All visitors – with the exception of New Zealand citizens – require a visa before travelling.
If you are entering for a stay of less than 90 days, you can apply for three types of visa depending on your nationality.
- Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) Subclass 601 is available online for nationals of Brunei, Canada, Hong Kong SAR, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea (ROK), Taiwan and the United States. There is a $20 service fee. This fee can sometimes be waived if you obtain your ETA through a travel agent when you book your trip with them. Some online agents can also sell ETAs.
- eVisitor (subclass 651) for citizens of the European Union, the EEA, Switzerland and some European micro-states. These visas are free of charge, but otherwise virtually identical to the ETA. You need to apply online.
- Visitor visa (subclass 600). Passport holders from 55 countries, including all countries eligible for ETA and eVisitor, as well as Argentina, Bahrain, Brazil, Chile, Kuwait, Maldives, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates can apply online. Other nationalities must apply using the paper form and may need to visit an embassy or visa processing centre.
Like the ETA and eVisitor, a Visitor 600 is issued by default for a three-month stay. Unlike the other options, however, a 600 visa can be issued for a longer stay of up to one year. However, immigration is somewhat reluctant to approve tourist visas for more than three months, regardless of the legitimacy of your reasons for such a long stay. You will probably be asked to provide a lot of documentation about the reason for your visit and your links to your home country, and you may have to attend an interview. Depending on your nationality, the embassy or visa processing centre may also require you to have an Australian sponsor before issuing your visa. The fee is $110. ETAs and eVisitors are valid for multiple entries within a 12-month period. If you qualify for both, it may be easier to stay for the three months you originally planned, go to New Zealand, Singapore, Thailand or another country accessible on a budget airline for a few days, and then return – restarting the 90-day clock. However, if you do this more than once, immigration might get suspicious, so be careful if you go this route.
There is a special arrangement for parents of Australians, including permanent residents. The 600 visa can be valid for 18 months, three years or five years and allows a maximum stay of 12 months in an 18-month period, depending on the circumstances.
In most cases, ETAs and eVisitors are approved immediately and the visa is issued and ready to use. If you need more information, you may be asked to return to the application system later to see if your application has been approved. In the worst case, your application will be forwarded for manual review, which can take weeks. It is best to submit your application in advance, just in case.
If you are travelling to Australia for work, study or medical treatment, you need to check that you have the right type of visa as a tourist visa may not be sufficient. If you do not comply with the conditions of your visa or plan to do so, you may face cancellation of your visa, deportation and/or a debarment period.
For all categories of tourist visa, you must be able to demonstrate that you are able to support yourself financially for the time you intend to spend in Australia and that you meet the character requirements. If you have a criminal conviction, contact an Australian embassy or visa processing centre before applying or making travel arrangements.
If you are in transit through Australia, remain in the air for a maximum of 8 hours, have a confirmed reservation, have the correct entry documents for your next destination and are a citizen of New Zealand, the European Union, Andorra, Argentina, Brunei, Canada, Cyprus, the Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Iceland, Indonesia, Japan, Kiribati, Liechtenstein, Malaysia, Mexico, Monaco, Nauru, Norway, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Samoa, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, South Africa, South Korea (ROK), Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, Tonga, Tuvalu, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom (regardless of citizenship status), United States, Vanuatu or Vatican City, you do not need to apply for a visa in advance. All other passengers travelling through Australia must apply for a free transit visa (subclass 771) before departure.
New Zealand citizens can travel and work in Australia without a visa for the duration of their stay – they will be issued with a Special Category Visa for New Zealand Citizens (subclass 444) on arrival. Permanent residents who are not New Zealand citizens are not eligible for visa-free entry. New Zealand citizens may still be refused entry due to criminal convictions; they should seek advice from an Australian diplomatic mission before travelling.
At some airports, visitors with citizenship from Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, Singapore, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States can use SmartGate to obtain automatic entry clearance when entering Australia. Note that using SmartGate does not exempt you from visa requirements.
When you leave Australia, you need to fill in a form similar to the one you received when you arrived. It asks, among other things, how long you have been in Australia, in which state, where you will be going next. If you are a permanent resident or citizen, the answers may be used for future tax purposes, so answer the questions carefully!
Customs and quarantine
Australia has strict quarantine regulations for importing animal and plant products (any food, wood products, seeds, etc.). You must declare all such material, even if the items are allowed, and luggage is often scanned and can be examined by dogs. You can be fined $220 on the spot if you accidentally fail to declare, or even prosecuted in serious cases. Declared material will be examined and may be retained, disposed of, returned to you or quarantined at your expense, depending on the circumstances. Chocolate and other processed and sealed confectionery are generally permitted after declaration and inspection, as are reasonable quantities of infant food with an accompanying infant. Different rules apply depending on the country of origin of the food as well as the state you are entering Australia.
Travellers aged 18 and over are allowed to import up to 2.25 litres of alcoholic beverages and up to 50 cigars or 50 grams of other tobacco products (including cigars) into Australia duty free. These items may not be imported by persons under 18 years of age, and travellers who exceed their allowance must pay tax on all goods in this category, not just the amount that exceeds the allowance.
Certain shells, corals and items made from a protected species are also banned to prevent trade in items that may come from an endangered ecosystem or species.
Although there is no limit to the amount of money that can be brought into or taken out of the country, Australian Customs requires you to declare if you are bringing $10,000 (Australian) or more (or the foreign currency equivalent) into or out of the country and you must complete certain documents. If you do not make a declaration, you can be arrested and the money confiscated.