As we blister through 2021 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. (but there are exceptions);
  2. Australia has limited both those who can come in and those who can leave.

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.

Flights are a bit different in that you must wear a mask from the time you enter the airport until you leave the airport at the other end. Flying is a lot less pleasant without all the roaming around the cabin and limited snacks, but you’ll survive.

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 non-Australian citizen?

This one is a little different and you can find the official information at 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.

From the official Home Affairs website:

Temporary visa holders impacted by COVID-19 can make arrangements to return to their home country, if border restrictions in that country allow.

Temporary visa holders do not need an exemption to depart Australia. They can leave at any time, as long as border restrictions in their home country allow them to return.

Remember the COVID-19 situation continues to change.

Note: If you are a dual-citizen and one includes Australia, this still counts as Australian citizen.

How do I exit Australia as an Australian citizen (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 are exempt from travel restrictions, and can leave Australia without applying 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, even if they are usually resident in Australia
– engaged in the day-to-day conduct of inbound and outbound freight
– travelling in association with essential work at an offshore facility in Australian waters
– travelling on official government business (including members of the Australian Defence Force and any Australian Government official travelling on a diplomatic or official passport)
– travelling directly to New Zealand and you have been in Australia or New Zealand for 14 days or more immediately before your travel date*

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

So how do you prove if you are ordinarily resident in another country?

Most people reading this website will be looking to prove this reason to be allowed to leave. So how do you show it?

Again, from Home Affairs:

You are considered ordinarily resident in a country other than Australia if international movement records show that you’ve spent more time outside Australia than inside for the last 12 to 24 months. You do not need to carry a paper record of your movements with you. If required, Australian Border Force officers at airports can check your movement records in their systems.

If you do not think you need a travel exemption, you can present this evidence when you check-in at the airport. However, if you have any doubt about whether your circumstances fall within the definition of ordinarily resident, we recommend you lodge a request for assessment at least two weeks prior to your intended departure.

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.

While the note suggests you don’t need physical proof, it always helps to be cover your bases. 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.

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 for your business/employer
– you are travelling to receive urgent medical treatment that is not available in Australia
– you are travelling outside Australia for a compelling reason for three months or longer
– 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 two weeks, but not more than two months before your planned travel. Please make only one request per person. Duplicate requests will delay assessment. The majority of travel exemption requests to depart Australia are finalised within 48 hours, but some complex requests may take longer.

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 valid 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
  • South Africa

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.

Each state will have its own page of information about what is required but in most cases, there is a request that you isolate for a few days, get tested, and then base your behavior on the result of the test.

Can I enter Australia?

Citizens, permanent residents, and valid visa holders 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.

Before you leave, you do need to get a negative PCR test, whether you’ve been vaccinated or not:

A negative COVID-19 Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test result is required for travelling to or transiting through Australia. Unless you are travelling on a quarantine-free flight from New Zealand, evidence of a negative COVID-19 PCR test taken 72 hours or less before your scheduled departure must be provided to your airline.

Masks must be worn on all international flights, including in airports. There are some exemptions to pre-departure testing requirements. More information can be found at the Department of Health website.

You must take this with you to the airport and they will ask to see this documentation. The test must be taken within 72 hours of your flight (not just getting the result). This is difficult so we’ve got a list of places in New York who can reliably turn this around.

Almost everyone entering Australia should also complete an Australia Travel Declaration.

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

If you are an Australian citizen or Australian permanent resident who has been trying to return to Australia and have been unable to do so, you can register your details with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT):

When are these rules going to change?

We don’t know. Nobody does. Anyone suggesting anything is guessing or speculating.

Will vaccinations make me exempt from quarantine in Australia?

No, not at this stage.

Being vaccinated doesn’t change anything stated above (but who knows, it might in the future).

Now, double-check everything I told you!

For Australian information,

For United States information,