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

When did the pre-departure testing requirement commence?

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

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 methodology are acceptable for pre-departure testing.

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

At check-in, you will need to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test result that has been provided by a laboratory. This test must be conducted 72 hours or less prior to the scheduled departure time 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. Information on who can travel to Australia can be found on the Department of Home Affairs website.

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

Yes. The exemptions from the pre-departure testing requirements are outlined 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 provide 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. Exemptions for this purpose will be determined by Australia’s Director of Human Biosecurity

(1) Children who are aged under 5 years (4 years and younger) at the time of check-in for the scheduled flight departure are not required to have a test or present evidence of a negative test result.

(2) People that present a medical certificate which indicates that due to a medical condition they are unable to undergo a COVID-19 PCR test. 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 undergo a COVID-19 PCR test or any other COVID-19 test due to a medical condition.

(3) International air crew are subject to state and territory surveillance testing requirements, which 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. Exemptions for this purpose will be determined by the Director of Human Biosecurity, who is Australia’s Chief Medical Officer.

Which countries / jurisdictions are exempt from the PCR pre-departure testing requirement?

Travellers on designated green safe travel zone flights from New Zealand are exempt from pre-departure testing requirements.

Travellers who have been in Auckland in the last 14 days will not be permitted to board green safe travel zone flights. These arrangements will operate until 11.59pm AEDT 6 March 2021. Some states and territories have different arrangements; travellers should check the arrangements in both their place of arrival and the place of final destination.

Travellers on all other flights from New Zealand are required to meet the pre-departure testing requirements.

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

Further to this, countries / jurisdictions where PCR testing is not reasonably available (determined by Australia’s Director of Human Biosecurity) are also exempt. These countries / jurisdictions are listed below.

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 remains under review and may be updated as local circumstances change.

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

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

Countries where a negative PCR test may be accepted, where the test was conducted 96-hours or less, prior to 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 remains under review and may be updated as local circumstances change.

 

Are travellers on all flights to Australia required to have a pre-departure test or are some types of flights exempt?

Travellers on military, commercial and charter flights bound for Australia are required to meet the pre-departure testing requirements.

Travellers on designated green safe travel zone flights from New Zealand are exempt from pre-departure testing requirements, provided they have not been in Auckland in the 14 days prior to their flight. Travellers who have been in Auckland in the last 14 days will not be permitted to board green safe travel zone flights. These arrangements will operate until 11.59pm AEDT 6 March 2021. . Travellers on all other flights from New Zealand are required to meet the pre-departure testing requirements.

If a flight changes from a ‘green’ to a ‘red’ zone flight, all passengers are required to comply with the pre-departure testing requirements.

I am a foreign diplomat travelling to Australia, am I required to meet the pre-departure testing requirements?

Yes. Foreign diplomats are required to provide 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, require a pre-departure test?

Yes, passengers travelling to Australia to join a vessel, who hold a current maritime crew visa (MVC) (subclass 988) are required to provide 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 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 very 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 the purpose of international travel, as some providers may prioritise such requests. Most health authorities advertise COVID-19 testing locations on their websites.

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

The following information must be included on your test result record. If possible, this should be provided 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 method of test conducted e.g. PCR test
  • The date and time the respiratory sample was collected for the COVID-19 test

Additional information requested, if available:

  • The respiratory sample type that was collected (e.g. 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 be prevented from checking-in and boarding the aircraft. Please ensure this information will be provided to you by your testing facility when you get tested.

A paper-based record is preferred, however electronic records (such as a document embedded in an email or text message) that contains the required information would be accepted.

Important: Hold on to your testing result certificate for your entire travelling journey, as you may be required to present it more than once. It is recommended that you take a photo of it, if paper based.

I am unable to provide my COVID-19 test result in English, will it still be accepted at the time of check-in?

While it is preferred that you provide your test result record in English, the following is also acceptable:

  • a certified translated copy of your COVID-19 test result report in English. This should be presented with your original test result report to your airline at check-in.
  • your original test result that is not in English, if the airline has the capability and capacity to interpret and confirm that the mandatory information is included at the time of 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 be taken for the PCR test.

I am able to obtain a PCR test that is based on saliva instead of a throat and bilateral deep nasal swab (or nasopharyngeal), is that acceptable?

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

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

You are only allowed to self-collect a respiratory sample under the supervision of an appropriately trained healthcare professional at an authorised/accredited testing facility. For example, at a drive-through COVID-19 clinic under supervision by trained personnel, if self-collection is offered.

However, self-administered sample collection for COVID-19 testing at home without supervision or otherwise outside of an authorised/accredited testing facility is not acceptable.

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

Yes, you still need to provide 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 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 are still required to provide proof of a negative PCR test prior to departure. There is still a lot of research required to understand how protective antibodies are and how long they last.

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 you should ask testing staff when the results should be available and ensure that the time is before your scheduled departure date. If you do not have evidence of a negative COVID-19 test result, you will be denied boarding.

How much does testing cost?

The cost of testing will vary depending on the country you are being tested in. Please note, some government funded testing facilities may not provide testing or testing certificates for the purpose of international travel. You should confirm that this service is available at the time of booking the test.

A person in my travelling group has tested positive, but I and others in our group are negative. Will we be allowed to check-in and board the flight?

If you are a primary close contact of the traveller that 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 will need to isolate immediately upon being notified that someone in your travelling group has received a positive COVID-19 test result. This is because you are at high risk of infection, having been in direct contact with them. You should not go to the airport.

I am travelling to Australia from New Zealand on a ‘green zone’ flight. Am I still required to have a test and wear a mask during the flight?

No, you are not required to have a pre-departure test. If you have been in Auckland in the last 14 days you will not be permitted to board safe green travel zone flights. These arrangements will operate until 11:Up59 pm AEDT 6 March. Some states and territories have different arrangements; travellers should check the arrangements in both their place of arrival and the place of final destination. You are required to wear a mask during the flight and on-arrival at the airport to protect yourself and others.

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, therefore a new test is not required.

However, if your flight has been re-scheduled or cancelled, you should ensure that you have evidence of a negative COVID-19 test result, where the test was conducted no more than 72 hours prior to the re-scheduled or newly booked flight.

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 are required to have a pre-departure test before arriving in Australia.

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

Yes. You are still required to 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.

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

It is possible that pre-departure testing will assist in preventing transmission of COVID-19 on-board the flight to Australia, and possibly 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.

My test result is positive – what happens now?

You should not go to the airport as you may be prevented from checking-in boarding the aircraft by your airline. You may also have primary close contacts in your travelling group, these people should not travel. It is possible that you 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 within 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 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 are still required to provide proof of a negative PCR test prior to departure. There is still a lot of research required to understand how protective antibodies are and how long they last.

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

If you have previously had COVID-19 and your COVID-19 PCR test result continues to be positive, you will only be allowed to travel if you provide your positive COVID-19 test result (taken in the past 72 hours) AND you provide a medical certificate from your doctor (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
  • that you have previously had COVID-19 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: Australia’s policy on clearance of a confirmed COVID-19 case from isolation may be found on the Department of Health website.

Do I need to provide 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 within Australia do not need to display evidence of a negative COVID-19 PCR test result. Biosecurity and public health measures are in place to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, including mandatory use of face masks in airport terminals and on domestic flights. You should monitor the relevant state or territory health department and airline websites for the most up to date domestic travel advice.

Further information 

If your question has not been addressed by these questions and answers, you may contact the Australian Government Department of Health at safeairtravel [at] health.gov.au. Due to the high volume of enquiries, an immediate response is not guaranteed and may take up to 48 hours.  

Last updated: 
26 February 2021

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