Visa holder travel restrictions lifted: Flights, insurance and rules explained

Posted: 22 November 2021 5:35 pm
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Many visa holders living in Australia can now travel internationally. Here's how to book your trip home.

This article was published before border reopening to visa holders was delayed until December 15th amid Omicron concerns. You can get the latest information here.

Temporary visa holders in Australia will soon be able to leave the country and return without needing to apply for a travel exemption, according to an announcement by the Australian government.

From 1 December 2021, fully vaccinated eligible visa holders will be able to reunite with family and friends after over 2½ years apart – previously only Australians and permanent residents could do this.

Eligible visa holders include skilled and student visas such as the 482 and 500 as well as humanitarian, working holiday maker and provisional family visa holders. Some bridging visa holders may be able to leave and re-enter Australia but will need to be apply for a Bridging visa B (BVB).

A full list of the 28 eligible visa holders is available on the Home Affairs website.

How do I book my flight home?

The basics of booking your flight in or out of the country remain much the same as they previously did. Although, your success will largely depend on finding flights to where you want to go.

For example, the UK, Singapore and Thailand are a couple of destinations without quarantine requirements that also have direct flights operating.

So far, only 9 airlines (including Qantas, Emirates, Air New Zealand, Etihad and Cathay Pacific) will have resumed flying to and from Australia by 1 December. Virgin Australia, Jetstar and Air Canada are due to resume flights by the end of December.

International flights will largely continue to only depart from Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra until other states reach their vaccination targets and it becomes viable for the airlines to operate.

Additionally, you'll need to check what the rules are for the country you're flying to. Most require a test within 72 hours prior to departure and many still have mandatory quarantine measures in place.

You'll also likely need to receive a negative PCR test within 3 days of departing for Australia, although visa holders can return to New South Wales, Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory without quarantining.

Is it safe to book via a third party?

Third-party booking sites like ​​KAYAK and Skyscanner remain great options for comparing flight prices and seeing which airlines are available to fly with. However, for peace of mind, it's best to actually book directly with the airline, especially while things remain in flux.

Booking with the airline cuts out the middleman and means you'll be able to deal directly with the airline to recover any money in case of cancellations.

Travel insurance can also cover costs related to cancelling or rescheduling – for example, if you get sick or injured and you can no longer go on your trip. However, insurers generally won't cover you for government-enforced border closures or lockdowns.

Do I need travel insurance?

Countries including Indonesia, Thailand and Singapore require anyone entering the country to have travel insurance that covers COVID-related medical expenses. Other countries that require some form of travel insurance include the following:

  • South Africa
  • Italy
  • Ireland
  • Canada
  • US
  • Fiji
  • New Zealand

In order to be eligible for travel insurance, you will also need to make sure the country you are travelling to is not on the "Do Not Travel" list.

On 28 October, the Australian government removed this warning for 162 countries, including the United Kingdom, the USA, Japan and Canada. You can find out more on the Smartraveller website.

Where can I get travel insurance?

Some insurers may not cover temporary visa holders, so you should check that you're eligible before you take out a policy.

For example, Fast Cover will cover temporary residents of Australia only if they meet the following criteria:

  • You're a non-permanent resident who holds a valid Medicare card or are covered by an Australian Private Health Insurance policy that satisfies the government health insurance requirements for your visa type
  • You have a home in Australia to which you intend to return
  • Your trip begins and ends in Australia
  • You have a return ticket to Australia
  • You are 89 years old or under

Can travel insurance cover COVID-19?

Yes. Finder looked at over 30 travel insurance policies and found 3 partner brands that include COVID-related cover: Southern Cross Travel Insurance, Fast Cover and Cover More. We looked at the PDS and TMD for each of these brands and reached out to the insurers directly to confirm that all can cover temporary residents.

These policies can help pay for the following:

  • Trip rearrangement costs if you, a fellow traveller or your host gets COVID-19 and it impacts your trip.
  • Expenses if you're unexpectedly forced into quarantine during your trip.
  • COVID-19 medical expenses.

In addition to COVID-19 benefits, travel insurance can also cover other cancellation costs, lost or stolen luggage and rental car excess if you hire a car while on your trip.

If you're booking your flight and are looking to take out travel insurance, we've put together a page on policies that also cover COVID-related expenses here.

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