Grounded or Unfounded?: Can You Travel Overseas If You’re Bankrupt?

Some people worry about the restrictions of being bankrupt, particularly whether they can  travel overseas.


If you’re one of those people, then you’ll pleased to know you can travel overseas, as long as you get permission from your trustee beforehand. As long as you’re complying with your Bankruptcy, the Trustee shouldn’t have an issue with you travelling.

But there’s more to it than just calling your trustee and asking for permission to travel.

You’ll need to complete a “Request for Permission to Travel Overseas Whilst Bankrupt” form, and provide details such as:

  • Where you got the money to travel. If you can show the trustee you saved the money for the trip while bankrupt, or that someone else is paying for the trip, you should be fine.
  • Where you’re going, when you’re leaving and when you’ll return.
  • Your reason for travelling (e.g. a condition of your employment, for compassionate reasons, or for a holiday).
  • Whether any income contributions (compulsory sums from your income to repay your creditors) you’ve been assessed to pay will be paid before you go.

While you can have a passport, if your trustee asks you to hand it in you must give it to them.

Your trustee may refuse to give you permission to travel if:

  • You haven’t carried out all of your obligations under the Bankruptcy Act
  • You need to help the trustee administer the bankruptcy
  • Your trustee has not completed their investigations.

Important note

As someone who is bankrupt you must not:

  • leave Australia without written permission
  • leave with permission but fail to return.

If you do, your trustee may lodge an objection to the bankruptcy discharge and extend the bankruptcy period to five years from the date you return to Australia.

Leaving Australia (or trying to leave) without the written consent of your trustee is an offence under the Bankruptcy Act, and can result in up to three years’ imprisonment. Breaching a travel condition imposed by your trustee is also an offence under the Act, and the penalty can be up to 12 months’ imprisonment.

How do you ask for permission to travel overseas?

As soon as you know you may need to leave Australia, you should contact your trustee and discuss your situation. You should then write to your trustee giving:

  • the reasons for the proposed trip
  • the names of the countries you propose to visit
  • the date you intend to leave Australia
  • the date you intend to return to Australia
  • the name of the person paying for the trip, the cost of the trip and a confirmation letter from that person (if someone else is paying for it)
  • an email address, telephone number and overseas address where your trustee can contact you
  • your current annual income
  • your proposed arrangements for paying any contribution liability while overseas.

Make sure you give your trustee adequate time and information to consider your request.

Your trustee will then advise you of their decision, and any conditions being placed on your travel.

If you aren’t satisfied with their decision, try to resolve your concerns with them directly first. If you’re still not satisfied with their decision after speaking to them, you may apply to the Federal Court or the Federal Circuit Court of Australia for a review. (Seek legal advice before doing this.)

Being bankrupt doesn’t always mean you’re grounded. But you need to communicate with your trustee, and let them know your plans as soon as possible.

And hopefully, the process will go just as smoothly as your trip.