So you’ve decided to move to Australia a while ago. And then came Covid. Talk about timing, right? Is it even possible to travel to Australia during Covid? Here’s your guide on everything you need to know about how to travel to Australia during Covid.
But before we dive into that, here’s an important disclaimer: Given its recent rising Covid cases (of 99, 032 as of 28 September 2021) and a series of lockdowns, Australia has extended its travel ban until December 2021. This effectively bans non-citizens and residents from entering its borders as the country does its best to vaccinate as many of it citizens and bring the transmission under control.
But take heart, while the lockdowns may prevent current travels, this guide might just be one you’d want to save to plan your future (or rescheduled) travels to the land Down Under.
1. Covid-19 travel restrictions in Australia
As mentioned above, non-essential travel to Australia is banned until 2022. Current travel is permitted only if an individual has been granted exemptions by the government. Some of these exemptions include:
- Australian citizens
- Australian permanent residents (PRs)
- Immediate family members of citizens and PRs
- New Zealand citizens who are residents in Australia and their immediate family members
- Diplomats accredited to Australia and their immediate family members (each member must hold a valid subclass 995 visa)
- Compassionate travel
If you belong to any of the above (see here for more alternative exemptions), you may wish to apply for a travel exemption here. Alternatively, you may wish to consult this guide to see if you qualify for entry into Australia.
If you’re an Australian citizen or PR (or immediate family members of the two) who is currently based overseas and are trying to return home but haven’t been able to, you can register your details with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).
In the case of foreign nationals wishing to live there, the Australian borders is still closed until at least early 2022 (vaccinated or not). But that doesn’t mean you can’t start making plans on what you need to do before moving.
Passenger flights are also capped based on each state due to the current lockdown. Travellers are advised to confirm their itinerary with their travel agents and/or airline before booking their commercial flights.
2. Things to consider before moving to Australia
Cost of living
Average cost of living for an individual in Australia is approximately $2,835 per month. This can go up to about $4,200 for couples and $5,400 for a family of four. Living expenses may be slightly higher compared to other first world countries like the United States and regions like the United Kingdom, however the average high income at $4,020 per month (as of 2021) allow for individuals to live rather comfortably.
Meals, depending on location, can range between $8 (at McDonald’s) to $40 (at an expensive restaurant). On average, meals range from $15 to $20. Groceries tend to cost from $280 to $350 per month.
Before making the move, you’ll need to possess the right visa. There are over 30 different types of visas for working professionals, of which you can explore here. If you wish to retire in Australia (link to article), there are visas available for that, too.
Are sponsors necessary for visa applications? Nope. But it sure does increase your chances of getting your visa approved. There are currently 2 ways to get visa sponsorships – find one yourself, or apply for an Expression of Interest (EOI) via SkillSelect. This allows employers in Australia to find and nominate you to work for them.
The average rent varies across cities, with $2,000 being the average monthly rent for a house and $1,670 for a unit. Monthly rent in popular major cities like Sydney, Canberra and Darwin can go up to $2,300 for a house and $1,940 for a unit. However, cities like Adelaide, Perth and Melbourne offer more affordable monthly rent at $1,720 for a house and $1,453 for a unit.
Australia taxes its residents differently based on whether they are Australian residents or non-residents (staying for less than 6 months). Depending on your income level, residents are taxed between zero to 45 percent, while non-residents are taxed between 32.5 to 34.8 percent. Do note: All Australian residents are liable to an additional 2 percent Medicare levy tax on top of your taxable income.
Please refer to the Australian Taxation Office to have an idea of how much tax you will be liable for once you move to Australia.
An important thing to do is to apply for a Tax Filing Number (TFN) the first thing upon arrival. If you do not supply your TFN to your employer when you start a new job, they must withhold a higher tax rate of 45 percent from your wages regardless of your level of income.
It’s also important to know that you will likely have to start a Superannuation Pension Fund even if you don’t intend to retire in Australia.
