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Since March 2020, it has not been possible for an Australian passport holder to leave Australia without applying for an exemption. However from April 19 2021 this will change slightly in that it will be possible for Australian passport holders to travel to New Zealand without needing an exemption. Furthermore, upon arrival in New Zealand there will be no need to quarantine.

Given that New Zealand does not have the same strict exit controls as Australia (ie anyone can leave the country without needing to apply for exemptions), does this mean that an Australian passport holder can now travel to any country (that will let them in) without applying for an exemption from the Australian Government as long as they transit through New Zealand?

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Strictly speaking, no.

The link to the Department's web page for exit requirements about travel to New Zealand contains this note:

Note: This provision is only applicable when New Zealand is the destination of travel. If you are transiting through New Zealand to another destination you must apply for an outward travel exemption.

In practice, once you have landed in New Zealand the Australian Government cannot stop you from leaving New Zealand to another country, which the media has described as a "loophole". However, you may find it difficult to obtain assistance to return to Australia if you are caught breaking the rules.

Furthermore, breaching the exit ban may constitute a criminal offence under section 479 of the Biosecurity Act 2015, punishable by up to 5 years' imprisonment.

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