Returning to Australia
COVID-19: Australian border controls and other information for returning travellers
The National Cabinet agreed today on a consistent national approach to manage the flow of international passengers into Australian airports. The number of incoming passengers will be restricted to ease pressure on state and territory quarantine facilities. If you’re overseas and wish to return home, we encourage you to plan your travel but be prepared for possible delays.
There will be caps on the numbers of passengers coming into Australian airports from overseas.
- These measures will be temporary and will be reviewed.
- The Government will seek to provide airlines with at least 48 hours’ notice to minimise disruptions.
- It’s up to the airlines, not the Government, to decide who it sells tickets to.
- This could affect your flight into Australia.
- If you’re scheduled to fly home to Australia in the coming days and weeks, confirm your itinerary and onward travel plans with your airline or travel agent.
When you arrive back in Australia, you may have to contribute to the cost of quarantine. We expect more states and territories will introduce charges. Contact your state or territory government health department for the latest information on their specific arrangements.
We know this will be stressful for some Australians who have been wanting to come home for some time. We encourage you to:
- be patient
- ensure you have a safe place to stay
- follow the advice of local authorities and
- minimise your risk of exposure to COVID-19.
Our network of embassies and consular posts will provide you with up-to-date advice on local conditions and, where possible, on available flights to Australia.
If you require urgent consular assistance you can contact the nearest embassy or high commission or call the Consular Emergency Centre in Australia on +61 2 6261 3305.
What to expect upon arrival to Australia
It’s mandatory to undertake 14 days quarantine at designated facilities in your port of arrival in Australia. You may also have to undergo testing for COVID-19. You won't be permitted to travel domestically (including to your home) or continue on any domestic connections, until you have completed the 14-day mandatory quarantine period.
- You’ll be required to fill out a form confirming you understand you have to complete the mandatory quarantine period of 14 days.
- You’ll collect your luggage and go through the normal border clearance processes (customs, immigration and biosecurity).
- Following border clearance, government officials will direct you to buses that will take you to your accommodation.
Arrangements for your 14-day quarantine period
- The quarantine requirements are managed and enforced by state and territory governments with Australian Government support.
- You'll be accommodated in a hotel for this mandatory quarantine period.
- Under the Biosecurity Act 2015 and applicable state legislation, you’ll have to remain in the allocated accommodation until you’re medically cleared to enter the Australian community. You may have to be tested for COVID-19 during your quarantine period. If you don’t agree to be tested, you may have to quarantine for longer.
- In some states and territories, you may also have to contribute to the cost of quarantine.
- To find out more about quarantine and testing requirements, contact your state or territory government health department.
- National Cabinet - Prime Minister's media statement 10 July 2020
- COVID-19 and the border – Coming to Australia (Department of Home Affairs)
- Coronavirus (COVID-19) advice for travellers (Department of Health)
- Border control and mandatory self-quarantine (NT Government)
- Returning from overseas travel quarantine arrangements (Queensland Government)
- Local state and territory health departments
- Coronavirus (COVID-19) - Smartraveller
The Australian Border Force controls our borders. You'll need to comply with all requirements from border agents. This protects Australia's environment, economy and security. If you don't, penalties and fines may apply.
To reduce the risk of experiencing delays and problems when you return to Australia, consider:
- the documents you need to pass through SmartGate or border control
- biosecurity requirements
- import requirements
Documents, passport and SmartGate
All travellers returning to Australia must have a:
- valid passport
- completed Incoming Passenger Card (IPC)
You can use SmartGate when arriving at Australian international airports if you:
- hold an Australian or New Zealand ePassport
- are aged 16 or older
All Australian passports are ePassports. An ePassport contains electronic information that helps to confirm your identity.
SmartGate uses ePassport data and facial recognition technology to let you go through passport control by yourself. It is quick and secure, meaning you may leave the airport faster.
Australia has strict biosecurity controls to help minimise the risk of exotic pests and diseases entering the country.
All travellers must comply with the requirements before entering Australia, this is regulated by the Australian Government Department of Agriculture.
You must declare certain food, plant material and animal products on your Incoming Passenger Card (IPC). An IPC is a document that identifies and records a person's entry into Australia. It is where you declare goods for custom and quarantine inspection.
If you declare goods on your IPC, go to an inspection point on arrival. A biosecurity officer will assess them.
If you don't want to declare goods, dispose of them in the bins at the terminal before the inspection points.
You could be fined or prosecuted for carrying undeclared controlled goods.
Officers screen your luggage using:
- detector dogs
- x-ray machines
- baggage inspection
In many cases, they'll return your declared goods to you after inspection. Some items may need treatment to make them safe. Some items are not allowed into Australia because of the risk of pests and disease. Officers may seize these for export or destruction.
Before you travel, check if you can bring your items back into Australia.
Check detailed import conditions on the Biosecurity Import Conditions system (BICON) website.
Australian Border Force regulates which goods you can and can't bring in and whether you'll need a permit.
You must declare these restricted or prohibited items upon arriving in Australia:
- firearms, weapons and ammunition
- currency (A$10,000 or more, or foreign equivalent)
- agricultural and veterinary chemical products
- pornography and objectionable material
- heritage-listed goods, such as works of art, stamps, coins, archaeological objects and specimens
- defence and strategic goods
Medicines, drugs and herbal remedies
You need to declare all medicine including:
- prescription medications
- alternative and herbal medicines
- vitamins and mineral preparation formulas
- performance- and image-enhancing drugs
- veterinary medicines
Wildlife, plants and animals
Wildlife products need approval from Australian Border Force and the Department of Agriculture. Many also require permits from the Australian Government Department of the Environment and Energy.
'Wildlife' includes any whole, part or derivative of a plant or animal, living or non-living. Examples include:
- protected wildlife, such as coral, orchids, caviar and hunting trophies
- wood and seeds
- ivory and products made from ivory
- leather or fur
- traditional medicines containing animal organs, teeth or body parts
- live plants
- fresh or dried flowers
If you buy wildlife products overseas, find out if you need a permit. If you don't have the correct permit, authorities will seize your product. Penalties or fines may apply.
- Read the Department of Agriculture's advice on bringing items back to Australia
- See the Australian Border Force information guidance on returning to australia through quarantine
- The Department of the Environment and Energy publishes information for travellers returning to Australia
- See the Therapeutic Goods Administration for information about bringing medicines and medical products into Australia
- The Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority regulates what veterinary pharmaceuticals you can and can't bring in to Australia
This page explains our travel advisories for destinations, how we develop and update our travel advisories and what each advice level means in travel advisories. It also explains the difference between our travel advice and the COVID-19 related travel bans.