The travel bubble between Australia and New Zealand has been open for several months now. However, citizens of both countries have struggled with a rapidly changing situation that has involved flight cancellations, border closures, and other challenges.
This guide covers what we have learned about the travel bubble so far, who is eligible to take advantage of it, and some potential challenges that travellers should be aware of.
What is the Australia-New Zealand travel bubble?
Simply put, the governments of both countries have agreed that all travellers who have been in either country for 14 weeks prior to departure can travel between Australia and New Zealand without having to quarantine or apply for a travel exemption. The bubble commenced on April 19th, 2021. It has functioned for several weeks except for a temporary hold on flights between New South Wales, Australia, Perth, Australia and New Zealand starting May 6th. This is due to a new COVID outbreak.
Who qualifies for travel in the bubble?
The bubble “includes travellers who have spent all 14 days in either safe travel zone country, or people who have travelled between the two countries and are returning within the 14 day period.”
The bubble isn’t just an option for Australian or New Zealand citizens: It also applies to foreign nationals who otherwise meet the requirements for travel between the two countries. This means that eligible visa holders with proper documentation for transit can take advantage of the bubble.
Passengers have to book certain flights and fill out special documentation before embarking on their trip. Options known as “green flights” are the only mode of transport, and Auckland is the only location in New Zealand where these flights arrive and depart.
When travelling from Australia to New Zealand, the rules state that “you do not need to be an Australian citizen or permanent resident to travel to New Zealand from Australia quarantine-free if you meet the above criteria. However, you must meet the New Zealand Government’s health pre-conditions and all standard immigration, customs, and biosecurity entry requirements apply.”
Travellers coming from New Zealand to Australia must hold a valid visa to travel. Foreign nationals who are planning to travel to New Zealand need to ensure they have proper documentation and a visa for re-entry to Australia.
Understanding New Zealand Exemptions
Travellers have found the New Zealand exemptions to be more difficult to secure than those of Australia. Exemptions are only available for people who are deemed ‘other critical workers’.
A worker coming to New Zealand for a short-term role, which is less than six months in total, is considered an ‘other critical worker’ if:
- They have unique experience and technical or specialist skills not readily obtainable in New Zealand
- They are undertaking a time-critical role for an approved major infrastructure project, a government-approved event, or a major government-approved programme, an approved government-to-government agreement, or work with significant wider benefit to the national or regional economy.
If a visa of more than 6 months is required, and, in addition to the above, they earn at least twice the median salary — which works out to NZD $106,080 per year.
Challenges to keep in mind with the travel bubble
Quarantine-free travel is a welcome change for Australian and New Zealand citizens and visa holders. However, the bubble is fairly new, and it’s not without its challenges; already, the bubble has temporarily shut down between New South Wales and New Zealand due to COVID concerns. There are a few pitfalls to keep in mind if you’re considering travel within the bubble:
- Disruptions: Disruptions may be a concern if COVID outbreaks occur or the rules change with little notice. Governments in both countries are on high alert for COVID cases, so if an area turns into a hotspot, flights could shut down quickly. Before booking your trip, carefully research the terms of your flight and make alternate arrangements in case travel becomes impossible. Keep an eye on updates from airlines, the government, and health officials since these could impact your plans.
- Potential quarantine: If you have spent time in a location that becomes a hotspot, you become ill while travelling or end up in an outbreak area, you might run into issues returning to your home country. You’ll likely need to quarantine or self-isolate, and may not be able to board a flight until it’s safe to travel again. It’s important to prepare for the inconvenience and added cost of this potential issue, even if you’re doing all that you can to prevent getting ill.
- Flight availability: Green flights between Australia and Auckland (and vice versa) are limited and in high demand. Many people are trying to reunite with friends and relatives or get away for a change of scenery at this time. You’ll want to plan in advance if you’re interested in travelling within the bubble.
If you want to travel, proceed with caution and remember the points mentioned above. Understand the rules fully before spending money on flights, accommodations, or other travel-related purchases.
What this safe zone means for migration and business travel
Thankfully, the bubble extends beyond citizens to include visa holders. Under the rules regarding transit, business travellers can use the bubble to visit both Australia and New Zealand.
For example, if someone meets the guidelines for travelling to Australia from overseas, and they have spent time in transit in Australia for 14 days, they can then potentially travel on to New Zealand – even if they don’t meet the criteria for a New Zealand travel exemption. This arrangement would work because they’ve already been in Australia for 14 days.
TMA can help you take advantage of the Trans-Tasman bubble
This modified opening of the borders between Australia and New Zealand presents interesting opportunities for businesses. If you’re an HR manager, CEO, or workplace migration specialist, TMA can help you find opportunities for your business to benefit from these changes. Contact us today for strategic assistance.