Travel SOS: Do I have to pay when I return from overseas?

Kim is stuck in Thailand and wants to know the rules about returning home.

Travel SOS: Do I have to pay when I return from overseas?

Kim is stuck in Thailand and wants to know the rules about returning home.


Q. Kim
I have read that the Queensland government is making travellers arriving from overseas (Australian citizens and permanent residents) and now Victorians pay their own 14-day compulsory hotel quarantine costs. The cost of the selected hotels charge is fixed (by the Queensland government) at $135 per day for the hotel room plus $65 per day, per person for food for 14 days i.e. $3710 per couple for the government's compulsory 14-day hotel internment.

How can returning travellers afford this, especially after paying highly inflated prices for the very few flights available back to their home country, Australia? The Premier of Victoria, Daniel Andrews said last week when asked by a reporter, in a TV interview aired on the ABC, that state governments had no right or legal power to make returning citizen travellers pay their own quarantine costs. This decision by the Queensland government is equivalent to making prisoners pay for their own incarceration. This sort of authoritarian government behaviour causes outrage in the local media when practised by countries like China and Russia.

My wife and I are trying to get back from Thailand and don't have the money to pay these fees. Are they even legal? What can we do in this situation?

A. While the fees are yet to be tested in a court of law, the Queensland government is certainly still charging them in the manner that you described.

If you are vulnerable or suffering from financial hardship you can apply to have all or part of the quarantine fee waived after you get the invoice.

Once the quarantine fee invoice is issued, you have 30 days to apply to have the amount waived.

You must be an Australian citizen or permanent resident to apply for the financial hardship waiver.

Eligibility is assessed against criteria including, but not exclusive to:

  • an individual is unable to meet current financial obligations (e.g. home loan, immediate living expenses)
  • unemployment or on JobKeeper/JobSeeker or another relevant Centrelink service or an Australian studying overseas
  • loss of a business entity, home or possessions due to COVID 19 or a natural disaster.

When applying under this category you will be asked to provide:

  • citizenship/residency documentation
  • bank letter or statutory declaration
  • Centrelink statement
  • other relevant documentation. e.g. bills, rate notices, debt agreements, family court documents regarding financial obligations, funeral expenses, notice of impending legal actions, international student fees and eviction notices.

If you are not eligible for a fee waiver, and you cannot pay the invoice by the due date, you can enter into a payment plan to repay it over a longer period of time than the 30 days.

The time period varies between six, 12 and 18 months, depending on the invoice balance.

Full details on how to apply for a payment plan will be on the invoice.

If your request is approved, you will be issued a payment plan agreement outlining the full terms and conditions.

Do you think it is fair to ask returning travellers to pay their own quarantine bill? Do you think this will lead to more problems?

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    To make a comment, please register or login
    25th Jul 2020
    The world is full of Ozzie dole bludgers all expecting a hand out when things go wrong and then plead to go fund me idiots to help them out...When I was in the Philippines and Thailand i was disgusted by old men on Centrlink,who started a family with a young girl and then either die or went home because they couldnt pay their medical bills
    The Thinker
    26th Jul 2020
    If you can afford to travel then you should afford and be prepared to keep yourself under all the unexpected situations that may lay ahead.
    25th Jul 2020
    There are many reasons why some Aussies haven't managed to get home yet during the pandemic and we don't know the reasons why the people in the article haven't managed to do so. Consequently, how can we judge whether they should be helped or not? All cases are different. Please include all the info in articles like this -it's not a one size fits all problem or solution.
    The Thinker
    26th Jul 2020
    Overseas Australians were provided with a reasonable deadline to return.

    They should face the consequences. I notice most of them weren't born in Australia.
    Karl Marx
    25th Jul 2020
    Before people make comment especially negative comment read below article.
    Also any forced quarantine costs should not be past onto anyone. What right does any government have for forcing people against their will to be made to pay cost. Governments are not forcing people already in Australia with symptoms etc into forced quarantine then making them pay or making them pay. I understand why they are doing forced quarantine but governments should be footing the bill. And most returnees are Australian already paying taxes state & federal so that reasoning doesn't hold water either
    Link to article
    25th Jul 2020
    If you can't pay stay where you are. You aren't using my taxes.
    The Thinker
    26th Jul 2020
    I agree
    25th Jul 2020
    I totally agree that those coming into Australia should pay for their quarantine. The amount they are supposed to pay is disgusting LOW. The amount should be double that price at least and should have no exceptions. These bludger had plenty of warnings and time to get out of the country they were in and back to Australia. Now they have finally decided to come back they expect Australia to pay the bill. No way. The borders are closed and you should have to stay out until the world is virus free. So many free loading bludger come into our country and expect everything for nothing. No Stay OUT.
    Karl Marx
    25th Jul 2020
    Read this article

    & what makes you think that everyone that wants or needs to come back into Australia are bludgers.
    The Thinker
    26th Jul 2020
    Everyone that wants or needs to come back into Australia is exploiting the generosity of the nation.

