Leaving Australia – Part One
I am in the unfortunate position where I have to leave Australia and travel to the UK during Covid, this is not a pleasure trip.
Due to the trials and tribulations of my experiences so far I thought it may be beneficial to document to help anyone who has to go through the same.
I have not yet left Australia, so this part of the story is the lead up, gathering documents and asking to leave – before arriving at the airport.
Preparing to leave Australia
I am dual national, having both British and Australian passports (more on the later shortly). I live in Australia permanently however I was born in the UK and that is where all of my blood relatives reside.
My mum was taken quite seriously ill all of a sudden and in a critical condition in a UK hospital.
I need to get to her ASAP thus starting the process that follows.
I’ve not long been a full Australian Citizen, it’s almost a year in fact due mainly to Covid and application process times blowing out. This meant that I had not applied for an Australian Passport as there was no real option to travel but that changed in an instant with hearing the news.
Realising I didn’t have a valid visa for re entry with my UK passport (all visas are canceled when you become a Citizen) I realised I had better see if it was possible to get one quickly. I could have done this in the UK but I didn’t want to risk not having the required documents with me.
Calling the passport office was easy, the lady was really helpful and told me due to the circumstances it wouldn’t be an issue getting one in 48 hours from an face to face appointment.
I called them on the Monday and had an appointment on the Tuesday at 10 am.
What you need:
- Fill in the passport application form and get it certified, the form has all the details of what you need in it – double check everything. You can get it from the Post Office
- Remember the passport photos should not be 6 months old or longer – they ask at the desk and wont proceed unless this is the case.
- Don’t forget any of your documents they double triple check everything very thoroughly.
- Ensure you phone number and email is readable as that’s how you will get notified.
I asked for the express service and it cost about $500 bucks all up and the lady at the counter said it would be ready in 48 hours, but usually sooner.
The passport office is on full Covid alert so expect to be asked to sanitize, wear a mask and follow the security guidance.
By 12:50 pm I got an email, it was ready! Super fast!
Asking to leave Australia
At the current time you can’t just leave Australia, it’s not allowed for anything less than really serious matters (unless you are a celebrity or politician of course).
Applying to get out of the country requires you to have a very valid reason and documented evidence to support you application.
Read this first: covid19.homeaffairs.gov.au/leaving-australia
Then signup and register on here: travel-exemptions.homeaffairs.gov.au/tep
Once you have confirmed you will be taken to a web portal where it will ask a lot of info about you and your reasons for travel.
IF you have a time sensitive date you need to leave you will be prioritised.
They say not to book your flights before being granted however I did as the ticket was changeable, I don’t know if this had an impact on priority.
I submitted all of the required details and then attached my evidence, this was in the form of a PDF document from the NHS critical care ward.
This was not enough, I got an email back later that day to say I needed to provide that I wa in fact related to this person. That didnt feel very good, but I guess that is the nature of this process in hindsight a valid point.
I then prepared and index document as there is no way to really comment on what the documents are and why they are supporting documents.
The index document has just the filename and the reason it supports the other documents.
So, what did I provide to support my claim after this message (with the help of my dad in the UK – I may have gone overboard):
- My Australian marriage certificate with both my parents names (my mothers maiden name for some reason).
- My mother’s birth certificate (maiden name).
- Copy of her UK passport.
- Copy of her UK licence.
- Copy of my parents marriage certificate.
- Copy of my ‘full’ UK birth certificate (there is a short one and a long one, the first is not good enough).
- A Commonwealth statutory declaration that she was in fact my mother, and the reasons I needed to leave etc, witnessed and signed by a JP (handy neighbour to have).
- The letter from the hospital (previously submitted)
- Copy of my new Aussie passport (I submitted the first request to leave before I got the reply for more info).
Overkill? I got a reply the following morning saying my exemption had been granted – less that 24 hours.
One thing to note, they give you a time limit once the case is opened to provide all evidence to support the client or they auto close the case.
They do make you make sure you are very clear on the option for getting back are tough, expensive and you will be quarantined at your own expense (3k of one person) – see here:
You must acknowledge all declarations in order to submit your request. If you are unable to make these declarations, you should not seek to travel outside Australia at this time.
- I acknowledge that I have read the travel advice for all my destinations and subscribed for updates from the Smartraveller website.
- I acknowledge that I do not have a legal right to consular assistance and the Australian Government may limit consular assistance where I put others or myself at risk.
- I acknowledge that the Australian Government is unable to intervene in immigration or quarantine matters, and cannot make travel arrangements or provide financial assistance if I am unable to return to Australia as planned.
