The visa policy of Australia deals with the requirements which a foreign national wishing to enter Australia must meet to obtain a visa, which is a permit to travel, to enter and remain in the country. Visa rules are set out in the Migration Act 1958 and the Migration Regulations, which are administered by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection.
Australia maintains a universal visa regime, meaning that every non-citizen in Australia must have a visa, either as a result of an application, or one granted automatically by law. As of 2015 there is no intention to provide visa free access for any country, however Australia gives a visitor visa exemption to:
In addition to the citizens of 45 eVisitor and ETA eligible countries and the citizens of New Zealand who may need to apply for a Visitor visa, the citizens of all other countries may apply for the Visitor visa online, except citizens of Somalia. Citizens of 34 countries are officially considered low risk.
Since 1 September 2015, Australia ceased to issue visa labels on visa holders' passports, and all visas are issued and recorded on a central database. Visa records can only be accessed through Visa Entitlement Verification Online (VEVO), a digital verification service provided by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection.
1 – must apply for this visa outside Australia.
2 – can apply for this visa in or outside Australia.
Visa formats in Australia have changed over the years. Australia was possibly one of the first countries to replace ink based stamps with more secure stick-on labels in the 1970s.
In 1987, the Department of Immigration initiated a scheme which saw the utilization of computers to process visitor visa applications in overseas Australian missions for the first time.
In 1990, a second generation of the Immigration Records and Information System (IRIS II) was introduced as a replacement of the original 1987 scheme. At the time, IRIS II was the most advanced visa processing system in the world, simplifying immigration clearance processes at airports and enabling across-the-counter visa issue at the Australian diplomatic missions.
In 1996, the Electronic Travel Authority system (ETA) was launched. The system allows visas to be issued electronically and linked to the applicant's passport, eliminating paper application forms. Australia was the first country in the world to launch electronic visas.
Australia officially ceased the issuance of visa stickers on 1 September 2015, and all visas are issued and recorded electronically.
eVisitor and Electronic Travel Authority (ETA) are authorisations for entry to Australia available to holders of certain passports. Established in 1996 to remove the need for some people to apply for full visas, they can be applied for online, or (for ETAs) through travel agents, airlines, specialist service providers or Australian visa offices. Electronic tourist visas (class 600) are processed by Australian visa offices and consulates outside Australia, and citizens of most countries in the world can apply online. Their applications may be granted in a matter of minutes if a requested period of stay is three months or less and no further information or checking is required. In other cases, the application will be manually processed by a case officer.
The eVisitor was introduced on 27 October 2008, replacing an older eVisa system, to create a reciprocal short stay travel arrangement for nationals of Australia and the European Union, while still maintaining the universal visa system. On 23 March 2013 the business and tourist purpose eVisitors visas were merged into a single application. The eVisitor is available to citizens of all 28 European Union member states and 8 other European countries that are part of the Schengen Area.
The eVisitor is issued free of charge and allows a stay of up to 3 months at a time in a 12-month period for tourism or business purposes. At the time of travel to, and entry into, Australia, all holders of an eVisitor must be free from tuberculosis and must not have any criminal convictions for which the sentence or sentences (whether served or not) total 12 months or more.
Holders of the following passports are eligible:
1 - For British passport holders, only British citizens are eligible to apply for eVisitor.
The grant rate of eVisitor has been consistently high over the years, never dropping below 98.7%. In the last quarter of 2016 the lowest approval rates for tourism applications were for the citizens of Romania (81.2%), Bulgaria (82.6%), Croatia (86.6%) and Latvia (92.8%) with all other countries having a grant rate above 95%. The eVisitor in 2013 was granted automatically to 85.8% of applicants but the rates differed significantly among countries. The lowest automatically granted rates in the 4th quarter were for the citizens of Bulgaria (16.2%), Romania (18.3%), Czech Republic (58.6%), Lithuania (59.3%), Slovakia (66.3%), Latvia (62.4%), Poland (71.6%) and Hungary (77.7%) with all other countries having an automatic grant rate above 80%.
In 2014 Bulgaria, Cyprus and Romania notified the European Commission that they consider Australia requires a visa for their citizens. If the notification is accepted, the EU may suspend the visa exemption for certain categories of Australian nationals and may suspend the reciprocal visa-free access to all Australian citizens.
Development of the ETA system commenced in January 1996. It was first implemented in Singapore on a trial basis on 11 September 1996, for holders of Singapore and US passports travelling on Qantas and Singapore Airlines. Implementation of online applications began in June 2001. The current ETA came into effect on 23 March 2013 replacing older ETAs (subclass 976, 977 and 956) while offering a single authorization for both tourist and business purposes.
