nominations lodged from 30 September onwards, the following advertising requirements must be met:

  • An advertisement on the Employment Department’s Jobactive website (; and
  • At least two advertisements on one or more the following forums:
    • A recruitment website with a national reach in Australia (other than Jobactive; examples include Seek and Indeed);
    • Print media with national reach in Australia;
    • Radio with national reach in Australia;
    • If you are an accredited sponsor, on your company website.

All job advertisements must be live for at least four weeks, and the advertisements must occur in the four months immediately prior to a 482 nomination lodgement. Each advertisement must be commissioned or authorised by the sponsor directly.

Existing alternatives to job advertising are still available (in limited circumstances) to satisfy the labour market testing requirement. For example, job advertising is not required where an applicant’s annual earnings are greater than AUD 250,000 per annum. Similarly, exemptions based on International Trade Obligations (ITOs) continue to apply.

These enhanced labour market testing provisions are intended to give Australian citizens and permanent residents first access to job opportunities before overseas workers are considered. Jobactive is a Government online jobs portal that is free to use.

The PMSOL will be responsive to changes in Australia’s skills needs during the COVID-19 recovery period, so please bookmark this page for further updates.

Update as at 5 August 2020

Travel exemption criteria for those with critical skills

Until recently the criteria to obtain a travel exemption to enter Australia has been narrow. The Australian Government has now moved to expand its criteria slightly by recognising a wider range of sectors as critical to the workforce. Travel exemptions may now be granted to people in categories including:

  • those delivering services in sectors critical to Australia’s economic recovery (including financial technology, large scale manufacturing, film and television production and emerging technology), where no Australian worker is available; and
  • those with critical skills required to maintain the supply of essential goods and services (such as critical infrastructure, medical technology, telecommunications, engineering and mining, supply chain logistics, agricultural technology, food production and the maritime industry).

Please note that appropriate evidence must be submitted with a travel exemption request. Travel exemptions can be submitted online by either the individual, or by a business on the individual’s behalf. 

This change to travel exemption policy recognises the important role of technology and other essential services in Australia’s post-COVID-19 economic recovery. It also provides an indication of upcoming changes to the skilled occupation lists that underpin the Temporary Skills Shortage visa program. Please keep checking this page for further updates, and contact your PwC immigration representative if you have any questions.


Update as at 17 July 2020

Cap on international travellers inbound to Australia 

The Australian government has announced a cap on international arrivals to Australia in order to manage ongoing quarantine arrangements. The following cap on arrivals is now in place until further notice:

  • Perth: a cap of 525 international passengers per week.
  • Brisbane: a cap of 500 international passengers per week.
  • Sydney: a cap of 450 international passengers per day, with a view to make further reductions in subsequent weeks.
  • Melbourne: no international passengers.

Interstate travel restrictions

NSW – yes (from Victoria only). NSW has temporarily shut its border with Victoria to contain the spread of COVID-19. People entering NSW from Victoria will need a NSW border entry permit. Those entering NSW from Victoria are required to self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival, get tested for COVID-19 and abide by a COVID-19 Safety Plan. Self-isolation can be at a place of residence or suitable accommodation in NSW. The border closure affects anyone who has been in Victoria in the last 14 days. Special provisions have been made for residents of Victoria and NSW border communities, those performing critical services and interstate residents transiting through NSW.

Queensland – yes (from declared COVID-19 hotspots). Anyone entering Queensland from NSW, Western Australia, South Australia, Tasmania, ACT and Northern Territory must complete a border declaration before entering Queensland. For people entering Queensland from overseas or from a COVID-19 hotspot within 14 days of arrival, a 14 day quarantine is required. Declared COVID-19 hotspots are listed on the Queensland Government website, and currently include all of Victoria and parts of Western Sydney. Exemptions may be granted in exceptional circumstances only.

Northern Territory – yes (all interstate arrivals). NT requires all interstate arrivals to complete a Border Entry application. The application must be completed no more than 72 hours prior to arrival, and can be completed online through the Northern Territory government’s website. From 17 July, anyone arriving in the NT from a declared COVID-19 hotspot must complete 14 days of mandatory quarantine at their own cost.  Declared COVID-19 hotspots are listed on the NT government website, and currently include all of Victoria and parts of Sydney.  

Western Australia – yes (all interstate arrivals). WA’s border remains closed. Any interstate traveller wishing to enter WA must obtain a travel exemption (known as a G2G Pass). This can be obtained from the WA government’s G2G website. 

South Australia – yes (from Victoria, NSW and ACT). Victorian residents, other than essential travellers, are not permitted to enter SA. Travellers from NSW and the ACT entering SA must self-quarantine for 14 days after arrival. Travellers from NT, Queensland, Tasmania and Western Australia are able to enter SA without restriction. All interstate travellers must complete a Cross Border Travel Registration at least 3 days before they set off for SA. 

Victoria – no

Tasmania – yes (all interstate arrivals). Tasmania requires all interstate arrivals to register for a G2G Pass prior to arrival. All interstate arrivals must then self-quarantine for 14 days after arrival. All non-Tasmanian residents who have spent time in Victoria in the 14 days prior to arrival are not permitted to enter Tasmania and will be turned back at their own expense, unless a compassionate exemption is obtained.

