Coronavirus (COVID-19) FAQs – international travellers to Australia

Information on pre-departure testing and requirements for masks during the flight.

Pre-departure COVID-19 testing requirements

Pre-departure test requirements

What type of pre-departure test do I need to have before boarding my flight?

At check-in, you must give proof of a negative COVID-19 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test result from a laboratory. PCR is a common and simplified way to describe reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) testing. Test results that state ‘PCR’ or ‘RT-PCR’ as the testing method are acceptable for pre-departure testing.

Is the negative PCR test required no more than 72 hours before boarding my flight or before arrival in Australia?

The PCR test must be done no more than 72 hours before the scheduled time of departure of your flight (or first flight if you have one or more connecting flights booked for your travel to Australia).

Do Australia’s travel restrictions still apply if I have a negative PCR test?

Yes, Australia has strict border measures in place to protect the health of the Australian community. You can find information on who can travel to Australia on the Department of Home Affairs website.

Do I still need to have a pre-departure test if I have had a COVID-19 vaccine?

Yes, you still need to give evidence of a negative COVID-19 PCR test result. If you have had a COVID-19 vaccine you should also carry your vaccination certificate with you while travelling.

I have had a PCR COVID-19 test and have my result certificate however my flight has been delayed outside of the 72 hour window. What should I do?

If your flight is delayed, you have met the pre-departure testing requirements. You do not need a new test.

However, if your flight has been re-scheduled or cancelled, you will need evidence of a negative COVID-19 test result. This test must have been done no more than 72 hours before the re-scheduled or newly booked flight.

When did the need for a pre-departure test start?

All people travelling to Australia on flights departing on or after 22 January 2021 (local time at departure point) must give proof of a negative COVID-19 Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test result at the time of check-in.

Do I need to give evidence of a negative COVID-19 PCR test to the airline when checking in for a domestic flight in Australia?

Currently, people departing on domestic flights in Australia do not need to display evidence of a negative COVID-19 PCR test result. Biosecurity and public health measures help prevent the spread of COVID-19. This includes mandatory use of face masks in airport terminals and on domestic flights. You should check the relevant state or territory health department and airline websites for the most up to date domestic travel advice.

Green safe travel zone

I am travelling between Australia and New Zealand on a ‘green zone’ flight. Am I exempt from pre-departure testing?

Travellers on designated green safe travel zone flights from New Zealand are exempt from pre-departure testing requirements. Travellers on all other flights from New Zealand must meet the pre-departure testing requirements.

Please check whether your flight is a green safe travel zone flight, as these may change. If your flight changes from a ‘green’ to a ‘red’ zone flight, you will need to meet the pre-departure testing requirements.

I am travelling between Australia and New Zealand on a ‘green zone’ flight. Am I still required to wear a mask?

Yes, you must wear a mask during the flight and on-arrival at the airport to protect yourself and others.

I am travelling between Australia and New Zealand on a ‘green zone’ flight. Do I still need to quarantine?

No, you can travel quarantine free between Australia and New Zealand. Travellers who have been in either Australia or New Zealand for 14 days, in either safe travel zone, can travel by air between Australia and New Zealand quarantine free. There is no need to apply for a travel exemption.

I am travelling from New Zealand to Australia on a ‘green zone’ flight. Do I need to complete any paper work?

Yes, you must complete the Australia Travel Declaration at least 72 hours before you depart for Australia.

Pre-departure test exemptions

Are there any exemptions from the pre-departure testing requirements?

Yes. Exemptions from the pre-departure testing requirements are listed below:

Pre-departure testing exemptions

  1. Children aged under 5 years (4 years and younger) at the time of check-in for the scheduled flight departure
  2. People with a medical condition (who can give a medical certificate) 
  3. International air crew
  4. Travellers on a designated green safe travel zone flight
  5. People travelling from countries where COVID-19 PCR testing is not reasonably available. Australia’s Director of Human Biosecurity decides these exemptions.

(1) Children who are less than 5 years of age (4 years and younger) at the time of check-in for the scheduled flight departure do not need to have a test or give evidence of a negative test result.