The ETA allows the holder to visit Australia for unlimited times, up to 3 months per visit, in a 12-month period for tourism or business purposes. There is no visa application charge but a service charge of AU$20 applies for applications lodged online. At the time of travel to, and entry into, Australia, all holders of an ETA must be free from tuberculosis and must not have any criminal convictions for which the sentence or sentences (whether served or not) total 12 months or more.
Holders of the following passports can apply online:
Nationals of Taiwan holding passports with National ID number can also apply for the ETA but solely through one of the approved travel agents in Taiwan or an Australian visa office outside Australia. Citizens of Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom (British Citizens and British Nationals (Overseas) only) and the Vatican City may also apply for the ETA instead of eVisitor but solely through a travel agent, airline, specialist service provider or an Australian visa office outside Australia.
Since November 2012, visa labels in passport have not been required, but were issued at a request for a fee. As of September 2015 the possibility to obtain a visa label is no longer available and records are accessible only online through the Visa Entitlement Verification Online (VEVO) service.
On 23 March 2013, a new Visitor visa (subclass 600) replaced the previous Tourist visa (subclass 676).
In the 4th quarter of 2013 the automatic grant rate for electronically lodged applications outside Australia stood at 28.3%. Previously the rate ranged from 20.4% to 63.2%.
A special purpose visa is a visa exemption given by operation of law to certain non-citizens in Australia to whom standard visa and immigration clearance arrangements do not apply. It effectively exempts certain persons from the normal processes for entry into Australia. These include members of the Royal Family and the members of the Royal party, guests of Government, SOFA forces members including civilian component members, Asia‑Pacific forces members, Commonwealth forces members, foreign armed forces dependents, foreign naval forces members, airline positioning crew members and airline crew members, eligible transit passengers, persons visiting Macquarie Island, eligible children born in Australia and Indonesian traditional fishermen visiting the Territory of Ashmore and Cartier Islands.
Some travelers do not need a Transit visa (subclass 771) if they depart Australia by air within 8 hours of the scheduled time of their arrival, hold confirmed onward booking and documentation necessary to enter the country of their destination and remain in the transit lounge at an airport (i.e. they do not need to clear immigration in order to re-check their luggage).
Holders of the following passports can transit through Australia under this arrangement:
A Transit visa is required for Gold Coast airport, and for Cairns airport and Sydney airport if staying overnight. Transit without a visa through Adelaide applies only to passengers departing on the same aircraft unless advance notice is given by the airline. In addition, those who need to leave the transit lounge for any reason must hold a valid Australian visa.
Residents of thirteen coastal villages in Papua New Guinea are permitted to enter the 'Protected Zone' of the Torres Strait (part of Queensland) for traditional purposes. This exemption from passport control is part of a treaty between Australia and Papua New Guinea negotiated when PNG became independent from Australia in 1975. Full list was determined in 2000 and includes the following 13 villages – Bula, Mari, Jarai, Tais, Buji/Ber, Sigabadaru, Mabadauan, Old Mawatta, Ture Ture, Kadawa, Katatai, Parama and Sui. They can make traditional visits (free movement without passports) as far as 10 degrees 30 minutes South latitude (near Number One Reef). Australian traditional inhabitants come from the following villages – Badu, Boigu, Poruma (Coconut Island), Erub (Darnley Island), Dauan, Kubin, St Pauls, Mabuiag, Mer (Murray Island), Saibai, Ugar (Stephen Island), Warraber (Sue Island), Iama (Yam Island) and Masig (Yorke Island). They can make traditional visits to the Papua New Guinea Treaty Villages and travel north as far as the 9 degrees South latitude (just north of Daru). Vessels from other parts of Papua New Guinea and other countries attempting to cross into Australia or Australian waters are stopped by Australian Customs or the Royal Australian Navy.
SmartGate is an automated border processing system being introduced by the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service and New Zealand Customs Service. The SmartGate is available to eligible to holders of ePassports issued by the following jurisdictions aged 16 or over:
Holders of passports issued by the following countries who possess an APEC Business Travel Card (ABTC) containing the "AUS" code on the reverse that it is valid for travel to Australia can enter visa-free for business trips for up to 90 days.
ABTCs are issued to nationals of:
The number of temporary entrants and New Zealand citizens physically present in Australia is estimated every three months by identifying those who have entered Australia and those who have neither left nor granted permanent residency.
|Temporary visa holders||30 September 2014||30 September 2015||% Change||% of Total|
|New Zealand (Special Category 444) visa||657,210||661,550||0.7||35.4|
|Temporary Skilled visa||196,930||186,810||-5.1||10.0|
|Working Holiday Maker visa||151,220||144,450||-4.5||7.7|
|Other Temporary visa||47,210||52,190||10.5||2.8|
|Temporary Graduate visa||21,970||25,520||16.2||1.4|
Non-citizens who remain in Australia after their visa has expired are termed overstayers. Official government sources put the number of visa overstayers in Australia at approximately 50,000. This has been the official number of undocumented immigrants for about 25 years and is considered to be low. Other sources have placed it at up to 100,000, but no detailed study has been completed to quantify this number, which could be significantly higher.
