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COVID19: Stay Informed

16 September 2021

Stay informed: COVID19

**Last updated 12.20pm EDT Thursday 16 September, 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

Available flights from the US to Australia

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).

The following major carriers have confirmed passenger allocations under current arrangements and 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

Other airlines may be advertising direct flights [at a lower cost(s) and/or far in advance] but don’t necessarily have current or future passenger allocations.

Airlines operating indirect flights include:

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 9 September 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.

On 31 August 2021, New South Wales further reduced its international passenger arrival caps to 108 passengers per day (effective from Thursday 9 September until 31st October 2021), due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

National Cabinet agreed that returning Australians will continue to be prioritised as part of these arrangements.

Weekly Cap Effective from 12.01am Thursday 9 September and remain in place until further notice:

Jurisdiction

Current Weekly Cap

Arrangements

Australian Capital Territory

0

Not accepting passenger arrivals.

New South Wales

750

108 passengers per day.

Northern Territory

0 Not accepting passenger arrivals, however Darwin is accommodating the additional return of Australians on Government facilitated commercial services.

South Australia

265

 

Queensland

650  

Tasmania

0 Not accepting passenger arrivals.
Victoria 500  

Western Australia

265  

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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Pre-Departure Testing and In-Flight Requirements

All passengers aged five and older travelling to Australia on flights departing the United States are required to return a negative COVID-19 PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) test prior to departure. 

In addition, passengers and crew on all international flights must wear a face mask during their flight and while in airports. Masks are not required for children under 12 years of age and those with an official medical certificate stating the passenger cannot wear a mask.

Further information and FAQs regarding these requirements can be found on Smartraveller and the Department of Health website.

PCR testing is readily available in the United States, however the time it takes to receive results can vary depending upon your location and current testing demand. Some testing services are provided free of charge, others require insurance and/or payment at the time of service.

Tests are available at no cost nationwide at health care centres and select pharmacies. Further information about and details of community-based testing sites are available on the US Department of Health and Human Services website. Additional testing sites may be available in your area. Contact your health care provider or your state or local public health department for more information.

Testing is also available through private providers such as Passport Health and Curative.

Search engines such as https://testfortravel.com may help with identifying possible testing locations, but we recommend calling ahead to confirm that your chosen location provides PCR testing that meets Australia’s requirements, availability and whether appointments are required, turnaround times and costs.

At-home tests and tests involving self-administered sample collection are not acceptable and do not meet Australia’s pre-departure testing requirements. The respiratory sample collection must be supervised and conducted by appropriately trained healthcare personnel at an authorised/accredited testing facility. This ensures that the specimen is of the highest possible quality and that test results are as accurate as possible.

This information is provided as a guide and for information purposes only. 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.

None of the providers listed above are affiliated with the Embassy or Australian Consulates in the United States.

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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 2020 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 2020 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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Information on Suspension of Mail Services into Australia

USPS International Mail Service Suspensions

The United States Postal Service™️ is temporarily suspending international mail acceptance for certain destinations due to impacts related to the COVID-19 pandemic and other unrelated service disruptions.

Services to Australia are among those affected. 

For further information and updates, visit: https://about.usps.com/newsroom/service-alerts/international/

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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 passport and consular services during the COVID-19 pandemic. All services are by appointment only. 

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.  You can find answers to frequently asked questions and further guidance here:  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 2020 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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