(2) People who give a medical certificate that indicates they are unable to have a COVID-19 PCR test, because of a medical condition. The medical certificate must include the following information:

  • your name (this must match your travel identification documents)
  • date of medical consultation and details of your medical practitioner
  • details that clearly acknowledge that you cannot have a COVID-19 PCR test or any other COVID-19 test because of a medical condition.

(3) International air crew are subject to state and territory surveillance testing requirements. This may include a test on arrival or every 7 days in Australia.

(4) Travellers departing on a designated green safe travel zone flight are exempt from pre-departure testing.

(5) People travelling from a country where PCR testing is not reasonably available. The Director of Human Biosecurity, who is Australia’s Chief Medical Officer, decides these exemptions.

Which countries / jurisdictions other than New Zealand are exempt from the PCR pre-departure testing requirement?

Travellers flying from the following countries or jurisdictions where PCR testing is not reasonably available (determined by Australia’s Director of Human Biosecurity) are exempt.

Countries / jurisdictions exempt from the PCR pre-departure testing requirement*
  • New Zealand (only designated ‘green safe travel zone’ flights)       
  • Kiribati
  • Myanmar
  • Niue
  • Samoa
  • Solomon Islands
  • Tokelau
  • Tonga
  • Tuvalu
  • Vanuatu

* This list will be updated as local circumstances change.

PCR testing is available in the country / jurisdiction that I am in, however it is difficult to access and results take a couple of days. Can the 72 hour time frame be extended for countries / jurisdictions with continued limited capacity?

The Australian Government continues to monitor PCR testing capacity in countries / jurisdictions where travellers are likely to depart from. Travellers departing from the countries / jurisdictions listed below may give evidence of a negative PCR test result, where the test was done 96 hours or less before their scheduled flight departure.

Countries where a negative PCR test may be accepted, where the test was done 96-hours or less, before the scheduled flight departure*
  • Belize
  • Cook Islands
  • Federated States of Micronesia
  • Fiji
  • French Polynesia
  • Marshall Islands
  • Nauru
  • New Caledonia
  • Palau
  • Papua New Guinea
  • Timor-Leste
  • Wallis and Futuna

* This list will be updated as local circumstances change.

I will be travelling on a military or chartered flight. Do I need to have a pre-departure test?

Yes. Travellers on military and charter flights bound for Australia must meet the pre-departure testing requirements.

I am a foreign diplomat travelling to Australia. Do I need to meet the pre-departure testing requirements?

Yes. Foreign diplomats must give evidence of a negative COVID-19 PCR test result at the time of check-in.

Do maritime crew flying to Australia to join a vessel and commence working, need to have a pre-departure test?

Yes, passengers travelling to Australia to join a vessel, who hold a current maritime crew visa (MVC) (subclass 988), must give evidence of a negative COVID-19 PCR test result at the time of check-in for their flight unless they are in an exemption category.

PCR laboratory test results

What information must be in my laboratory test result record? Does it need to be paper-based or can it be electronic?

The following information must be in your test result record. If possible, this should be in English.

Mandatory required information:

  • traveller name and date of birth (age at time of test or passport number accepted, if date of birth not listed)
  • the test result (such as ‘negative’ or ‘not detected’)
  • the test method used, for example, PCR test
  • the date and time of the respiratory sample collection for the COVID-19 test

Additional information requested, if available:

  • the respiratory sample type that was collected (for example, nasopharyngeal)
  • the date and time the test result was authorised and the name of the laboratory authorising officer
  • name and address of the laboratory / clinic / facility that administered the test
  • accreditation body that the laboratory is affiliated with.

If your test result record does not include the four mandatory fields outlined above you will not be able to check-in and board the aircraft. Please ensure your testing facility gives this information when you get tested.

A paper-based test record is preferred. However electronic records (such as a document embedded in an email or text message) that contains the required information can be used.

Important: Hold on to your testing result certificate for your entire travelling journey. You may need to show it more than once. We recommend that you take a photo of it, if paper-based.