The government calculates a "Modified Non-Return Rate" of the people who arrive on a Visitor visa granted outside Australia, but do not depart before their visa expires. It is considered when assessing visa applications as an indicator of Visitor visa compliance.
|Antigua and Barbuda||0.00||0.00||0.00|
|Brunei Darussalam2 3||0.74||0.35||0.62|
|Central African Republic||N/A4||0.00||0.00|
|China, People's Republic of||0.39||0.32||0.29|
|Democratic Republic of Congo||2.99||5.33||7.27|
|Hong Kong SAR2 3||0.57||0.72||0.65|
|Korea, Democratic People's Republic of||0.00||0.00||0.00|
|Korea, Republic of2 3||0.89||1.02||1.02|
|Papua New Guinea||1.31||0.86||0.82|
|San Marino1 3||0.00||0.00||2.42|
|Sao Tome & Principe||N/A4||0.00||N/A4|
|Serbia and Montenegro||0.00||0.00||0.00|
|Saint Kitts and Nevis||0.00||0.00||0.00|
|Saint Vincent and the Grenadines||0.00||0.00||0.00|
|Trinidad and Tobago||0.95||0.31||1.04|
|UN Convention Refugee||9.19||4.40||2.63|
|United Arab Emirates||0.31||0.38||0.34|
|United Kingdom1 3||0.68||0.69||0.58|
|United Nations Organisation||0.00||0.97||0.00|
|United States of America2 3||0.74||0.73||0.51|
|Vatican City1 3||0.00||0.00||0.00|
1 - eVisitor eligible
2 - online ETA eligible
3 - officially considered low risk
4 - N/A indicates that no arrivals were recorded for this citizenship during the reporting period
On 1 June 2013, the Migration Amendment (Reform of Employer Sanctions) Act 2013 commenced and put the onus on businesses to ensure that their employees maintain the necessary work entitlements in Australia. The new legislation enables the Department of Immigration and Border Protection to levy infringement notices against business (AUD $15,300) and individual (AUD $3,060) employers on a strict liability basis – meaning that there is no requirement to prove fault, negligence or intention.
Whilst citizens of all Member States of the European Union and Schengen associated countries are entitled to use the eVisitor system since 27 October 2008, the European Commission is still assessing whether the eVisitor visa fully satisfies reciprocity requirements. In its Seventh report on certain third countries' maintenance of visa requirements in breach of the principle of reciprocity from 2012, the European Commission found that in principle, the eVisitor provides equal treatment of the citizens of all Member States and Schengen associated countries. However, while the average autogrant rate was high (86.36%), the quarterly reports on eVisitor application statistics showed that applications by citizens of some Member States are mainly processed manually. Autogrant rates for Bulgaria and Romania were at just 18% and 23%, as the majority of applications were sent for additional examination. The Commission therefore engaged to continue to closely monitor the processing of eVisitor applications. The Commission would submit its assessment of whether eVisitor is equivalent to the Schengen visa application process in a separate document in parallel with the assessment of the Final Rule on ESTA. Currently the Schengen Area does not have visa requirements in place for short-term stays of Australian nationals. The United Kingdom and Ireland are exempt from this particular EU policy, but still do not impose any short-term visa requirements on Australians.
In 2014 Bulgaria, Cyprus and Romania, which are not yet part of the Schengen Area, notified the European Commission that they considered Australia's low rate of automatically-granted eVisitor authorisations for their citizens tantamount to a normal visa requirement for their citizens. Implications are that if the notification is accepted the EU may suspend the visa exemption for certain categories of Australian nationals and at the latest six months after publication of the regulation, the Commission may decide to suspend the visa-free access to all Australian citizens.
Some countries regard the ETA as being equivalent to visa-free travel when deciding whether to grant the same to Australians wishing to enter their territory. The United States, for example, offers their Visa Waiver Program to Australian passport-holders, and one of the conditions for joining this scheme is that "Governments provide reciprocal visa-free travel for U.S. citizens for 90 days for tourism or business purposes". However, United States require from January 2009 similar ETA from citizens of Australia and some more countries. This system is not called visa, but Electronic System for Travel Authorization, therefore the USA still allows visa-free travel for Australians. As of December 1998, Japan has also granted visa-free access to Australians. Other ETA eligible countries and territories Canada, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore and South Korea (90 days) and Taiwan (30 days) also grant visa-free access to Australians while Brunei grants Australians a 30-day visa on arrival.
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