Recently (today in fact) I have had the stress of trying to quickly obtain a visa for visiting Australia, and it was not an easy process to figure out; so I thought I’d give you a quick run down of the process I went through.
Please note .. I am not a licensed or registered immigration advisor. Visa conditions change all the time, so if planning on a trip to Australia for any reason, visit the Department of Immigration and Citizenship at http://www.immi.gov.au/
During my first trip to Australia in 2011, my visa was arranged by the travel agent (Thomas Cook, in the UK) at the time; and so I have no idea what was required at the time. All I knew was I had to pay £15 ($30 NZ) (which was more likely an admin fee). I am not currently a fan of travel agents right now , so to save money, I would try and gain your own visa independently.
My last trip to Australia was in October for five days. About one month beforehand, I looked up the latest visa information on the immigration website. At the time, I was able to apply for a an electronic visa (tourist visa) subclass 676. This came through in a few days and was free as a holder of a British passport.
So I merrily skipped along to the airport on 5th October 2012, to board my flight from Christchurch to Sydney. At check in there were problems; I was basically told that there was no visa linked to my passport, so I frantically got out my phone, connected to the free airport Wi-Fi and got into my emails. It turns out that when I applied for my visa, I incorrectly entered my passport number (I missed one digit). A quick call to immigration from a check in staff member and all was well; I didn’t have any issues getting into Australia on the other side.
I knew that could have worked out a lot worse than it did, in fact on the immigration website it does say that if information is not provided correctly, you can be delayed or denied entry! From that experience I figured that the details on my visa had been changed to include the forgotten digit.
When STA Travel changed my flights and messed me around quite a lot last week (with 2 weeks until my original travel date) I thought I would have no problem with making a night stop over in Australia, as I knew my visa was valid until 22nd August 2013; one year from when I originally had my visa granted.
So I quickly went online again to the Immigration website and searched through VEVO which is Visa Entitlement Verification Online; mainly developed for employers to check that their employee does in fact have a valid visa.
The result from this wee search was that I did not have a visa attached to my actual passport number, but it was attached to my name, date of birth and the incorrect number. Stress set in.
At the beginning of the week I contacted the Australian Consulate in Auckland, who process Visas, and explained my situation. At the time, I was advised to reply to the helpdesk email address where my original email came from. However, as this visa is no longer in circulation anymore since March 23 2013, my guess is that the email address is not valid (though it did not bounce back at me).
Two days later and I had heard nothing, so today I emailed the consulate in Auckland again, and was told that I would need to apply for another visa. I was given a link to an ETA visa (Electronic Travel Authority), which is issued if you are not intending to work. However, further exploration of this option, show that this was only issued to those holding passports from places including USA, Canada, Hong Kong and South Korea. This visa costs $20 (Australian).
Following this I attempted to apply for a Visitor Visa (Subclass 600). This is free for UK citizens, but can take up to 10 days to process (so I was worried). During the process I was denied finishing the process, and a message came up that I needed to contact Immigration Australia to proceed.
The next visa offered for tourists that I found was the E-visitor visa (sub class 651), which again was free for UK passport holders, and could be applied for online. Success, after 5 minutes this was granted to me. This allows me to be in Australia until 18th July 2014 for up to 3 months each visit; quite handy as I plan to visit again in October for my birthday and at Christmas.
There is one last visa that can be obtained for holders of a UK, EU, USA (and many other counties!) and that is the Transit Visa (subclass 771) which is issued to those who intend to stop in Australia for up to 72 hours. This is also free, but applications must be sent via mail to your nearest Australian Immigration office, with evidence included such as a signed photograph and proof of on-going travel.
I think lessons learnt from this experience are to ensure details are double checked on Visa application forms before submitting.
If planning to visit Australia as a tourist, try and apply for a visa 3-4 weeks before (though visas can be processed anywhere between 12 hours and 5 minutes).