Australia to Reopen Borders to Visitors

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Australia will once again welcome tourists to its shores from February 21, 2022.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that the country’s strict travel regulations would be lowered to fully vaccinated visitors.

Australia’s borders have been closed for nearly 2 years as part of the country’s COVID-19 travel restrictions.

Morrison said “It’s a sensible and, I think, very important move for us to make as we… as best as we possibly can this year, drive Australia back to a position of as much normality as we can achieve.”

For the first time since March 2020, tourists, business travelers, and other visitors will not need an exemption from the travel ban to enter Australia.

What Will Visitors Need to Enter Australia When the Borders Reopen?

When Australia opens its borders to tourists on February 21, visitors will need to have certain important items to be able to enter.

The key item is a vaccination certificate. All travelers entering Australia must be fully vaccinated.

There are exceptions for the following:

  • Children under 12
  • Children aged 12-17 traveling with a vaccinated adult (certain states only)
  • People who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons and have a medical certificate to prove it

Some Australian states and territories may have additional entry requirements related to COVID-19.

As with pre-pandemic travel, the majority of international travelers need one of the following to authorize their trip to Australia:

The type that is required depends on the passenger’s nationality.

For example, EU and UK citizens must apply online for the handy eVisitor Visa, while Americans, Canadians, and various others have to register via the internet for an ETA.

On the other hand, nationals of various other countries are not eligible to use these convenient online services and must instead go to an Australian diplomatic mission.

What does “fully vaccinated” mean for Australia?

According to Australia’s Department for Home Affairs, to be fully vaccinated, travelers must have received a full course of one of the following vaccinations approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration:

  • AstraZeneca
  • Bharat
  • Johnson & Johnson (Janssen)
  • Moderna
  • Novavax
  • Pfizer/BioNTech
  • Sinovac
  • Sinopharm (for people under 60 years of age on arrival in Australia)
  • Sputnik

All of these are 2-dose vaccines, except for the Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) vaccines, which is just a single dose.

Children under 12 years of age are considered fully vaccinated for the purpose of travel.

The department also stated that individuals who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons are able to “access the same travel arrangement” as fully vaccinated people.

It is worth noting that authorities in each state and territory can introduce their own restrictions. For example, in Victoria, Premier Daniel Andrews said that international visitors must have received three doses of an approved vaccine.

The End of Australia’s Border Closure?

Throughout the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Australia has kept its borders closed, with very few travelers permitted to enter. Its travel restrictions have been among the strictest in the world.

Borders were closed to non-citizens and non-residents on March 20, 2020. The Prime Minister said “Our number one priority is to slow the spread of coronavirus to save lives.”

To this end, Australians were also banned from traveling abroad and had to apply for an exemption to leave the country.

Towards the end of 2021, Australia began to gradually reopen. The first step was to allow immediate family members of Australians and permanent residents to apply for an exemption to enter the country. These travelers were still subject to state and territory quarantine rules. This came into effect in October 2021.

On December 15, 2021, borders were partially opened to various types of visa holders, including international students and temporary graduate visa holders.

On February 7, 2022, the Australian government finally announced that borders would be reopened.

According to Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews, the decision was taken with the aim of “protecting the health of Australians, but at the same time working towards our economic recovery here”.

This seems to mark an end to the travel ban and a return to normality.

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