    The majority of these Australians were not born here and have been enjoying the benefits their original countries don't provide to their citizens.
    25th Jul 2020
    Perthwmn a few months ago I might have listened to you but since then a young friend who went to the UK last August to do a Masters degree has had a marriage break up. Her Aussie husband is staying in the UK as he has a job but she wants to come home. She has no money and her parents are paying for her very expensive airfare. There are many reasons why people have left it 'late'. It's not always about laziness or being a bludger.
    25th Jul 2020
    There will always be individual sob stories but why does that mean the taxpayer has to pick up the bill for the choices they made?
    Karl Marx
    25th Jul 2020
    Because KSS it's the government forcing them into quarantine & making them pay so it's not their choice & why should they have to pay when they should be given the choice to self isolate in their own homes or homes of relatives or friends.
    How many of those in hot spots in Melbourne or Sydney that have proven positive or made to self isolate because some goose has broken the rules etc. Are they made to pay the bill for extra policing & now the added cost of the ADF.
    I would also say that the very high majority returning are or have been Australian taxpayers
    The Thinker
    26th Jul 2020
    flowerpot this young lady could come to some agreement with her parted husband and ride it out or her parents can pay for her return.

    Her situation is not really desperate.
    26th Jul 2020
    Karl Marx it is HER choice first to go to the UK and second to come back now. She does NOT have to come back now if she doesn't want to or can't pay. She clearly has somewhere to live in the UK and has been there since this COVID-19 problem started. She chose to stay well beyond the last flights back. Her circumstances are NOT the Government's nor the tax payer's problem.
    25th Jul 2020
    NSW is also charging returnees at the rate of $3000 for one adult and $1000 for the second. $500 for each of two children too.

    Personally I agree with this. There has been more than four months to return, mercy flights provided from many areas, warnings to citizens to return. If thise warnings were not heeded and they effectively chose to remain where they were especially those living permenantly or long term overseas then why should the tax payer pick up their bill any more? Time to settle your own bills now.
    25th Jul 2020
    One part of your article needs clarification, I understand that prisoners with the means to do so, can be required to contribute to the cost of their incarceration.
    As for hotel quarantine it has been months since borders were closed and quarantine imposed for returning travellers. If you chose, for whatever reason, not to return when quarantine was provided at taxpayers expense then you have to pay the bill now. All of us in quarantine, whether imposed or voluntary, have to pay our own costs, why not returning travellers.
    25th Jul 2020
    Totally agree with “ Gerry” sick and tired of this entitlement attitude.
    We also lived in Thailand and experienced the exact same issue with bludging Aussie expats.
    We had just started a 3 week paid in advance Asian holiday just before the situation deteriorated . Had been monitoring things and decided to swallow the cost and return to Aus.
    So did our expat son in Bali ..but most of his bogan mates stayed on ..and are still there!.
    We also have expat children working in Singapore so have a pretty good feel for what goes on and the attitude of a lot of Aussie travellers .
    End of day sympathy at all..these people should take responsibility for their own life style decisions ..not me the tax payer.
    If you have a legitimate case , then of course, put it forward...if not ..then stop your winging
    25th Jul 2020
    Similar to the Lebanon and Israel uprising over or about 10-20 years ago when the Department of Immigration, I believe checked, to find out that approx 2500 people had gone to Lebanon. These Australian Citizens wanted to return to Ozz.
    I believe applications were received from approx 25,000 people wanting to return.
    When the going id going well no problems when it goes bad then everyone wants to get out.
    I may be wrong so what has changed now apart that there may not be any planes available
    26th Jul 2020
    It depends why they are coming home now, as to whether they should pay for quarantine or not.

    If they went OS after the pandemic started, they should definitively pay. If they were OS on holidays in March when told by the government to come home and they chose not to, they should definitely pay. But if they live OS and have to come back to Australia for an unexpected reason / emergency, they shouldn’t have to pay.
    The Thinker
    26th Jul 2020
    Australians that choose to work overseas do so because the jobs pay well. Therefore they should pay for their return.
    26th Jul 2020
    There are hundreds of reasons why people work overseas. It’s not always about money.
    Anyway, I don’t think it should be about what people can afford, it should be about whether their reason for being overseas at this time is irresponsible or not.
    Country John
    26th Jul 2020
    Some of you people have got no idea at all what you are talking about. I got caught overseas, ran out of medications and was over a month late returning. I had to pay more than double the normal price for a return ticket. I did my 2 weeks in a motel with no fresh air and sub standard food.
    I think unless you know what you are talking about you should shut your mouth. You might be entitled to your opinion but travellers are also allowed to return here without a barrage of insults greating them. That is not the Australian way. That is not the humane way when you insult a person's intelligence. Many are still overseas for the simple reason THERE ARE NO FLIGHTS FROM SOME COUNTRIES. We have Qantas sitting on the ground taking tax payers money to start up after the pandemic and are doing nothing to help out the Aussies trying to get home. Disgusted with Qantas and people like yourself making stupid comments that you know nothing about.

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