Who needs to know?
If you’re visiting Australia from the US, Canada, Japan, the UK (and many other countries) you will probably need paperwork to enter Australia. If you have an Australia or New Zealand passport (eg: through residence or dual citizenship) then no problemo: you sail through immigration in Australia with no additional paperwork. Provided you’ve been acceptably behaved.
For everyone else, you will need a visa or electronic equivalent. The good news is that applications may be done online, take 24 hours or less to approve, and are painless.
What you don’t want: to be surprised at the border if the paperwork is not in place.
There are TWO types of visa for which you might apply as a visitor:
- The eVisitor visa (subclass 651) This can be done 100% electronically, and is free. This visa class applies largely to citizens of countries in Europe.
- The Electronic Travel Authority (subclass 601) For countries on the electronic support list (which includes Brunei, Canada, Hong Kong (SAR of China), Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea and United States) you can apply electronically and the process is fully online. Citizens of other countries may need to consult a travel agent for assistance.
If you have any doubts or questions about the process, the advice on the www.immi.gov.au website is to contact your nearest immigration office outside Australia.
Clarifying fine print
- for citizens of countries on the 651 list, there is no charge for the application or processing.
- the 601 visa is a fully electronic process (and you don’t need a travel agent) only for citizens of the countries mentioned above
- the 601 is NOT fully electronic for citizens of other countries and you’ll possibly need a travel agent to assist
The 601 visa is actually applicable to citizens of a very large number of (if not all) countries including many (or all) of those countries on the 651 list. In other words, if you are on the 651 list you could still apply for a 601 visa and the application might succeed, even though you are 651-eligible. You will have to pay the fee though.
So clearly, if you’re eligible for a 651 visa, that’s the smarter option because it’s quick and free.
Arrival in Australia
When you arrive in Australia, the Immigration formality process in Australia is generally uber-quick. If you have an e-Passport (with the microchip) then you are probably eligible to use the electronic immigration lines. That’s even faster. Check with a helpful agent as you approach the lines.
Depending on the time of arrival, if your bags are priority tagged then they may arrive at the carousel before you do and you might take only 15 minutes to get from stepping out of the plane to being at the taxi rank.
Note to US citizens: if you think the Australian visa process is annoying, just consider that you’ll never have to fill in the forms that get you into the US as a citizen of somewhere else. And be grateful.