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 Entry Requirements & Visas

Along with a current passport valid for the duration of your stay, the Australian government requires a visa from visitors of every nation (New Zealand citizens are issued a visa on arrival in Australia). And recently,the Australian government has introduced the Electronic Travel Authority (ETA)—an electronic or "paperless" visa that takes the place of a rubber stamp in your passport.

This is how the ETA works: you give your passport details in person or over the phone to your travel agent or when you book your plane ticket. This information will be entered into the travel agent’s or airline’s reservations system, which is linked to the Australian Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs’ computer system. Assuming you are not wanted by Interpol, your ETA should be approved in about 6 to 8 seconds while you wait. You can also apply for an ETA at Australian embassies, high commissions, and consulates (see below).

Tourists should apply for a Tourist ETA. It’s free and is valid for as many visits to Australia as you like of up to three months each within a one-year period. Tourists may not work in Australia, so if you are visiting for business, you must pay A$50 (U.S.$35) for a Long Validity Business ETA, which entitles you to as many three-month stays in Australia as you like for the life of your passport. Business travelers who are U.S., Canadian, French, or Spanish citizens can apply for a free Short Validity Business ETA, which is valid for a single visit of three months within a one-year period.

There are still some situations in which you will need to apply for a visa the old-fashioned way—by taking or mailing your passport, a completed visa application form, and the appropriate payment to your nearest Australian embassy or consulate. This will be the case if your travel agent, airline, or cruise ship (if you plan to arrive in Australia by boat) is not connected to the ETA system. In the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and many other countries, most agents and major airlines are ETA-compatible, but few cruise lines are. There is a A$60 (U.S. $42) processing fee for non-ETA visas for stays of up to three months and A$145 (U.S.$101.50) for business visas for stays between three months and four years.

You will also need to apply for a visa the old-fashioned way if you plan to enter Australia as something other than a tourist or a business traveler—for example, as a full-time, long-term student; a long-term resident; a sportsperson; a performer; or a member of a social group or cultural exchange. If you fall into one of these categories, you will need to apply for a Temporary Residence visa.

You can apply for non-ETA visas at Australian embassies, consulates, and high commissions. In the United States, contact the Australian Embassy, 1601 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Washington, D.C. 20036-2273 (tel. 202/797-3000); or the Australian Consulate-General, 2049 Century Park East, Level 19, Los Angeles, CA 90067-3238 (tel. 310/229-4840). In Canada, contact the Australian High Commission, 50 O’Connor St., #710, Ottawa, ON K1P6L2 (tel. 613/783-7619). For business visa inquiries in the United States and Canada call tel. 800/579-7664. In the United Kingdom, contact the Australian High Commission, Australia House, The Strand, London WC2B 4LA (tel. 0171/379 4334 or 0891/600 333 for 24-hour recorded information); or the Australian Consulate, Chatsworth House, Lever St., Manchester M1 2QL (tel. 0161/228 1344). In Ireland, contact the Australian Embassy, Fitzwilton House, Wilton Terrace, Dublin 2, Ireland (tel. 1/676 1517).

You can obtain an application form for a non-ETA visa via the Internet at the Australian Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affair’s Web site ( This site also has a good explanation of the ETA system.

Allow at least a month for processing of non-ETA visas.


Anyone over 18 can bring in to Australia no more than 250 cigarettes or 250g of cigars or other tobacco products, 1.125 liters (41 fl. oz.) of alcohol, and "dutiable goods" to the value of A$400 (U.S.$280), or A$200 (U.S.$140) if you are under 18. Broadly speaking, "dutiable goods" are luxury items like perfume concentrate, watches, jewelry, furs, plus gifts of any kind. Keep this in mind if you intend to come bearing presents for family and friends in Australia. If the items are your own personal goods and you’re taking them with you when you leave, they are usually exempt from duty. If you are not sure what is dutiable and what’s not, contact the nearest Australian embassy or consulate (see above).

Because Australia is an island, it is free of many agricultural and livestock diseases. To keep it that way, strict quarantine applies to importing plants, animals, and their products, including food. Don’t be alarmed if, just before landing, the flight attendants spray the
aircraft cabin (with products approved by the World Health Organization) to kill flying insects that entered the plane in a foreign country. For more information on what is and is not allowed entry, contact the nearest Australian embassy or the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service in Sydney (tel. 02/9364 7222).

For U.S. Citizens Returning U.S. citizens who have been away for 48 hours or more are allowed to bring back, once every 30 days, U.S.$400 worth of merchandise duty-free. You’ll be charged a flat rate of 10% duty on the next U.S.$1,000 worth of purchases. Be sure to have your receipts handy. On gifts, the duty-free limit is U.S.$100. You cannot bring fresh foodstuffs into the United States; tinned foods, however, are allowed. There are a few restrictions on amount: 1 liter of alcohol (you must be over 21), 200 cigarettes, and 100 cigars. Antiques over 100 years old and works of art are exempt from the U.S.$400 limit, as are gifts you mail home. Once per day, you can mail U.S.$100 worth of gifts duty-free; label each package "unsolicited gift." Any package must state on the exterior a description of the contents and their values. You cannot mail alcohol, perfume (it contains alcohol), or tobacco products as duty-free gifts. For more information, contact the U.S. Customs Service, 1301 Constitution Ave. (P.O. Box 7407), Washington, DC 20044 (tel. 202/927-1000) and request the free pamphlet Know Before You Go. It’s also available on the Web at

For U.K. Citizens British citizens returning from a non-EC country have a customs allowance of 200 cigarettes, 50 cigars or 250g of smoking tobacco; 2 liters of still table wine; 1 liter of spirits or strong liqueurs (over 22% volume) or 2 liters of fortified wine, sparkling wine or other liqueurs; 60cc (ml) perfume; 250cc (ml) of toilet water; and 145 worth of all other goods, including gifts and sou-venirs. People under 17 are not entitled to the tobacco or alcohol allowance. Meat and poultry products and some plants are also banned or restricted. For more information, contact Her Majesty’s Customs Excise, Passenger Enquiries (tel. 0181/910 3744; from outside the U.K. 44/181 910 3744), or consult their Web site at

For Canadian Citizens For a clear summary of Canadian rules, write for the free booklet I Declare, issued by Revenue Canada (tel. 800/461-9999; Canada allows its citizens a Can$500 exemption after an absence of seven days, and you’re allowed to bring back duty-free 200 cigarettes, 200g of tobacco, 1.14 liters (40 imperial ounces) of liquor, and 50 cigars. In addition, you’re allowed to mail gifts to Canada from abroad at the rate of Can$60 a day, provided they are not alcohol or tobacco (write on the package "Unsolicited gift, under $60 value"). Restrictions apply to animal, plant and biological products.

For New Zealand Citizens The duty-free allowance for New Zealand citizens is NZ$700. Citizens over 17 can also bring in 200 cigarettes, or 50 cigars, or 250 grams of tobacco (or a mixture of all three if their combined weight doesn’t exceed 250 grams); plus 4.5 liters of wine and beer, or 1.125 liters of liquor. Foodstuffs, plant material, and even used sporting goods, such as golf clubs and camping equipment, must be declared. Most questions are answered in a free pamphlet available at New Zealand consulates and Customs offices: New Zealand Customs Guide for Travellers, Notice no. 4. For more information, contact New Zealand Customs (tel. 0800/428 786;





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