Before I start, let me tell you that Australia tourist visa can be obtained online easily without going via VFS or any other travel agency. All you need is a computer, internet and a scanner. Of course, passport and other supporting documents are also required!!
While planning the trip to Australia, I started looking at the information available in internet to get visa. Srinidhi’s posts (here and here) provided very good details to start. It looked like I had to go via VFS like many other Schengen countries to get the tourist visa. While browsing in the Australian official visa site for the documentation required, I saw “Apply now” button. I first thought it was available only for some western countries but it was enabled for Indians also!! Upon further check, I found that it was a recent change of policy from Australia. Rest of the post explains about the process to get visa.
First step is to create an account with Australian Government Department of home affairs. Their website is https://immi.homeaffairs.gov.au/. It asks for basic information like name, email and phone number. Once the account is created, you can then start applying for visa. Good part is that you can also apply for others from the same account.
- The documentation required is quite elaborate. Here is the list of documents that I provided for visa.
- Notarised copy of first and last page of passport. There is no need to send the original passport to embassy.
- Notarised copy of the pages of passport that contains visa or the immigration stamps.
- Photo (45 X 35 mm) with white background.
- Your signature behind photo. Since the photo is digital, take a piece of paper as big as the digital photo, sign and then scan!!
- Flight tickets and hotel reservations.
- 6 months bank statement and 3 years income tax returns.
- NOC from company with payslip.
Copy of passport is a bit cumbersome process. First you need to get the printout of the passport pages, get the seal and signature from Notary and then scan it to get the digital copy. In my case, this was a major effort as I had to do it for 4 for us. The number of notarised passport pages were huge!!
Each application had to be separately filed though we were travelling together as family. But as I said before, the same account can be used. In order to ensure that all applications are processed together, there is provision to create a “Group id” while applying. Very helpful for people travelling together.
The application asks for lot of details. Have patience and answer properly to the best of your knowledge. The application can be saved and updated at any stage. It takes about 2 hours to fill one application and upload documents, provided you have all the documents ready and available. It cannot be done in a hurry. I filled the application for all 4 of us and submitted it together at the end. I could make payment in one go for all the applications.
Once the application is submitted, the only option is to wait. The website mentioned that it would take anywhere between 18 to 29 days to process the application. It can be further delayed if they come back for clarification. So, it is very important to get it right for the first time with respect to information given and documents uploaded. In my case, we got the visa after 23 days. It is better to apply at least 1.5 months before travel to avoid any tensions at the end. One of my friend’s parents got their visa few hours before the flight!! Imagine the tension they would have had just before their travel.
It is a paper visa valid for one year with multiple entries. Visa fee is 140 AUD. If you go via VFS, then you need to pay VFS fees also.