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COVID19: Stay Informed

16 January 2021

Stay informed: COVID19

**Last updated 3.45pm EDT Friday 15 January 2021 - Please monitor this page and our social media channels for updates (Facebook, Twitter)**

We know this is a stressful time for many Australians overseas who are trying to get home. Caps on international passenger arrivals into Australia make it harder for Australians to get home—but these restrictions and quarantine measures are necessary to protect our friends and family members at home at this critical point. Our embassy and consulates are doing all that we can to provide essential support to Australians in the United States, and will provide any updates, as soon as we have them.

For urgent consular assistance contact:

  • +61 2 6261 3305 from overseas 
  • 1300 555 135 from within Australia

For non-urgent enquiries, email smartraveller@dfat.gov.au.

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Information for Australians in the US

REGISTERING WITH DFAT

Australians encountering difficulty returning to Australia are invited to register with DFAT at https://covid19.dfat.gov.au. Registering doesn’t guarantee that we can facilitate your return, however it does allow us to better understand who is trying to return and help us with our planning. It also allows us to assess your situation and share important information with you.  

We ask those registering and those already registered to complete a registration for each family member that is overseas and include as much information as possible about your current situation, including:

  • whether you are seeking to return in 2021;
  • whether you have confirmed flights, and with which airlines (including the booking reference);
  • whether you can depart at short notice;
  • any medical, financial or other vulnerabilities affecting you or your family members; and
  • the city and state in which you are currently located.

We also ask that you:

  • regularly update your details (especially if your circumstances have changed and you no longer plan on returning to Australia) to ensure that they are accurate and up to date and that we can contact you in case of emergency; 
  • continue to contact your airline(s) or travel agent(s) to find flights home;  
  • read our travel advice and subscribe for updates via https://www.smartraveller.gov.au/consular-services/subscribe; and 
  • monitor your email, and follow the Embassy (@ausintheus) or your nearest Australian Consulate and Smartraveller (@smartraveller) on social media for further information and important updates. 

To register or update your details and for further information, visit https://covid19.dfat.gov.au or read the Registration FAQs: https://www.smartraveller.gov.au/COVID-19/registration-FAQs.  

If you need emergency consular assistance, contact our 24/7 Consular Emergency Centre + 61 2 6261 3305. For non-urgent enquiries, email smartraveller@dfat.gov.au.

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HARDSHIP PROGRAM - EMERGENCY ASSISTANCE FOR VULNERABLE AUSTRALIANS

If you’ve been unable to return to Australia due to COVID-19 restrictions and are experiencing financial distress, you may be eligible for a one-off emergency loan to support your living costs while you wait for a flight to Australia and/or cover the cost of the flight.

These emergency loans are only available as a last-resort and are intended to assist the most vulnerable Australian citizens overseas. Applicants have to meet strict eligibility criteria and must be intending to return to Australia as soon as a flight is available. All loans must be repaid upon return to Australia.

Further information on the loans, eligibility and the application process can be found on Smartraveller's Overseas Finance Assistance page.

Read the Foreign Minister's Media Release from 2 September 2020, setting out key elements of the Program.

If you need emergency consular assistance, contact our 24/7 Consular Emergency Centre + 61 2 6261 3305. For non-urgent enquiries, email smartraveller@dfat.gov.au.

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Government Payments or Other Support

If you’re an Australian citizen or permanent resident returning from overseas, you may be eligible for government payments and other support. Usually a person must be in Australia when they claim. However, your claim may be accepted while you’re overseas if you’ll be eligible when you return to Australia. For more information download the Services Australia brochure for Australians returning from overseas.

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Returning to Australia

New Measures for Return to Australia

National Cabinet met on 8 January and agreed additional measures to enhance Australia's health border security. These new measures are critical to the integrity of Australia’s quarantine system and the safety of the Australian community, and include:

  • a temporary reduction in incoming passenger caps, effective 15 January 2021 (see below);
  • a requirement that all passengers aged five years of age or older travelling to Australia on flights departing on or after 22 January 2021 return a negative COVID-19 test prior to departure;
  • a requirement that all passengers and air crew travelling to Australia on flights departing on or after 22 January 2021 wear masks on flights and in airports.

Details and answers to frequently asked questions about these new measures can be found on Smartraveller.

All travellers arriving in Australia from overseas must still quarantine for 14 days at designated facilities in their city of arrival - unless you have an exemption. 

Read the National Cabinet Statement dated 8 January 2021.

These changes could affect your flight into Australia. If you’re scheduled to fly to Australia in the coming weeks, contact your airline to confirm your itinerary and travel plans and regarding requirements specific to your flight. Local authorities may have additional requirements in place for departures.

Available flights from the US to Australia

Commercial Flights

Regular commercial flights are operating, but short-term availability remains limited. You may need to book well in advance to secure a seat(s) and be flexible with your dates, connections, airlines and destination in Australia.