Quarantine fees

NSW – The NSW Government will begin charging international travellers for their hotel quarantine accommodation from Saturday 18 July. Travellers will be charged $3000 for one adult. Additional adults will be charged at $1000 each, additional children at $500 each and no charge for children under 3 years. Therefore a family of four (2 adults and 2 children) will be charged $5000. 

Quarantine fees include hotel room costs and meals. Travellers will receive an invoice at the end of the 14 day quarantine period for fees, and will be required to pay the NSW Government within 30 days. 

Quarantine fees apply to all international travellers entering NSW including Australian citizens and permanent residents. Please note quarantine fees are not retrospective. Travellers in transit through Sydney to another state or territory will not be charged a fee if transit is less than 24 hours. A pro-rata fee will be charged for stays greater than 24 hours. 

Queensland – The Queensland government is charging travellers for mandatory quarantine. The fees are $2800 for one adult, $3710 for two adults and $4620 for 2 adults and 2 children.  Quarantine fees include hotel room costs and meals. Travellers will receive an invoice at the end of the 14 day quarantine period for fees, and will be required to pay the Queensland Government within 30 days. 

Northern Territory – from 17 July, anyone arriving into the Northern Territory from a COVID-19 hotspot must complete 14 days of mandatory quarantine at their own cost. The cost per person is $2500. Declared hotspots currently include large areas of Victoria and Sydney. Exemption from quarantine can be requested in certain circumstances (e.g. specialist services for industry or business or emergency service workers). Exemptions are considered invalid if you are travelling from an identified COVID-19 hotspot.

Western Australia – from 17 July, international arrivals to WA are required to pay for their 14 days of mandatory quarantine. The fees are $2520 for one adult, $3360 for two adults and $5040 for a family of four.  

South Australia – from 18 July, international arrivals to SA are required to pay for their 14 days of mandatory quarantine. Travellers will be charged $3000 for one adult. Additional adults will be charged at $1000 each, additional children at $500 each and no charge for children under 3 years. Therefore a family of four (2 adults and 2 children) will be charged $5000. 

Victoria – to be advised.


Update as at 22 June 2020

Suspension of issuance of certain new US visas through 2020: Only brand new H-1B, L-1 and J-1s visas impacted.

What Australians Need to Know

Effective 12:01 a.m. eastern daylight time on June 24, 2020 (2pm Australia time on the 25 June), President Trump’s Proclamation Suspending Entry of Aliens Who Present a Risk to the U.S. Labor Market Following the COVID-19 Outbreak will come into effect through Dec. 31, 2020 (with potential for modifications every 30-60 days). 


  • Applies to all new visa applicants in the H-1B, H-2B, J-1, and L-1 category who are outside of the US and who do NOT already have a visa stamp in their passport as of the effective date of the proclamation.
  • This suspension applies to all dependents of these visas who are outside US and who do not have a visa stamp in their passport.
  • Suspension is effective starting Wednesday, June 24th at 12:01 am NY time, Thursday, June 25th at 2pm Sydney time. 
  • Suspension goes until December 31, 2020, but will be monitored at 30 days and then every 60 days and possibly modified.
  • Those whose entry is in the national interest (i.e. defense, law enforcement, diplomacy, national security, medical care related to covid-19, medical research connected to covid-19) may apply for exemption to the government.
  • Those whose entry is essential to the US “food supply chain” may apply for an exemption to the government. 
  • Those whose entry is “necessary to facilitate the immediate and continued economic recovery of the United States,” may apply for an exemption. 
  • It appears that Canadian nationals may be exempt as they do not require a visa stamp for the suspended classifications. Travel should be discussed with PwC until we receive additional clarification from the government.
  • Although the suspension most likely does not apply to those already in the US as of the effective date, if someone is currently in the US in H-1B, H-2B, J-1, L-1 or any dependent status and does not already have a valid visa stamp in their passport, they SHOULD NOT travel outside the US as they will not be allowed to return.
  • We are awaiting additional clarification from the government as to those in valid status in the suspended categories and their ability to obtain visa renewals, as it is not clear what evidence someone already in the US needs to show to prove that they are exempt from the suspension. 
  • Temporary workers already seeking new H-1Bs or L-1s were already impacted as US Consulates are closed due to covid-19, so as with the immigrant visa suspension, this proclamation does impact many workers. 
  • Proclamation 10014 relating to immigrant suspension remains in effect, and has been extended until Dec. 31 2020. 

Of interest is the exemption for those whose entry is “necessary to facilitate the immediate and continued economic recovery of the United States.” How this will be adjudicated is undefined and unclear, but leaves open the argument for a worker who can prove their role will help with the US economic recovery may still be able to start a new US role. 

Right now, temporary workers (such as Aussie E-3, E-2) already in the US are not impacted by this Proclamation and Aussie’s who would like to apply for a new E-3 or E-2 may be able to do so under emergency procedures.


Update as at 19 May 2020  

COVID-19 Pandemic Event visa – Temporary Activity (subclass 408)

As an extraordinary response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Australian government has introduced the COVID-19 Pandemic Event visa, under the Subclass 408.

