Visa saga: Djokovic admits to incorrect travel declaration, not isolating while COVID-positive

Novak Djokovic says
Novak Djokovic says "human error" was to blame for providing incorrect information on his travel declaration to enter Australia. Picture: Getty Images

Novak Djokovic says "human error" was to blame for providing incorrect information on his travel declaration form to enter Australia.

Djokovic has also insisted he hadn't received a positive COVID-19 test result before he attended a children's tennis awards event late last year, although he has admitted to taking part in a face-to-face media interview and photoshoot after his diagnosis was confirmed.

The world No. 1 published a statement on social media to "clarify misinformation" as he fought to defend his reputation and remain in Australia.

Immigration Minister Alex Hawke has now delayed a decision on whether to recancel Djokovic's visa as he considers evidence from Djokovic's team.

That means the saga will drag on until at least Thursday, just four days out from the start of the Australian Open.

Djokovic has resumed preparations for the Australian Open after the Federal Circuit Court overruled the government's decision last week to cancel the tennis star's visa.

But the 34-year-old could still be sent packing from Australia if Mr Hawke chooses to intervene.

Former Immigration Department deputy secretary Abul Rizvi told The Canberra Times the government would be "mad" to deport Djokovic now, as it would further inflame and prolong the global media storm surrounding the visa saga and expose taxpayers to another legal challenge.

The saga took a major twist on Tuesday after evidence emerged suggesting Djokovic had lied on his travel declaration form to enter Australia.

Court documents published by the Federal Circuit Court showed Djokovic told authorities he had not travelled in the 14 days before he flew from Spain to Melbourne via Dubai on January 4.

However, footage has since emerged showing Djokovic in Serbia on Christmas Day, meaning he had travelled within the two-week window.

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Providing false or misleading information to the Commonwealth can lead to visa cancellation or other criminal penalties.

In a statement posted to his Instagram account, Djokovic confirmed his support team had submitted the declaration on his behalf.

He said his agent "sincerely apologises" for the "administrative mistake" of ticking the wrong box on the travel form.

"This was a human error and certainly not deliberate," Djokovic's post read.

"We are living in challenging times in a global pandemic and sometimes these mistakes can occur."

The nine-time Australian Open champion said his team had on Wednesday provided further information to the federal government to "clarify this matter".

Just moments before Djokovic's post went live, a spokesman for Mr Hawke confirmed no decision on a possible visa cancellation would be made on Wednesday.

The spokesman said Djokovic's team had provided "lengthy" additional submissions and documents related to the case, although he didn't clarify if that was a reference to the travel declaration.

"Naturally, this [provision of extra information] will affect the time frame for [the] decision," the spokesman said.

Djokovic also used the post to respond to what he described as "continuing misinformation" surrounding his movements after he tested positive to COVID-19 last December.

"This is information which needs to be corrected, particularly in the interest of alleviating broader concern in the community about my presence in Australia, and to address matters which are very hurtful and concerning to my family," he said in the post.

"I want to emphasise that I have tried very hard to ensure the safety of everyone and my compliance with testing obligations."

Djokovic's recent bout of the virus was the grounds upon which he sought an exemption to enter Australia unvaccinated against COVID-19.

Djokovic's positive test was taken on December 16, according to court documents published online last weekend.

Photos quickly emerged of a maskless Djokovic attending a children's tennis event in Belgrade on December 17, prompting a wave of public outrage.

In the post, Djokovic set out his version of events.

He said he took both a rapid antigen test and a PCR test on December 16 after attending a basketball match in Belgrade two days earlier. The home test was negative, he said.

Djokovic said the following day (December 17) he took another home test, which was negative, before he attended the children's tennis event.

He said he was asymptomatic and "felt good", and only received the result of the positive PCR test after the event.

Djokovic said he cancelled all of his commitments scheduled for December 18, except for an interview and photoshoot with French newspaper L'Équipe.

He said that on reflection participating in the interview was an "error of judgment".

The 20-time grand slam champion, who has been training at Melbourne Park since being freed from detention, said he would not make further statements out of the "utmost respect for the Australian government and their authorities and current process".

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This story Djokovic admits to incorrect travel declaration, not isolating while COVID-positive first appeared on The Canberra Times.