Who are getting exemptions for Inbound and Outbound Travel?

As a result of the COVID-19 situation, Australia’s borders remain closed and both inbound and outbound travel from Australia is strictly controlled. These border controls affect the movement of most individuals, including those who hold permanent residency or citizenship status. All individuals who seek to leave the country (except a small few given automatic exemption such as airline crew or safety workers) must apply to be given an individual exemption. While these measures are a key component in curbing the spread of the COVID-19 virus, they can be challenging to navigate for those seeking to reunite with family members or travel for other purposes.


The Australian Government has released more information on which types of exemption requests have been successfully granted over the past year. By taking a closer look at these statistics, we are able to obtain a clearer understanding of which sort of movement the Australian government is willing to allow on a case-by-case basis.

Monthly Travel Exemptions Processing Report
The below statistics are for the month of November 2021. Data prior to 1 August 2020 is collated manually from multiple systems.
Cumulative1 November 2021
Travel exemption requests received (a request may include more than one person)
Outwards 503,970 2,800 (↓ 26072)
Inwards 533,698 83,539 (↑ 40806)
Outward travel exemption decisions
Category Approved Refused3 Approved Refused3
Response to the COVID-19 Outbreak 1,050 359 <5 <5
Critical industries and business 35,955 13,084 188 66
Urgent medical treatment 1,649 2,049 22 20
Travelling overseas for a compelling reason for at least 3 months2 126,862 43,719 959 134
Ordinarily resident outside Australia4 7,372 2,646 76 57
Urgent and unavoidable personal business 14,897 10,353 13 36
Compassionate and compelling grounds 60,293 73,249 444 255
National interest 3,288 188 7 <5
TOTALS 251,366 145,647 1,709 572
Otherwise finalised 5 106,862 537
Total finalisations for outwards travel exemptions 503,875 2,818
On-hand caseload at the end of October 2021 95 (↓ 18)
Inward travel exemptions decisions
Category Approved Refused3 Approved Refused3
Compassionate and compelling 23,506 118,678 2,478 5,259
Critical skills – Medical 2,603 313 <5 5
Critical skills – other 44,067 47,980 3,424 2,999
International Student Arrival Plans 345 <5 345 <5
National interest (including diplomatic) 4,495 29 494 <5
Urgent Medical Treatment 922 591 56 44
Transit 7,777 9 <5 <5
TOTALS 83,715 167,602 6,800 8,310
Otherwise finalised 5 257,591 61,323
Total finalisations for inwards travel exemptions 508,908 76,433
On-hand caseload at the end of October 2021 24,790 (↑ 7106)

1 Cumulative figures are since 20 March 2020 for inwards exemptions and 25 March 2020 for outwards exemptions

2 Prior to 30 September 2020, this category was included within “Urgent and unavoidable personal business”. “For a compelling reason” was added on 8 January 2021.

3 Refused requests generally failed to support their claims or did not meet the guidelines for an exemption to be approved.

4 Became a discretionary category rather than automatically exempt from 11 August 2021.

5 Otherwise finalised includes persons found to meet an already exempt category (excluding immediate family of Australian citizens and Permanent residents inbound), withdrawn requests and those that did not contain sufficient information for referral to a decision maker.

Inbound Travel Exemptions from March 2020 to May 2021

Different Visa Subclasses Coming to Australia
Visa Subclass Travel Exemptions Approved
482 Temporary Skill Shortage 9, 080
Not recorded * 8, 483
400 Temporary Work (Short Stay Specialist) 4, 989
408 Temporary Activity 1, 714
500 Student 1, 699
600 Visitor 1, 612
651 eVisitor 694
601 Electronic Travel Authority 486
407 Training 483
602 Medical Treatment 448
Other Visas 3, 488
Total 33, 176

As can be understood from the graph above, almost a third of the total 33,000 travel exemptions approved are to holders of the 482 temporary skill shortage visa. The government seems to be prioritising this type of migration in order to address labour shortages and encourage essential work flows. The types of visa holders who are most likely to be granted exemptions are therefore those who work in sectors which the government deems critical.

On 2nd September the government released a new Priority Migration Skilled Occupation List (PMSOL), which contains 44 skilled occupations that the Australian government has assessed to fill critical skills needs to support Australia’s economic recovery from COVID-19. Existing skilled migration occupation lists will remain active and visas will still be processed, but priority will be given to those in occupations on the PMSOL.

Inbound Travel based on Country of Citizenship

According to information released by the Australian Government, the largest amount of travel exemptions have been granted to New Zealand citizens, with 154, 829 granted in total. Following behind this, the government has granted a total of 71, 950 exemptions to Chinese citizens, 65,981 exemptions to US citizens and 65,903 to UK citizens. You can view the full list of countries here.

Outbound travel exemptions between August 2020 and April 2021

Automatic Exemptions

The Government has revealed that over 12, 909 of 17, 017 automatically exempt applicants were Australian residents outside of the country. Other categories which received automatic exemptions include; NZ citizens holding a special category subclass 444 visa, temporary visa holders, those travelling on official government business, airline and maritime crew or associated safety workers and those whose travel is associated with essential work at offshore facilities


Reasons for Exemption

The Government has revealed that, between 1 August 2020 and 25 April 2021, they have approved over 119, 922 requests for travel exemptions out of the 208, 791 requests received. Among the top reasons for travel exemption selected by the applicant are ‘travelling overseas for a compelling reason for at least three months’, ‘travelling on compassionate and compelling grounds’ and ‘travel essential for the conduct of critical business.’

Discretionary Category Exemption Approved Under Travel Exemptions Approved
Travelling overseas for a compelling reason for at least 3 months 71, 249
Compassionate and compelling grounds 28, 391
Critical industries and business 14, 000
Urgent and unavoidable personal business 4, 797
Urgent medical treatment not available in Australia 669
National interest 529
Total 119, 922
Intended Destination Country

Between 1 August 2020 and 25 April 2021 the Government has granted has granted the most amount of travel exemptions to travellers seeking to fly outbound from Australia to China, India and the United Kingdom. It is worth noting that although 12, 973 exemptions have been approved to China, over 25, 443 requests to travel to China were received. Comparatively, while the government has granted 10, 703 exemptions to the U.K, only 15, 703 requests to travel to the U.K were received.

Intended Destination Country Travel Exemptions Approved
China 12, 793
India 11, 714
United Kingdom 10, 703
United States of America 8, 847
New Zealand 5, 340
Pakistan 4, 760
Singapore 3, 656
Papua New Guinea 3, 052
Canada 2, 850
Indonesia 2, 213
Other 53, 994
Total 119, 922

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If you would like a comprehensive consultation which includes assessing you for other temporary and permanent visa options (Skilled visas, Employer Sponsored, Partner, etc.) as well, we recommend our standard 45 minute to 1 hour consultation which can be scheduled here:

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