Applicants for the visa must:

  • be in Australia; and
  • be unable to depart Australia due to COVID-19 travel restrictions; and
  • not eligible for any other visa; and
  • hold a temporary visa which is about to expire (in less than 28 days) or which expired less than 28 days before the application.

If applicants can evidence current employment in critical sectors (which include health care, disability and aged care, childcare and agriculture), a permission to work may be granted with the visa. Other applicants, who do not work in critical sectors and therefore whose application is only aimed at remaining lawful in the country, must evidence that they are simply not eligible for other visas.

There is no visa fee or subsequent temporary application charge associated with this visa. The visa can be granted up to 12 months for applicants working in critical sectors and up to 6 months for applicants who will apply to remain lawful in Australia in the absence of any other possible visa.


Update as at 29 March 2020

From 29 March 2020, all travellers entering Australia (including Australian citizens and permanent residents) are required to undertake a mandatory quarantine for 14 days upon arrival. Travellers will be transported directly from the airport of arrival to designated facilities. The designated facilities where the quarantine will take place (for example a hotel) will usually be in the city of arrival in Australia. This mandatory quarantine requirement is in place until further notice. 


Updates as at 25 March 2020

From midday 25 March 2020, Australian citizens and permanent residents are restricted from travelling outside Australia (by air or sea or the operator of an outgoing aircraft or vessel), unless an exemption is granted to them. This Determination is in force for an initial period of 4 weeks. 

If an Australian Citizen or permanent resident must travel, they are required to make a request in writing only if one of the following exemptions apply:

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

An exemption must be granted to the Australian Citizen or permanent resident prior to them departing Australia. A person who fails to comply with the travel restriction may commit a criminal offence and be imprisoned for a maximum 5 years, or be fined 300 penalty units ($63,000).

PwC’s immigration team can assist with travel exemptions for individuals travelling inbound to or outbound from Australia, if there are compelling or compassionate reasons. Please contact your PwC immigration advisor for further details.


Updates as at 20th of March

The Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, has confirmed the Australian travel ban is for all international travellers to Australia. The only exemptions are for:

  • Australian citizens
  • Australian permanent residents
  • Immediate family members of Australian citizens and permanent residents (immediate family includes spouses, legal guardians and dependents)
  • New Zealand citizens who live in Australia as Australian residents, and
  • New Zealand citizens transiting through Australia on their way to New Zealand and Pacific Islanders transiting through Australia on their way to their home countries.

Please note the travel ban takes effect from 9pm AEDT on Friday 20 March 2020. Restrictions are in place until further notice. Please bookmark this website for further updates.

Those exempt from the travel ban will continue to be subject to a 14 day self isolation period upon arrival in Australia.

You should consider the following at this time:

  • If you are a temporary visa holder (including a 482 visa holder), and are currently outside of Australia and wish to return, we recommend that you return to Australia before the 9pm AEDT travel ban commencement on Friday 20 March 2020
  • When entering Australia, we recommend all visa holders carry evidence of adequate accommodation arrangements in Australia to comply with the 14 day self isolation requirement
  • Immediate family members of Australian citizens and permanent residents must ensure they hold a valid Australian visa in their own right. Before attempting to travel to Australia, immediate family members of Australian citizens and permanent residents (who are not permanent residents themselves) should contact the Department of Home Affairs using the Immigration Enquiry Form provided on the Department’s website for pre-travel clearance. Here is a link: . Immediate family members must attach proof that they are related to an Australian citizen or permanent resident into the Immigration Enquiry Form. This can include a marriage certificate, evidence of de-facto relationship (such as shared finances and/or property), birth certificates for children etc. We also recommend carrying proof of relationship with you when you enter Australia
  • Partner and Child visa holders (except Prospective Marriage visa holders) are exempted from the travel ban and can come to Australia. They will need to self isolate for 14 days upon arrival in Australia, either at home or in a hotel
  • New Zealand citizens who live in Australia as Australian residents may wish to carry evidence of their Australian residency when entering Australia (for example an Australian driver’s licence or other official documentation showing their name and residential address in Australia)
  • New Zealand and Pacific Island nation citizens transiting through Australia should carry evidence of their onward flights out of Australia
  • Temporary visa holders already in Australia may remain in Australia. However temporary visa holders must maintain a valid visa. 

These are challenging times, and we are here to support you in any way we can. Please contact PwC Australia’s immigration team if you need help or advice. 


Update as at 19th of March

The Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, has announced a travel ban on all non-residents and non-Australian citizens coming into Australia. This will be effective from 9pm AEDT on Friday 20 March 2020. More details on how this will impact existing Australian visa holders to follow.


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Written by Mark

As the founder of Getting Down Under, Mark is passionate about demystifying the process associated with a move to Australia. Having launched Getting Down Under in early January 2006 and made the move to Australia from the UK in the same year, Mark continues to share resources and support for those looking for assistance. If you have a question for Mark, please post in our Community Forums. Please note All information provided on Getting Down Under should be considered in conjunction with our disclaimer. Please seek professional advice if you have any doubts!

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