As the situation is continuing to change at short notice, we encourage you to contact your airline or travel agent to confirm your travel plans, reservations and requirements.

There are no plans for government-facilitated flights from the United States, as regular commercial options are still available. We recognise that caps on international passenger arrivals into Australia are making it increasingly harder for Australians to get home. Any updates on these restrictions will be posted as soon as we have them, here and on our Facebook and Twitter pages (@ausintheus).

Several major carriers continue to operate direct flights to Australia from Los Angeles (LAX) and San Francisco (SFO). These include:

UNITED AIRLINES (SFO-SYD and LAX-SYD)
Book via united.com

DELTA (LAX-SYD)
Book via delta.com

AMERICAN AIRLINES (LAX-SYD)
Book via aa.com

Airlines operating indirect flights include:

AIR NEW ZEALAND (via Auckland)
Book via airnewzealand.com

ETIHAD (via Abu Dhabi)
Book via etihad.com

EMIRATES (via Dubai)
Book via emirates.com

QATAR (via Doha)
Book via qatarairways.com

Other flight options are available through various airlines. If none of the above meet your needs, we recommend a flight search to find the option that works best for you. You may need to be flexible with dates, connections, airlines and destination in Australia. You should also be prepared to put in place alternative arrangements in case your flights are cancelled at short notice or while en route.

If you need emergency consular assistance, contact our 24/7 Consular Emergency Centre + 61 2 6261 3305. For non-urgent enquiries, email smartraveller@dfat.gov.au.

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Flight caps (as at 8 January 2021)

There are temporary caps on the numbers of passengers coming into Australian airports from overseas. These measures are in place to ease pressure on state and territory quarantine facilities (see below).

This could affect your flight into Australia. If you’re scheduled to fly home to Australia in the coming weeks, confirm your itinerary and travel plans with your airline(s) or travel agent. Airlines determine how they will manage the temporary caps in place and who is allocated seats on any flights back to Australia, not the Australian Government.

 

National Cabinet met on 8 January and agreed that International passenger caps in New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia will be temporarily halved from no later than 15 January 2021 to manage the flow of returning Australians and other travellers who have been potentially exposed to the new variants. Current international passenger caps in Victoria and South Australia and arrangements in the Northern Territory are considered manageable and will remain in place.

Arrangements on international passenger caps will be reviewed by National Cabinet in early February. Read the National Cabinet Statement dated 8 January 2021.

Jurisdiction

Current Weekly Cap

Arrangements

Australian Capital Territory

0

Not accepting passenger arrivals.

New South Wales

1,500**

**Temporarily halved to 1,500 as per National Cabinet meeting 8 January 2021.

Northern Territory

0 Not accepting passenger arrivals but has provided 500 quarantine places per ~17 days in the Howard Springs Quarantine Facility for designated flights from London, Paris, New Delhi and Chennai.

South Australia

600

limit of 600 per week from 7 December 2020.

Queensland

500** **Temporarily halved to 500 as per National Cabinet meeting 8 January 2021.

Tasmania

0 Not accepting passenger arrivals.
Victoria 1,120  limit of 1,120 passenger arrivals per week from 7 December 2020.

Western Australia

512** **Temporarily halved to ~512 as per National Cabinet meeting 8 January 2021.

Restrictions on outbound travel by Australian citizens and permanent residents remain in place, in accordance with the health advice to the Government.

Further information can be found on Smartraveller

Read the Prime Minister's Media Releases:

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Australia Travel Declaration

All travellers to Australia - including Australian citizens and permanent residents - should complete an Australia Travel Declaration online at least 72 hours prior to departure. Airlines may request proof of completion at the time of check-in.

When completing the Declaration, you will be asked to provide your contact details in Australia, flight information, health status and requirements during quarantine (see below). This information helps the Australian Government determine your quarantine arrangements and enables health authorities to contact you if someone you travelled with tests positive for COVID-19. 

For more information, visit https://covid19.homeaffairs.gov.au/australia-travel-declaration.

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International Flight Arrivals: Quarantine and payment arrangements in Australia

Australia has strict border measures in place to protect the health of the Australian community.

All travellers arriving in Australia from overseas must quarantine for 14 days at designated facilities in their city of arrival - unless you have an exemption. You won't be permitted to travel domestically (including to your home) or continue on any domestic connections until you have completed the 14-day mandatory quarantine period.

Quarantine requirements are managed and enforced by state and territory governments with Australian Government support.

In some states and territories, you have to contribute to the cost of quarantine. Most states are offering payment plans, fee reductions and/or fee waivers for those experiencing financial hardship. Exemptions are also available in some states if you purchased your ticket before a certain date.

