Is Australia opening its borders to international travel in 2022?

Expat news
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Published on 2022-01-17 at 10:00 by Asaël Häzaq
Since December 15, 2021, working-holidayers are back in Australia. Could this be the first step towards the total reopening of the borders? While some feared another postponement, the derogatory border reopening was set for December 1, although cases of the Omicron variant were detected. This marks the concrete end of the "Travel Ban", and is quite encouraging for people who are looking to travel and move to Australia in 2022.

Full reopening in 2022?

On December 13, 2021, Mark McGowan, Prime Minister of the State of Western Australia, announced a date for full reopening. From February 5, 2022, tourists will be allowed to travel to this territory, provided they are fully vaccinated and spend 14 days in quarantine. However, these measures only apply to Western Australia. The rest of the country keeps its borders closed until further notice. The total reopening of borders is a sensitive topic that has created division among the Australian states for many months against a backdrop of economic tensions. Last September, Alan Joyce, CEO of Qantas, Australia's main airline, was already pressurising States, warning them against individualistic policies and urging them to open their borders before Christmas. But Omicron was a game-changer. The government had to readjust its policy and postpone its reopening plans, in particular, concerning Working Holiday Permits (WHV), work visas, and student visas. Still, Mark McGowan remained cautious, although he established a date and a framework for reopening the borders. Everything depends on how the situation evolves.

Travel authorisation for certain visas

Since December 15, working-holidayers, students and workers are allowed to travel to Australia. This measure also applies to some other visas (see the full list on the Australian government website). Initially scheduled for December 1, the opening has been postponed to the 15th due to cases of the Omicron variant. The entry requirements are full vaccination and a negative PCR test obtained less than 72 hours prior to the travel. You also have to produce the Australian Travel Destination (ATD) form. This digital entry declaration must be completed at least 72 hours before the flight. Its aim is to collect personal information about the newcomers as part of the fight against Covid-19. Quarantine may also be required depending on the destination state.

Regarding vaccination, the booster dose is not required for the moment, but travellers need t'o be fully vaccinated, i.e. having received their 2nd dose at least 7 days before departure (only one dose for Johnson & Johnson). Australia currently accepts vaccines like Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, AstraZeneca Covishield, Sinovac, Sinopharm, Covaxin, Johnson & Johnson and Spikevax (another vaccine from Moderna). For people who have already caught Covid-19, they must have recovered from the virus and have received at least one dose of vaccine.

A clear horizon for expats in 2022?

With 76.3% of the population fully vaccinated, Australia is getting closer to its targets. The government intially planned to reopen the borders from the 80% vaccination rate. It seems like Mark McGowan's forecast will be correct - except for the latest Covid surge. But although there was a slight rise in the number of cases, especially in New South Wales, it is very far from the figures recorded in the United States or the United Kingdom.

Australia can also boast a robust economy, with a 3.5% GDP even though many sectors are under pressure. Through its 2022 immigration plan, the government pursues its strategy to boost the immigration of skilled workers. Australia is currently facing a shortage of skills in many sectors such as engineering, accounting, banking, finance, medicine, IT, hotels and restaurants… It's worth noting that 140,366 foreigners immigrated to Australia in 2019-2020, and 160,052 in 2020-2021 (according to the Immigration Department). The country is looking to acquire global talent through its Skilled Migration Program, including investors and entrepreneurs. They represent nearly 20% of visas granted in 2020-21 (compared to barely 5% in 2019-20). Most of them are skilled workers sponsored by a company (25% in 2020-21), along with creative professionals under the “Global Talent” and “Distinguished Talent”. These two visas are intended for foreigners with specific skills and recognised profiles in their field.

What's in for 2022? The Skilled Migration Program provides for 79,600 places (official stats from October 2021). It is primarily intended to address the skills shortage in the medical sector due to the pandemic, as well as investors, business creators and other qualified employees in promising sectors. Currently, 3 visas are prioritised, namely the “Business Innovation and Investment Program”, the “Global Talent Program” and the “Employer Sponsored Program”, to boost the Australian economy.

Will 2022 be the year of high hopes for expatriates? With the never-ending pandemic, people are having to readjust their plans, but this doesn't mean that they should not think ahead. The return of working-holidayers, international students and professionals mark a significant turning point. After more than a year of border closures and a zero-Covid policy, Australia is gradually reopening internationally.