I am unable to give my COVID-19 test result in English. Can I still use it when I check-in?

If you cannot give your test result record in English, you can give:

  • a certified translated copy of your COVID-19 test result report in English. This should be given with your original test result report when you check-in
  • your original test result that is not in English, if the airline has the capability and capacity to interpret and confirm that it has the mandatory information needed, at check-in. You should contact your airline in advance of your flight to confirm whether this is possible.  

Is there a recommended respiratory sample that must be collected for the PCR test?

Yes. It is recommended that a throat and bilateral deep nasal (or nasopharyngeal) swab is used for the PCR test.

I am able to get a saliva-based PCR test, instead of a throat and bilateral deep nasal swab (or nasopharyngeal). Is that acceptable?

Yes, this is acceptable if the testing facility offers PCR testing, using saliva as an alternative specimen to a throat and nasal (or nasopharyngeal) swab.

Can I self-collect a respiratory sample for the PCR test?

You should only self-collect a respiratory sample under the supervision of an appropriately trained healthcare professional, at an authorised/accredited testing facility. For example, if supervised by a trained staff member at a drive-through COVID-19 clinic that offers self-collection.

A self-administered sample collection for COVID-19 testing at home, without supervision by a trained person, or outside an authorised/accredited testing facility, will not be accepted.

My test result is positive – what happens now?

You should not go to the airport as you may be stopped from checking-in or boarding the aircraft by your airline. You may also have primary close contacts in your travelling group. These people should not travel as you may have passed the infection on to them. A primary close contact is anyone who has had unprotected exposure to a confirmed case. You and your primary close contacts should immediately isolate and seek advice from your local health authority.

My test result is ‘inconclusive’ What should I do?

An inconclusive test result will be treated the same as a positive test result. You, and all primary close contacts in your travelling group will not be able to fly. A primary close contact is anyone who has had unprotected exposure to a confirmed case. You and your primary close contacts should isolate immediately and seek advice from your local health authority.

I have been exposed to someone who has tested positive, but my PCR result ahead of my flight has comeback negative. Will we be allowed to check-in and board the flight?

If you are a primary close contact of someone who has tested positive to COVID-19, you will not be allowed to check in and board the aircraft. A primary close contact is anyone who has had unprotected exposure to a confirmed case. If you are a primary close contact, you must isolate immediately, once you have been advised that you a primary contact. This is because you are at high risk of infection, having been in direct contact with them. You should not go to the airport.

What if my test result is positive, but I have already had COVID-19 and recovered from it? What should I do?

If you have had COVID-19 before and your COVID-19 PCR test result continues to be positive, you will only be allowed to travel if you give:

  • your positive COVID-19 test result (taken in the past 72 hours) AND
  • a medical certificate from your doctor. This must be issued no earlier than four weeks before your flight.

Your medical certificate must clearly state that:

  • at least 14 days have passed since the onset of symptoms or initial positive PCR if asymptomatic; and
  • there has been clinical resolution of fever and respiratory symptoms of the acute illness for the previous 72 hours; and
  • you have had COVID-19 before but are now recovered and not considered to be infectious.

If your COVID-19 test result is positive and you do not have a medical certificate that states the above information, you and any primary close contacts in your travelling group, should not go to the airport as you will be prevented from boarding.

For your medical practitioner: You can read Australia’s policy on clearance of a confirmed COVID-19 case from isolation.

PCR TEST AVAILABILITY

PCR testing is available in the country/jurisdiction that I am in and results are usually available within a day. However laboratories are overwhelmed and results are taking a long time. What should I do?

You should contact the local health authority of the country that you are in for information about COVID-19 testing locations for international travel. Some providers may prioritise these requests. Most health authorities advertise COVID-19 testing locations on their websites.

How do I arrange a COVID-19 test?

You should contact the local health authority of the country that you are in for information about COVID-19 testing locations and booking arrangements (if available). Most health authorities advertise COVID-19 testing locations on their websites.

What if I don’t get my test result before check-in time?