Check with the relevant state and territory regarding the latest quarantine costs and arrangements:

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Australian State and Territory Border Closures

Some states and territories in Australia have closed their borders to non-essential travel due to COVID-19. Each state or territory has their own entry requirements. The most up-to-date information about entry conditions, forms and requirements is on the government website of the state and territory you are travelling to. You can also check restrictions in all states and territories using the COVID-19 Restriction Checker.

Australian Capital Territory

New South Wales

Northern Territory

Queensland

South Australia

Tasmania

Victoria

Western Australia

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Ban on Departure from Australia

The Australian Government advises all Australians do not travel overseas at this time. This is the highest advice level (level 4 of 4). On 24 March the Prime Minister announced a ban on all overseas travel, with few exceptions. The ban will help prevent travellers returning to Australia with coronavirus.

Some exemptions will apply including for:

  • people ordinarily resident in a country other than Australia
  • ​​​airline and maritime crew and associated safety workers
  • New Zealand citizens holding a Special Category (Subclass 444) Visa are not permanent residents for the purposes of the Biosecurity Determination and are permitted to depart Australia. New Zealand citizens who are permanent visa holders may apply for a Commissioner’s discretion
  • ​people engaged in the day to day conduct of outbound and inbound freight
  • people whose travel is associated with essential work at offshore facilities and
  • people travelling on official government business, including members of the Australian Defence Force

For more details or to apply for an exemption visit: the Department of Home Affairs.
For more information go to Smartraveller's COVID-19 Travel Ban page.

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Information for non-Australians travelling to Australia during COVID-19

From Friday 20 March 9pm AEDT (6.00am EDT) Australia will NOT allow the entry of people who are not citizens, permanent residents or their families. Immediate family members who are not permanent residents must apply for an exemption if they wish to travel to Australia during this period. Detailed information about the exemptions is available on the Home Affairs website.

web form is available for family members to apply for an exemption. Proof of the family relationship should be provided as part of this request. Non-family members may also use the form to apply for an exemption if they have a compelling or compassionate reason for travel.

What does this mean? If you’re an Australian citizen or permanent resident, you and your immediate family will be able to return to Australia. You’ll still be required to quarantine for 14 days. If you’re a foreign national visiting Australia, you’ll still be allowed to depart Australia.

For additional Australian visa information in relation to COVID-19 please refer to our Visas and Migration page.

Travel exemption requirements for individuals in critical sectors or with critical skills **new section**

The Commissioner of the Australian Border Force may grant an individual exemption if you are a non-citizen:

  • travelling at the invitation of the Australian Government or a state or territory government authority for the purpose of assisting in the COVID-19 response
  • providing critical or specialist medical services, including air ambulance, medical evacuations and delivering critical medical supplies
  • with critical skills required to maintain the supply of essential goods and services (such as in medical technology, critical infrastructure, telecommunications, engineering and mining, supply chain logistics, agricultural technology, food production, and the maritime industry)
  • delivering services in sectors critical to Australia’s economic recovery (such as financial technology, large scale manufacturing, film and television production and emerging technology), where no Australian worker is available
  • whose entry would otherwise be in Australia's national interest, supported by the Australian Government or a state or territory government authority.

An individual can submit a request for a travel exemption under this category or a business can submit a request on their behalf. The applications of multiple travellers within the same group/business can be linked, so that the requests are considered together.

Please request an exemption using the form below and provide appropriate evidence to support the claims. All documents need to be officially translated into English.

An exemption should generally be applied for at least 4 weeks, but not more than 3 months, before planned travel. Urgent business travel will be considered inside this timeframe.

More information is on the Department of Home Affairs Critical Skills and Sectors page.

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Australia Travel Declaration  

All travellers to Australia - including people who are automatically exempt from the travel restrictions and people who have been granted an individual exemption to the current travel restrictions (see above) - should complete an Australia Travel Declaration online at least 72 hours prior to departure. Airlines may request proof of completion at the time of check-in.

When completing the Declaration, you will be asked to provide your contact details in Australia, flight information, health status and requirements during quarantine. This information helps the Australian Government determine your quarantine arrangements and enables health authorities to contact you if someone you travelled with tests positive for COVID-19. 

For more information, visit https://covid19.homeaffairs.gov.au/australia-travel-declaration

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Links to Australian Government Resources

The Australian Government is providing important information and resources for all Australians. Various departments are responsible for specific elements of the whole-of-government repsonse to COIVD-19. The Government is supported by the National Cabinet comprising the prime minister and all state and territory premiers and chief ministers.

The Australian Government COVID portal: one-stop-shop on how the Government is responding to COVID-19​.
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade's Smartraveller: Smartraveller travel alerts and consular contact details. ​​​​​​
Department of Home Affairs: border closures, immigration and cyber security.
Department of Health: resources to help you flatten the curve. ​​​​​​
Australian Trade and Investment Commission (Austrade): information for Australian exporters. ​​​​​​
Treasury: economic overview of the response. ​​​​​​
Services Australia (Centrelink): financial support for individuals. ​​​​​​
Business Australia: assistance for Australian businesses.

