All visitors to Australia need a visa – only New Zealand nationals are exempt, and even they receive a ‘special category’ visa on arrival. Application forms for the several types of visa are available from Australian diplomatic missions overseas, travel agents or the website of the Department of Immigration & Citizenship (13 18 81; www.immi.gov.au).
Electronic travel authority (ETA)
Many visitors can get an ETA through any International Air Transport Association (IATA) –registered travel agent or overseas airline. They make the application direct when you buy a ticket and issue the ETA, which replaces the usual visa stamped in your passport – it’s common practice for travel agents to charge a fee, in the vicinity of US$25, for issuing an ETA. This system is available to passport holders of 32 countries, including the UK, USA and Canada, most European and Scandinavian countries, Malaysia, Singapore, Japan and Korea.
You can also apply for the ETA online (www.eta.immi.gov.au), which attracts a non-refundable service charge of $20.
Short-term tourist visas have largely been replaced by the ETA. However, if you are from a country not covered by the ETA, or you want to stay longer than three months, you’ll need to apply for a visa. Standard Tourist Visas (which cost $70) allow one (in some cases multiple) entry, for a stay of up to twelve months, and are valid for use within 12 months of issue.
Working holiday maker (WHM) visas
Young (aged 18 to 30) visitors from Belgium, Canada, China, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Taiwan and the UK are eligible for a WHM visa, which allows you to visit for up to one year and gain casual employment.
The emphasis of this visa is on casual and not full-time employment, so you’re only supposed to work for any one employer for a maximum of six months. This visa can only be applied for at Australian diplomatic missions abroad and you can’t change from a tourist visa to a WHM visa once you’re in Australia. You can also apply for this visa online at www.immi.gov.au/visitors/working-holiday.
You can apply for this visa up to a year in advance, which is worthwhile as there’s a limit on the number issued each year. Conditions include having a return air ticket or sufficient funds for a return or onward fare, and an application fee of $185 is charged.
Visitors who have worked as a seasonal worker in regional Australia for a minimum of three months while on their first WHM are eligible to apply for a second WHM while still in Australia. ‘Regional Australia’ encompasses the vast majority of the country, excepting major cities; the definition of ‘seasonal work’ is a little more specific. The Department of Immigration has good information and straightforward facts that are easy to understand. Tourism Australia also has a dedicated website with helpful information – www.work.australia.com.