6 May 2021

Australia’s Travel Restrictions for India and ‘High-Risk’ Countries

Update as of 7 May 2021: Prime Minister, Scott Morrison today confirmed the India-Australia travel ban would end on 15 May and repatriation flights would follow. Urgent cases will be prioritised and arrivals will need to undergo rapid antigen testing before they return.

Travel restrictions to and from India have tightened as India experiences a devastating surge in COVID-19 cases.

The latest restrictions have temporarily paused all flights to and from India until 15 May 2021.

This includes direct flights between India and Australia, as well as repatriation flights for returning Australian Citizens and Permanent Residents.

Transiting flights to India through Doha, Singapore, Dubai and Kuala Lumpur have already been paused by those countries.

The Government has also confirmed that penalties under the Biosecurity Act 2015 (Biosecurity Act) would apply to people who breach the temporary travel ban.

This includes up to 5 years in jail or a fine of up to $66,000 or both.

It is reportedly the first time Australia has enforced criminal sanctions for its own citizens to return home.

India Australia Travel Ban Restrictions

While flights to and from India are suspended, the media has reported of people using ‘loopholes’ to circumvent the travel ban.

To mitigate this risk, Health Minister, Greg Hunt has confirmed criminal sanctions may be enforced under the Biosecurity Act, which have been scrutinised by the media.

However, this week Prime Minister Scott Morrison said it was unlikely anyone would be jailed for breaching the ban and that penalties would be implemented ‘proportionately’.

Under the Biosecurity Act, an Emergency Determination was made whereby a person must not enter Australia if they have been in India in the 14 days before flying to Australia.

This Emergency Determination commenced on 3 May 2021 and at this stage it will be repealed on 15 May 2021. It does not include Australian Government facilitated flights and emergency medical evacuation flights.

The travel restrictions are being legally challenged in the Federal Court.

India Australia Travel Ban Exemptions

The above restrictions apply to all Australian Citizens, Permanent Residents and Visa Holders with limited exemptions available.

Exemptions may apply for the below:

Crew of an aircraft or vessel;

Safety and maintenance workers for an aircraft or vessel;

Persons engaged in the day‑to‑day conduct of inbound and outbound freight;

Persons travelling on official government business on an Australian official or diplomatic passport;

Diplomats, consular or other foreign officials accredited to Australia;

Members of an Australian Medical Assistance Team (AUSMAT).

Exemptions may also be available for immediate family members of diplomats – conditions apply.

What is The Biosecurity Act?

The Biosecurity Act allows the Minister for Health to determine any emergency requirement that he or she is satisfied is necessary to prevent the entry, emergence or spread of a listed human disease (such as COVID-19) in Australia or to other countries.

The Biosecurity Act says there must be a ‘severe and immediate threat’ to the nation before these powers can be exercised.

The powers allow for restrictions to prevent the movement of people between specified places.

On 18 March 2020, an emergency period was initiated under the Biosecurity Act to manage the COVID-19 pandemic.

Throughout the emergency period, the Health Minister can make emergency determinations to ensure the Commonwealth can take urgent action to manage a threat to health on a national scale.

However, emergency determinations must abide by certain criteria, including that they should be ‘no more restrictive or obtrusive’ than necessary and that they should only be in place for as long as needed.

The India-Australia travel restrictions have been made under these provisions.

Travel to and from ‘High -Risk’ Countries

We are yet to see if travel bans and penalties will be initiated for other high-risk COVID-19 countries.

Flying to ‘high-risk’ COVID-19 countries (such as India when the travel ban is lifted) requires an ‘Exceptional Circumstances’ Travel Exemption, which does not allow travel for weddings and funerals. 

Exceptional Circumstances Travel Exemptions will be limited to very urgent cases such as: 

Critical work to assist the country of destination’s COVID-19 response;

Persons undertaking travel in Australia’s national interest;

Persons seeking urgent medical treatment for a critical illness that cannot be treated in Australia.

Prime Minister, Scott Morrison has indicated that in addition to India, other countries may be classified ‘high-risk’ with increased restrictions – but he did not confirm which countries.

He did mention the UK has taken a similar approach. The UK’s ‘red list’ currently classifies India, South Africa, Argentina, Brazil, Pakistan and Bangladesh as ‘high-risk’.

Immigracious | Migration Connections Made Simple

We hope this was helpful. If you need assistance with your Visa or Travel Exemption options, please contact Immigracious’ Registered Migration Agents.


Immigracious’ Registered Migration Agents

The Migration Institute of Australia

The Biosecurity (Human Biosecurity Emergency) (Human Coronavirus with Pandemic Potential) (Emergency Requirements—High Risk Country Travel Pause) Determination 2021

ABC News

ABC News

The Sydney Morning Herald

First Post India

The Department of Home Affairs

The Guardian

Sheila Woods

Posted by: Sheila Woods

A very experienced migration agent, Sheila has always been fascinated by this field. Her university degree thesis was on Australia’s post-war immigration history (and it earned her first-class honours).

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