When booking your test, ask testing staff when you can expect the results. Ensure that this will be before your scheduled departure date. If you do not have evidence of a negative COVID-19 test result, you will not be able to board your flight.

How much does testing cost?

The cost of testing varies depending on the country you are being tested in. Some government-funded testing facilities may not offer testing or testing certificates for international travel. Confirm that this service is available at the time of booking the test.

Non-PCR COVID-19 tests

I have a serology (blood) test result record which indicates I have developed antibodies to COVID-19 as a result of a previous infection. Do I still need to get a PCR test?

Yes. Some people have been infected with COVID-19 more than once. You still need to give proof of a negative PCR test before departure. There is still a lot of research required to understand how protective antibodies are and how long they last.

Do I need to have a Rapid Antigen Test as well as a PCR test before flying?

The Australian Government requires all people travelling to Australia to give proof of a negative PCR test prior to departure. In some instances airlines, as part of their risk management process, may ask you to have a Rapid Antigen Test and provide a negative result before your flight. Contact your airline about their pre-flight travel requirements.

Transit

My final destination is not Australia – I am only transiting through. Am I still required to have a test?

Yes, transit passengers present the same risk as other passengers on the flight and must have a pre-departure test before arriving in Australia.

Quarantine

Do I still have to do 14 days quarantine if I return a negative test result?

Yes. You must undertake 14 days mandatory quarantine on arrival in Australia. You may still be incubating a COVID-19 infection, and quarantine will minimise the risk to the community from the introduction and spread of COVID-19.

Do I still need to quarantine if I have had the COVID-19 vaccine?

Yes, even though you have been vaccinated with the COVID-19 vaccine you must undergo 14 days of mandatory hotel quarantine in the first city of arrival. This is because travellers may still be incubating a COVID-19 infection, and quarantine will minimise the risk to the community from the introduction and spread of COVID-19.

If I have to quarantine anyway, and get tested during that time, what is the point of pre-departure testing?

Pre-departure testing will assist in preventing transmission of COVID-19 on-board the flight to Australia. It may also reduce the number of cases detected in quarantine to levels that can be safely managed by health authorities. Reducing case numbers also reduces the potential for quarantine workers to become infected and introduce the virus to the broader Australian community.

Masks

When should I wear a mask?

People travelling to Australia on flights departing on or after 22 January 2021 (local time at departure point), must wear a mask:

  • for the duration of your flight and
  • in Australian airports.

You should also wear a mask in the airport before boarding your flight. State and territory legislation requires that individuals wear a mask in domestic airports and on domestic flights while in Australia. You should check state/territory requirements for your onward travel after you finish quarantine.

Can I remove my mask to eat and drink?

Yes, you can remove your mask to eat and drink. You should replace your mask with a fresh one when you finish. You must also remove your mask if an airline or government official asks you to, for identification, emergency, safety or other purposes. You should wash your hands or perform hand hygiene after removing your mask and again after re-applying your mask.

Is a mask provided when I arrive at the airport? If not, where do I get the recommended cloth or surgical mask?

You should supply your own mask, and bring enough masks to last the duration of your journey. You should change your mask every four hours, or when your mask is wet. A cloth or surgical mask is acceptable.

Are there any exemptions from mask wearing requirements?

Yes. You do not need to wear a mask if you:

  • are a child aged under 12 years (11 years and younger) at the time of boarding
  • have a medical condition that prevents you from wearing a mask. You will need to give a medical certificate as evidence. The medical certificate must include the following information:
    • your name (this must match your travel identification documents)
    • date of medical consultation and details of your medical practitioner (including name, address and type of practice)
    • details that clearly acknowledge that you cannot wear a mask due to a medical condition.
  • are assisting people who are deaf or hard of hearing (and their contacts). Some people with hearing disabilities need to see the mouth for communication.

Where can I find advice on appropriate mask use?

You can find a range of resources about wearing a mask.

Further information

If you have need further information, contact the Australian Government Department of Health at safeairtravel [at] health.gov.au. We are receiving a high volume of enquiries, so it may take us up to 48 hours to respond.

Last updated: 
21 May 2021

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