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How to Apply for and Renew Your Visa to Australia

Passport stamps in a Canadian passport
Passport stamps in a Canadian passport | © Jon Rawlinson / Wikimedia Commons
With miles of golden beaches and some world-class cities, Australia is one of the most coveted travel destinations on the planet – and every international visitor needs to apply for the right visa before they can experience what the country has to offer. Learn everything you need to know about applying for an Australian visa in this easy guide.

An overview of Australian visas

Australia has very strict immigration laws, so it’s important that visitors apply for the right type of visa for their trip. Citizens of New Zealand, Australia’s next-door neighbours, can apply for a visa upon arrival in the country but all other passport holders must apply for their visa before they leave home. There are a large number of different visa types – holiday or vacation, student, work, business, permanent residency, and more – that depend on which passport you hold, as well as the purpose and length of your stay. Check the ‘visa finder’ page on the Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection website to figure out which type of visa you’re looking for – you can apply for many of these visas online, or at your nearest Australian Embassy or Consulate.

The Australian Embassy in Washington DC © Ted Eytan / Flickr

Applying for the right visa

Visitor visa (subclass 600)

The Visitor visa (subclass 600) allows travellers to enter Australia for tourism or business purposes for up to three, six or 12 months.

There are a range of different visitor visas – tourist, business, frequent traveller, sponsored family and approved destination status – that cost anywhere between AU$140 to AU$1,045 to apply for.

For tourists, 75% of applications are processed within 19 days and 90% are processed within 24 days, so to be safe, lodge your application a month before you travel.

Follow this document checklist to compile everything you need to apply for your visa, namely copies of the biographical pages of your passport, a passport photo, a copy of your birth certificate, evidence of sufficient funds, your Australian itinerary, and any other evidence that proves your intention to return to your home country.

You can apply for this visa online, and if you’d like to extend your stay in Australia, you’ll need to apply for another type of visa – refer to the ‘visa finder’.

Travellers from certain European countries are able to apply for similar visas with a much cheaper price tag – the eVisitor visa (subclass 651) is free, and the Electronic Travel Authority visa (subclass 601) carries a AU$20 service fee.

Sun-bathing on Bondi Beach © Rob Chan / Flickr

Working Holiday visa (subclass 417)

The Working Holiday Maker program encourages cultural exchange between Australia and the rest of the world by giving 18 to 30-year-olds the chance to work and stay Down Under for 12 or 24 months.

The Working Holiday visa costs AU$450 to apply for, plus AU$80 if you apply in person rather than online.

According to the government, 75% of applications processed within 21 days and 90% are processed in 35 days, so apply at least six weeks before you plan to head to Australia.

Working holiday visas carry a similar document checklist as Visitor visas. This type of visa lasts for 12 months, and you can apply for a second Working Holiday visa (effectively a 12-month extension or renewal) by completing three months work in a regional area during your first year in Australia. Click here for more info on applying for your second Working Holiday visa.

Passport holders from Argentina, Bangladesh, Chile, China, Indonesia, Israel, Malaysia, Poland, Portugal, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Thailand, Turkey, USA and Uruguay can also apply for a similar Work and Holiday visa (subclass 462).

Vineyards in the Hunter Valley, where working holiday makers could work to renew their visa © eGuide Travel / Flickr

Student visa (subclass 500)

There are around 650,000 international students studying in Australia at any given time – a huge number for a country with a population of 25 million – and they rely on this category of visa, which last for up to five years.

Like all of Australia’s visa types, there are several different sub-categories – schools, higher education, postgraduate, vocational, the list goes on – that each cost different amounts of money (applications start at AU$575) and take different amounts of time to process (typically between 12 and 89 days, so apply well in advance).

There is an extensive document checklist that applicants need to tick off to prove that they’re at least six years of age, have been accepted to study in Australia, have health insurance and meet English language standards. You can apply online through your Immi account.

To extend your stay in Australia, visa-holders need to lodge a new application before their visa expires. Family members can also apply for a Student Guardian visa (subclass 590).

Jacarandas at Sydney University © Jason Tong / Flickr

How to renew your visa

Australia offers many different types of visas, each with their own renewal processes. Again, refer to the ‘visa finder’ page on the Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection website to figure out how to potentially extend or renew your visa to Australia.

Important things to keep in mind

Apply before you go

With the exception of Australia’s Kiwi cousins in New Zealand, every international visitor arriving Down Under needs to have applied for their visa before they leave home. The good news? Most applications can be processed through the government’s Immi website.

Respect quarantine laws

Australia is an island nation with super-strict rules around what you can and cannot bring into the country, including drugs, steroids, weapons, firearms, protected wildlife, fresh or packaged food, fruit, eggs, meat, plants, seeds, skins and feathers. Examine the list of prohibited items to make sure you’re not carrying anything you shouldn’t be.

Declare big bucks

There’s no limit on the amount of cash you can bring into Australia, but you need to declare amounts above AU$10,000. Check out the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) website for all the info you need to know.

Australian dollars © Michael Coghlan / Flickr

Other tips

Get your story straight

Australia’s Immigration department sorts through countless visa applications, and factual inconsistencies in your application can delay your application or even risk rejection altogether. Be honest, be accurate, and make sure you have the evidence to back it up in the documents you submit.

Be careful of scams

The government runs a register of official migration agents, so don’t fall into any traps. Some scams are pretty obvious but there are plenty more illegal operators and unregistered migration agents that are a little more clever at defrauding innocent visa applicants out of their money.

Australian passport © Diana Parkhouse / Flickr

Other useful links

The ‘visa finder’ page on the Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection website is your first stop for figuring out which visa is right for your trip, and many applicants will be able to lodge their application through the Immi website.