As we blister through 2020 and everyone starts to turn their minds to future travel over the holiday period, I’m seeing that questions surrounding entering and leaving the US and Australia are swarming! So what’s the latest?

First things first, as a general and sweeping summary:

  1. The U.S. has not broadly limited those who want to enter or exit the U.S. (with exceptions);
  2. Australia has limited both those who can come in, and those who can leave.

So what’s the easiest way to show this information? An infographic!

Current COVID-19 Border Status

As you can see from this, there are particular restrictions for different groups but you’ll notice that the United States row is much clearer than the Australia one.

So let’s go through each of these and I’ll direct you to some more information:

How do I exit the United States?

You simply need to get a flight. You are free to leave! There are no conditions beyond the changes to flights and the requirements of airlines for masks and other distancing requirements.

There apparently is also no alcohol on many flights now, so, that’s always something to consider!

If you’re looking for flights and want to know which routes are operating, then be sure to check out Travel Josh’s weekly updates about Australia, the U.S. and this week Europe, and the Carribean!

How do I exit Australia as a Foreign Citizen?

This one is a little different and you can find the official information at covid19.homeaffairs.gov.au. Always trust the official source. If you read something there that is different, then that is the Bible of information and the truth.

If you are a temporary visa holder or a foreign citizen currently in Australia, then you are welcome to get on a plane and leave right away. In fact, the Australian Government recommends it. You won’t have any issues, just go to the airport as normal.

How do I exit Australia as an Australian (or Permanent Resident)?

If you are an Australian Citizen or Permanent Resident you are going to have a slightly more difficult time leaving as the Australian Government has limited movement. There is however a list of exceptions to this and they include:

From the Home Affairs website:

You will not need to apply for an exemption if you are:

  • ordinarily resident in a country other than Australia
  • an airline, maritime crew or associated safety worker
  • a New Zealand citizen holding a Special Category (subclass 444) visa
  • engaged in the day-to-day conduct of outbound freight
  • associated with essential work at offshore facilities
  • travelling on official government business, including members of the Australian Defence Force.

Be sure to read that carefully: You will not need to apply for an exemption.

So how do you leave? You take proof that you fit one of these exemptions to the airport with you. You can also call the Department of Home Affairs if you want confirmation of this (and I always recommend you do!)

What counts as proof? Well I’ve been speaking to community members and we’ve heard of:

  1. Residential leases;
  2. Payslips;
  3. Work contracts;
  4. Letters from employers;
  5. Utility bills;
  6. Photos;
  7. Entry/exit information from the US;
  8. Invoices/bills/receipts;
  9. Flight receipts;
  10. Licenses and registrations;
  11. Visa information*.

Basically, you should build as much evidence as you can carry to save yourself any trouble. If you’ve got all of those things, print it out, and put it on a USB as well so that you’ve got backup!

You will speak to a Border Force agent at the airport, and they will review your information, and approve your passport number for travel.

*Please note: Having a visa for working in the U.S. is not enough to prove foreign residency. You need to show that you actually reside abroad, not that you could reside abroad. Unfortunately, right now that means that if you’ve just been approved for a new job (and haven’t been living abroad), you will have to apply for an exemption prior to traveling.

How do I exit if I don’t qualify for an exemption?

Again, from the Home Affairs site, Leaving Australia:

If you are an Australian citizen or a permanent resident you cannot leave Australia due to COVID-19 restrictions unless you have an exemption. You can apply online but you must meet at least one of the following:

  • your travel is as part of the response to the COVID-19 outbreak, including the provision of aid
  • your travel is essential for the conduct of critical industries and business (including export and import industries)
  • you are travelling to receive urgent medical treatment that is not available in Australia
  • you are travelling on urgent and unavoidable personal business
  • you are travelling on compassionate or humanitarian grounds
  • your travel is in the national interest.

There is a list of requirements for what you have to show in order to get that exemption and:

You should apply for an exemption at least one week, but not more than 3 months, before your planned travel.

If you are not granted an exemption, you should not continue with your travel plans. If granted an exemption, you must take evidence of that exemption decision to the airport.

Be sure to take care of this as early as you can (just under the 3-month mark if you can) as there is a wait-time involved with all the applications. We are also hearing reports (unconfirmed)

How do I enter the United States?

If you have a visa, Greencard, citizenship, or ESTA, you are permitted to enter the United States, as per usual.

There is however a list of countries who are blocked from entry if you are a non-US-Citizen (or are in a list of specified exemptions):

With specific exceptions, foreign nationals who have been in any of the following countries during the past 14 days may not enter the United States. For a full list of exceptions, please refer to the relevant proclamations in the links below.

  • China
  • Iran
  • European Schengen area (Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Monaco, San Marino, Vatican City)
  • United Kingdom (England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland)
  • Republic of Ireland
  • Brazil

Be sure to check this information and make use of the online tools at IATA to know where you can and can’t go to and from.

What do I have to do when I return to the US? Is there a quarantine?

Different states have different requirements but there is no Federal requirement beyond the CDC’s recommendation that you self-isolate for 14 days.

Be sure to check with your local and state governments wherever you are to make sure there are no legal requirements.

Can I enter Australia?

Citizens and permanent residents of Australia are permitted to return and will be placed in a compulsory 14-day quarantine at a hotel. We have information about that here from Lisa, who spoke to me about the experience, as well as the official information from the Australian Government here.

If you are a temporary visa holder, or you don’t have a visa, you will not be able to enter Australia without an exemption.

You can find all information about exemptions and limitations on this page.

Updates to compulsory quarantine

Queensland is also now charging if you arrive in internationally for your compulsory 14-day quarantine (it’s not cheap, either):

Returning from overseas travel quarantine arrangements

People arriving in Queensland from overseas will be charged fees for quarantining in government arranged accommodation from 1 July 2020.

Is that going to change for the holidays?

We don’t know. Nobody does. But I can speculate!

I personally think that the 2-week compulsory quarantine in Australia will be in place for the rest of the year, and the same for the majority of these rules.

Again, nobody knows, but with information from people like the Australian Travel Minister, it’s not looking good:

“I do sadly think that in terms of open tourist-related travel in or out of Australia, that remains quite some distance off,” Senator Birmingham told the National Press Club.

Asked whether that meant the border would not open until next year, he said, “I think that is more likely the case”.

I also think other states may follow Queensland and charge later in the year heading into the holidays.

Now, double-check everything I told you!

For Australian information, https://covid19.homeaffairs.gov.au/

For United States information, https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers

About the Author

America Josh

I had a fantastic life in Adelaide and in Australia but thought in late 2015 that it was time to do something new. I handed over control of my company, sold my house, car, and even gave away my cat (“Aslan”) to start on my journey to New York.

I arrived in New York on January 10, 2017, from Adelaide, South Australia and in March 2017, I started America Josh to help make the transition to the US from wherever you’re from just a little bit easier.

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