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Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt. Source: Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH/Reuters
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  • Australians who normally live overseas will have to get permission to return home under the latest Australian government international travel restrictions
  • The Federal Government expanded travel rules this week so that people living in other countries no longer get an automatic exemption to leave Australia
  • The government says Australians who live overseas have already had “substantial time” to return home
  • As such, the new rules are in place to ensure international travel to Australia priorities Australians who want to return to the country but can’t
  • The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said last week there were roughly 38,000 Australians currently stranded overseas

Australians who normally live overseas will now have to get permission to return home after the Australian government expanded international travel restrictions.

Under the new rules, Australians who live in other countries but have been temporarily staying in Australia — for a visit or any other reason — will need to apply to the Australian Border Force for an exemption to return to their country of residence.

The new rules come into effect on August 11.

This is a stark change from the current rules, under which any Australian living overseas can return to their country of residence as they please, so long as they provide proof that they live abroad when at the airport.

In an explanatory statement attached to the new legislation, the Federal Government said Australians who live overseas have already had “substantial time” to return home under the automatic exemption they currently receive.

“The exemption was not intended to enable frequent travel between countries,” the statement said.

The government said the change in legislation is to curb frequent travel between Australia and other countries.

“As repatriation flights continue, it will be critical to manage the numbers of people leaving Australia with the intention of returning in the near future to ensure flight and quarantine availability is prioritised for individuals who have been stranded overseas for some time.”

The statement said Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt, who tabled the amendment, is confident the new rules will help control the spread of COVID-19 in Australia.

The government affirmed that the new legislation is “no more intrusive than required in the circumstances”. Further, there is no specific timeframe for how long the new rules will remain in effect; the Health Minister said the legislation will be lifted as soon as it is no longer necessary.

So far, it’s not clear exactly how difficult it will be for Australians returning to overseas homes to get an exemption to leave the country from August 11 onwards.

The Health Minister did not mention the new rules in any of his speeches this week, and no press release has been issued by the Federal Government alerting the public to the amended legislation.

Nevertheless, Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews told Nine newspapers the new laws have been put in place for the sake of consistency.

“This does not stop Australians ordinarily resident outside Australia from departing. However, these people will now need to apply for an exemption,” Minister Andrews said.

“The exemption’s regime is based on health advice and enables people to travel if essential, but is ultimately about keeping Australians safe from overseas COVID transmission.”

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said last week there were roughly 38,000 Australians currently stranded overseas.

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