- I understand that availability and cost of flights to Australia has been severely impacted by the current pandemic resulting in fewer, more expensive flights and that flights are subject to change or cancellation at short notice.
- I acknowledge that I have the financial means to support myself overseas for a significant period of time, should there be delays in my ability to return to Australia.
- Upon return to Australia, I will undertake quarantine as directed by health authorities and at my own expense.
- I have the authority of all travellers included in this request to make these declarations on their behalf (if applicable).
Wednesday I had my second shot of Pfizer Covid vaccine booked in at the Vaccination Center in Olympic Park.
This was a total coincidence but a welcome one, however when you get your exemption approved you get to move to the front of the queue for a vaccine.
“You are eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine up until the expiry date of your travel exemption. You must take this
notification with you when attending a vaccine centre or GP clinic as evidence of your eligibility for a vaccine. For
more information see: covid-vaccine.healthdirect.gov.au.”
So, if you have had one then you can get protected before you leave!
Booking Flights Out
As soon as I heard the news about mum I booked a flight, a little bit of a knee jerk reaction and one that was a mistake.
One thing you have to understand about going to the UK is they have a traffic light system of countries (changing daily, so keep a check on it).
You can find the list here: www.gov.uk/guidance/red-amber-and-green-list-rules-for-entering-england
You need to transit via a GREEN country, I initially booked via an Amber county until I realised I would have to isolate for 10 days on arrival (There is an option now for a quick release of 5 days).
I am now transiting via Singapore that is on the Green list, the same as Australia (at this time 16th July 2021), and that may change depending on the nature of the latest outbreak.
Flights prices at the time of writing at 3pm Saturday is around $1,200 one way and returns go up a lot more.
UK Entry Requirements
There are a few parts to this process – Covid test pre flight, covid test post flight (more depending on Green, Amber, Red countries list you are flying from or through) and a passenger location form.
Part One – Pre flight Covid test
To get in to the UK regardless whether you are a British subject (and you have been in another country) you have to get a COVID PCR test to board the plane.
This has be be done within the 72 hours before departure or 3 days
“You must take the test in the 3 days before the service on which you will arrive in England departs.
For example, if you travel directly to England on Friday, you can take the test on or after Tuesday and will need to have the negative result available before boarding on Friday.”
Now, I thought this was a simple case of me popping down to the local testing center in the car, lining up and getting swabbed – not the case.
The Covid testing centers are paid for by Medicare and I don’t have symptoms or believe I have been in close contact to a Covid case or a close contact location. As this for travel purposes I am ineligible for a free Covid test under medicare, and have to pay.
Luckily for me the testing site just down road also provides the international travel Covd test @120 per test (www.4cyte.com.au/Travel_Covid.php).
The test was uncomfortable, but ok and the results came back in less than 24 hours along with a certificate to state the test and Drs details.
They say you can show a text message with details but I think that would probably be unwise, I’ve seen some without the full name, so defiantly get a certificate with details or you won’t be able to board the plane.
Part Two – Post flight Covid test
I am traveling from a green zone via a green zone transit route so I only have to have one Covid test when I arrive – this is anywhere up to day 2 of arriving in the UK..
You MUST book this in advance as you need it for part three ‘Passenger Locator Form” and get a reference number once you have paid for the test.
The tests in the uk are done a bit differently than here (Australia), you can do a home test, do it infront of someone yourself, or have it done by someone.
I opted for the home kit, you can find a list on the UK gov site with details, it’s not the easiest way to filter for locations if you wanted to do it in person:
Mine was about £80, it is a home test kit and should be there when I arrive.
Part Three – Passenger locator form
This needs to be done 48 hours from the time of arrival in the UK, and you can’t submit the form before, I tried.
It works on UK time so you have to find the 48 hours before that – I used this hand calculator: www.free-online-calculator-use.com/date-time-calculator.html
You have to register first (optional) to make it easier for yourself.
You will need to have details of your flight, passport, and the pre booked test with ref number.
Once completed it will produce a file you can save or download with a QR code on it.
Checking In Online
So far I have been unable to check-in online with Singapore Airlines, which is a worry.
“The passenger(s) may not have a valid visa, or their passport and visa details do not match. Check that the passenger details given in the booking match with the visa details, or proceed to the airport check-in counter for travel document verification. Click here for more details on the visa requirements.”
I do have a message on the site that also states that anyone in Australia leaving with a travel exemptions needs to check-in at the desk – this could the reason.
Now I wait till the morning, finish packing a few things and get ready for the next stage – Part 2 of my journey – The Airport