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Information for Australian Pet Owners

The current COVID-19 pandemic does not change the existing risks posed by diseases of biosecurity concern to Australia or the need for cats and dogs to meet the import permit conditions in full. These import conditions protect Australia against exotic diseases. To ensure animal welfare and manage the significant biosecurity risks posed by international transport of animals, all animals destined for the quarantine facility at Mickleham must arrive directly into Melbourne Airport. Animals cannot be transhipped to Melbourne on a domestic flight from another Australian port.  

The quarantine facility at Mickleham is fully operational and is continuing to take booking requests. Pet importers and agents are advised to make flight arrangements and reservations at the quarantine facility promptly after their import permit is approved.

This information is subject to change.

Read the latest guidance on pet imports here: www.agriculture.gov.au/cats-dogs
Read the latest Industry Advice Notice (dated 8 January 2021) on PEQ Reservation Waiting Periods here: https://www.agriculture.gov.au/import/industry-advice/2021/01-2021.

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Embassy and Consulate visitors

The Australian Embassy and Consulates-General are taking precautions to protect visitors and staff during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. This includes cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces daily such as tables, light switches, countertops, door handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks.

Please note, in the public facing areas of our Embassy, only passport, consular and notarial services remain open.  Our gallery is temporarily closed, until further notice.

All members of the public who enter our Embassy and Consulates-General must wear a face covering during the time of their visit.

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Passport and consular clients

The Australian Embassy and Consulates-General remain open to provide essential passport and consular services during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some offices are accepting appointments to receive passport applications in person. Appointment availability varies by location.  In addition, local health requirements prevent clients in some states from attending certain offices until a mandatory quarantine and/or testing has been completed. Please visit our Where To Apply page for details on where you can make an appointment.  If the office that services your state is not taking appointments or you are under a stay at home order in your state, it may be possible to apply for a temporary passport by mail if you have confirmed international travel in the next 2 months.  

Please see further guidance on applying for a passport during COVID-19. 

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US Visas

All enquiries about US visas and your status in country should be directed to the relevant US authorities. If you are in Australia, please contact the US Embassy in Canberra, or one of the US Consulates in SydneyPerth or Melbourne. If you are already in the United States, please contact the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on +1 800 375 5283, or the Department of State’s Visa Services on +1 202 485 7600.

The Presidential Proclamation announced on 22 June 2020 does not affect E3 visas. This proclamation effects the issuance of new visa’s in certain categories, including; H-1B, H-2B, J, and L. For more information on the Proclamation please see: https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/proclamation-suspending-entry-aliens-present-risk-u-s-labor-market-following-coronavirus-outbreak/

For Australians in the US looking to apply online, extend or change their non-immigrant status (including E3 visa holders) please visit this link: https://www.uscis.gov/i539online

If you can’t contact USCIS and are delayed beyond your departure date (e.g. due to airline cancellations or you are unable to apply to USCIS to extend your stay because USCIS offices are closed) you should keep documentation in order to present to US authorities in future should the need arise, and seek the advice of a migration lawyer.

If you are in possession of a current E3 visa that is due to expire you may apply for a 240 day extension. More information is available here https://www.uscis.gov/about-us/uscis-response-covid-19 - under tab "Extension of Stay/Change of Status".

We would also encourage you to consult your employer or sponsor and speak with an immigration attorney to see what options may be available to you.

US Department of State: suspension of routine visa services: In response to significant worldwide challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of State is temporarily suspending routine visa services at all U.S. Embassies and Consulates. Embassies and consulates have canceled all routine immigrant and nonimmigrant visa appointments as of March 20, 2020. As resources allow, embassies and consulates will continue to provide emergency and mission critical visa services. More information: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/News/visas-news/suspension-of-routine-visa-services.html

ESTAs

ESTA travelers affected by COVID-19 restrictions may now apply for an extended term of admission. Please see this announcement for further information. If you are travelling in the United States under the Visa Waiver Program and are concerned about your status in country, contact the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on +1 800 375 5283. You can also speak with an immigration attorney to see what options may be available to you

STUDENT VISAS

The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) announced modifications on 6 July to temporary exemptions for nonimmigrant students taking online classes due to the pandemic for the Fall 2020 semester. For more information see SEVP modifies temporary exemptions for nonimmigrant students taking online courses during fall 2020 semester on the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement website.

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US Operating Status and Self Isolation Requirements per State

Operating status updates for each state, including schools, restaurants, emergency services and transport are available on the state's local website. We recommend you closely monitor and register for alerts from these local authorities in your state. For your convenience we have compiled a list of all state local information on our Local Conditions: COVID-19 page.

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