The Trans-Tasman Travel Bubble

written by A. L. Hart Havens on August 1, 2021

The rapidly deteriorating state of freedom across the world has left many sane individuals wondering what national jurisdictions could potentially provide a reprieve from the endless slew of ever-present covid restrictions.

While unfortunately only a small fraction of these people will secure access to a safe haven abroad by acquiring a second citizenship or residency permit, those who fail to take timely action should feel fortunate to have any choice of jurisdiction at all as cross-border travel grows increasingly difficult.

As the covid fiasco wears on, some may argue that any remaining travel freedom would be pointless if limited solely to a nearby country with similar policies. However, such an arrangement at least offers a choice, and one that people may come to appreciate in the midst of a dire situation.

Pick Your Poison: Australia vs. New Zealand

Although the notion of a limited degree of remaining travel freedom is also conceivable for US-Canada and UK-Ireland cross-border arrangements, this essay will focus on the Trans-Tasman Travel Arrangement (TTTA) in place between the countries of Australia and New Zealand, which have shown themselves over the past year to be two of the western world’s most tyrannical governments.

The Trans-Tasman Travel Arrangement is an agreement dating back to 1973 that allows for the free movement of citizens (and some permanent residents) of Australia and New Zealand to and from the other country. Although the two countries’ rules are not perfectly aligned, the agreement can be considered reciprocal for all intents and purposes.

The TTTA effectively creates a travel bubble enabling citizens of Australia and New Zealand to visit and reside in the other country on an indefinite basis and to pursue gainful employment, study at a university, and enjoy most of the rights and privileges afforded to the host country’s citizens. Certain restrictions apply, which primarily relate to a lack of immediate access to unemployment, social security, and welfare benefits.

Australian citizens travelling to New Zealand (and vice versa) by air or sea are required to present a passport at the port of entry and to obtain a TTTA special category visa on arrival, which are granted to nearly all entrants with the exception of individuals with serious criminal records and severe health problems.

It is notable that the TTTA-related flow of migration from New Zealand to Australia is considerably stronger than from Australia to New Zealand.

The fact that both Australia and New Zealand have no land borders and are in remote locations with no nearby neighboring countries (especially New Zealand), the opportunity to travel freely between the two countries can be viewed as a small luxury in today’s uncertain times.

After having been suspended for some time following the outbreak of the coronavirus hysteria, many of the travel privileges set out under the Trans-Tasman Travel Arrangement were reinstated on April 19, 2021. More specifically, this made some Australian and New Zealand citizens residing in their home countries eligible for quarantine-free travel to the other country, with two-way quarantine-free flights available for purchase.

The reopening of the travel bubble effectively allowed citizens of the two TTTA member countries to choose between living in Australia and living in New Zealand, although this opportunity proved to be short-lived with New Zealand unilaterally imposing a suspension of the bubble that came into full effect on July 30, 2021. The suspension is set to last for an initial period of eight weeks, after which it could be extended as deemed necessary by the two governments – potentially indefinitely.

External Territories and Dependencies

It should be emphasized that the Trans-Tasman Travel Arrangement does not encompass any of Australia’s seven external territories – Christmas Island, Norfolk Island, Coral Sea Islands, Cocos (Keeling) Islands, Ashmore & Cartier Islands, Heard Island & McDonald Islands, and the Australian Antarctic Territory – or any of the four dependencies of the Realm of New Zealand – Cook Islands, Niue, Tokelau, and the Ross Dependency (Antarctica).

While these territories and dependencies are not covered by the TTTA, some have separate travel arrangements with Australia or New Zealand. This odd situation has aroused some curiosity as to whether Australians and New Zealanders could leverage the mismatch of the overlapping agreements in order to legally escape the draconian lockdowns.

Theoretically speaking, an Australian seeking to exit the country in the face of draconian exit restrictions may wish to investigate whether this could be achieved with some careful and elaborate planning, for example by first travelling to New Zealand under the TTTA rules, then continuing on to a New Zealand dependency imposing less severe restrictions, and from there leaving the Oceania region entirely.

However, in view of the complex nature of the various overlapping travel bubbles in place across the English-speaking Oceania region as well as the frequent changes, suspensions, and rule uncertainty arising from the unrelenting covid hysteria, anyone who finds himself in this situation would be wise to ascertain whether the aforementioned idea could actually constitute a workable option at a given time and more importantly whether such an endeavor may be considered illegal and/or punishable by any of the involved countries, territories, or dependencies.

A Proactive Approach to Second Residency and Citizenship

The sustained curtailment of the most basic freedoms in Australia and New Zealand is unquestionably ample reason for citizens of those countries to waste no time in exploring second residency and citizenship options in other regions of the world in order to avoid becoming literally trapped in their home country – or one very similar to it in the event that the travel bubble is ever reinstated.

In view of this disturbing predicament, citizens of Australia and New Zealand who fail to secure a second citizenship or residency permit will have zero relocation options outside of this draconian duo of unfree jurisdictions.