Later this summer, I will be attending a friend’s wedding in Sydney. Of course, this means that I have to get my visa house in order.
I have been to Australia once before, but it was quite some time ago, and a travel agent made most of my arrangements. This time around, I am going it alone, so I was prepared for an involved visa application process.
Imagine my surprise and joy when I realized that I could just go online and get an Electronic Travel Authority (ETA)!
What is an ETA, and what are the relevant requirements?
An ETA is electronically linked to your passport and authorizes you to travel to Australia for tourism or business visitor purposes. It costs AUS$20, is valid for 12 months from the date of issue (or the expiration of your passport, whichever is earlier), and allows for multiple entries. For each entry into Australia, you are permitted to remain in the country for up to 3 months.
Certain conditions apply. You must not work (though you can engage in “business visitor” activities, e.g., make business inquiries, negotiate contracts, attend conferences, etc.). In addition, you cannot study for more than 3 months, you must be tuberculosis-free, and you may not have certain criminal convictions. Further, at the time of application, you must be outside Australia, and you must have a valid credit card and e-mail address, as well as a valid passport from: Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Hong Kong (SAR PRC), Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, the Republic of Korea (STH), or the United States. If you do not have one of these passports, while you cannot get an online ETA, you can still get an ETA from a travel agent, airline, or Australian visa office, or you can try to get another type of electronic visa.
Note: Your travel agent or airline can submit your online ETA application (but the process is so fast that you might as well do it yourself!). Also, all family members traveling to Australia with the ETA holder must have a visa or ETA. Thus, each family member must submit a separate ETA application, even if there are kids traveling on a parent’s passport.
How does the application process work?
The online ETA is available in English and Japanese. English is the default language, so I was able to jump right in by clicking on “Apply for an ETA” on the initial page. Basically, there are seven steps in the application process, and, assuming that you have your passport and credit card in front of you as you fill in the application, you should be done in less than 15 minutes!
The first step in the application process is to select your ETA type (i.e., Tourism or Business Visitor) and certify that you are outside Australia. Once you do that and agree to the terms and conditions, you are done here–super-fast.
The second step is to input your passport and personal information. This information must be an exact match for what is in your passport, and you must use the same passport that you reference in your application for your Australia travels under your ETA. Be careful here so that you do not risk delaying your entry into Australia or, worse, deportation!
The third step is to input your contact information (i.e., mailing address, phone numbers, and e-mail address). One unexpected thing here was that you have to enter any additional citizenships that you hold. Through my parents, I am a Nigerian citizen, so I added that here. I was slightly concerned that this would delay processing, but this ended up not being the case.
The fourth step is to check the accuracy of all of the information that you have provided. This sounds like a no-brainer, but you should actually take some time here as the service fee for the ETA is non-refundable. In other words, if you realize after you submit that you have made a mistake, you will have to submit a new application, with a new service fee. Thus, be careful!
The fifth step is to provide your payment information for the AUS$20 service fee. Tip: Make sure to use a credit card that will not charge you a foreign transaction fee! I used my Capital One Venture Rewards Visa card, but I may switch because I have read very good things on The Points Guy about the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World MasterCard (which gives slightly better value than the Capital One card and includes the chip-and-pin technology that is prevalent in many destinations). In any event, make sure that you do not have extra fees added on by your bank to this transaction!
The sixth step is your receipt. This page confirms that your payment has been received, gives you a receipt number, and lets you know that you will receive a copy of the receipt at the e-mail address that you provided. Most important, it gives you your reference number, which is what you will need to check on the status of your ETA. Be sure to take note of it!
The seventh and final step is confirmation that your payment has been authorized and notice as to the status of your ETA. In most cases, you will be approved instantly for your ETA (and the page will state this); however, your approval may take up to 12 hours. You will be advised if your ETA needs further processing. If your ETA is not approved, you will need to finalize it through the nearest Australian visa office. Though the online ETA service fee is, as I mentioned before, non-refundable, if you end up being referred to a visa office, you will not have to pay another ETA service fee.
As a bonus step, if you are a worrier (like me), or if you did not get an instant approval for your ETA, you can go back to the initial page and click on “Check an ETA”; once you input your nationality, date of birth, and ETA reference number, you will be taken to a page that confirms that you “have a current ETA to travel to Australia” (or otherwise confirms your ETA processing status).
That’s it! Super-fast, and super-easy. Everything is electronic, so you do not even need to bring any paperwork with you to the airport (though I would still bring at least a copy of the confirmation, just to be safe).
I hope that this walk-through and the included tips help you to get your ETA smoothly! For more information, go here. Obviously, visa requirements change all the time, so PLEASE be sure to check the latest information before you begin any visa process. Happy travels!
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Have you applied for an Australian ETA? Do you have an upcoming trip to Australia, too, or have you been to Australia in the past? Please share your experiences in the comments!