Public healthcare (Medicare) is free in Australia and you can use it as long as you have permanent residency. Residents from the UK or New Zealand, can also have access to Medicare as a temporary visitor. However, taking out ambulance insurance is recommended as this is not covered with Medicare.
Public Health Insurance: Medicare
Medicare is the backbone of the Australian healthcare system. Since 1984, Medicare has been providing universal healthcare to Australian residents in three primary areas: public hospitals, medical services and medicine.
Medicare is available to all Australian and New Zealand citizens, Australian permanent residents (PRs) and individuals from countries that have reciprocal agreements with Australia. Of the countries approved, the ones applicable include several countries from Europe (but not the United States). Citizens of the US will have to become Australian PRs to be eligible for Medicare.
Currently, individuals wishing to retire in Australia are not eligible for Medicare benefits unless they have obtained permanent residency. Prospective retirement visa applicants are encourage to obtain a comprehensive health insurance package (comparable to Medicare’s coverage) before applying.
Private Health Insurance
Even with Medicare, many Australian residents can still choose to own private health insurance with two coverage options: hospital coverage (for private medical treatment) and general coverage (for non-medical health services like dental, optometry and physical therapy).
Peruse our guide for a comprehensive breakdown on the many health insurance available in Australia and how to apply for them (link).
Australia is home to some of the best educational institutions in the world, with seven universities ranking clinching the Top 100 in the QS World Rankings 2021. For more information here’s everything you need to know about university education in Australia (link).
Overall crime levels are low in Australia and it’s one of the safest countries to work and live in. Plus, risks of petty crimes like getting mugged or pick-pocketed is low. (Though low crime doesn’t mean no crime, it’s always of best interest to exercise caution no mater where you are.) While there are some suburbs you might want to avoid, most inner cities are mostly safe. Firearm possessions are largely controlled and only limited to those holding a firearm licence – of which is only granted when a genuine reason to own a firearm is pleaded.
However, natural threats are mostly what makes the safety scale dip – from dangerous animal species, to dangerous water currents, UV exposure and riptides, these might be the most dangerous things to consider in Australia.
In terms of healthcare, Australia’s healthcare system has been ranked second best in the developed world, so rest assured you’ll enjoy full range of security and creature comforts.
3. Travelling to Australia during Covid-19: What to expect
As travel and quarantine restrictions are constantly changing, it useful to keep abreast on these changes via the Australian Government’s Department of Health website. While non-essential travel into Australia for non-citizens and residents is prohibited until December 2021, here are a couple of things you’ll need to expect when finally allowed into its borders.
Passengers travelling to Australia must test negative for Covid-19 at least 72 hours or less before the scheduled flight departure. Only polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests are accepted. The negative test result must be displayed at the time of check-in.
- Travellers from designated Green Safe Travel Zones
- Children ages under 5 years old at the time of check-in
- People travelling from countries where Covid-19 PCR testing is not reasonably available. This is subject to the Australia’s Director of Human Biosecurity’s approval.
All travellers to Australia will also need to complete a travel declaration at least 72 hours before departure.
Mask-wearing is mandatory during the entire travel journey. This includes upon arrival at the airport, during the entire duration of the flight and also during disembarking.
Due to the recent rising case numbers and cities going on lockdown, masks are mandatory indoors upon arrival in Australia.
The general rule requires all travellers go on mandatory quarantine for 14 days upon arrival. The arrangements (transport from the airport to quarantine accommodation and the subsequent necessities) will be managed by the state governments.
All quarantined individuals will undergo a test during the first 48 hours upon arrival, and again between days 10 to 12 of quarantine. Individuals will need to test negative before being allowed to end their quarantine. If individuals test positive, the quarantine period will be extended accordingly until a negative test is produced.
Mandatory quarantine need not be applicable to travellers arriving from a green zone or an exemption category (see above).
Once you’ve ended quarantine, you may travel within Australia according to the state and territory domestic travel restrictions (do note that this may include further quarantine requirements).
Information (as of 29 September 2021) on Covid-19 international travel have been taken from the Australian Government’s Department of Health website.