A number of dual citizens applying for travel exemptions have complained to Neos Kosmos regarding the rejection of their applications despite falling into categories which would allow them to travel, others have also noted delays in processing times.
An Australian Border Force (ABF) spokesperson told Neos Kosmos that the relevant authorities “seek to process exemption requests as quickly as possible” despite high volumes.
Requests are processed based on the intended date of travel and “any compelling or compassionate circumstances for travel”.
“Urgent and complete requests are able to be finalised within 48 hours as required,” the spokesman said. “Other complete requests are typically processed within two or four weeks.”
Melissa Archey contacted Neos Kosmos following an article on long waiting times and groundless rejections. She had originally applied for an exemption on 22 April in order to take care of her parents in the United States who both suffer from Parkinson’s Disease. She received an immediate response on 23 April rejecting her request due to lack of documentation. “They required birth certificate to establish relationship to my parents, a doctor’s letter, and evidence that no one else is available to provide care. I then resubmitted on 1 May and have yet to hear anything in response,” she said, adding that her tentative travel date was 1 July and is currently in limbo until receiving a response.
Con Paivanas, 83, also had to resubmit his application after being turned down due to lack of documentation that he had sold his house to live his retirement in Greece with his wife, who is already in Athens. Without any of his belongings, he is trapped in Australia until flights resume to Greece on 15 June. “I have sent a translation of my relocation documents and storage of goods in Greece,” he told Neos Kosmos.
The gathering of documentation is tedious but government authorities warn that these are necessary for applications to be approved. Sources told Neos Kosmos that a number of rejections were due to application errors.
Ms Archey supports the approach the country has taken to ensure the safety and health of its citizens during a global pandemic but points out that there are “other options to controlling the outbreak beyond simply holding its citizens hostage” and states her surprise that this is not viewed as “an infringement on the civil liberties” of Australians. “If it starts here, where will it stop?” she wonders.
The ABF stated that the rules in place are necessary. “These decisions are not taken lightly, but the government’s priority is to protect the Australian community against the COVID-19 pandemic,” the ABF spokesman said.
Once applications are submitted the ABF and the Department of Home Affairs’ systems check all travel documents and immigration status, including for dual passport holders. They advise dual citizens to submit all documentation in full to prove their grounds for leaving, and to show patience as processing is prioritised according to urgency and date of travel.
On another note, dual citizens who are permanent residents of other countries do not need to apply for a travel exemption, however permanent residents of Australia are banned from leaving the country on a foreign passport without a travel exemption.