Australia eVisitor Visa Application and Processing Time
If you are planning a trip to Australia, either to see the sights, visit family, or for business, it is likely you are considering applying for an eVisitor visa. Unfortunately, as we enter the latter part of 2020, COVID-19 is still making its presence felt around the world, not least in Australia, making applying for an eVisitor less straightforward than it would normally be In this article, we will discuss who needs to apply for an eVisitor visa, the application process, the fees and processing times, and the impact of COVID-19 on this visa category. And if you need to travel to Australia for urgent family reasons, we also explain the exemption rules which apply allowing your visitor visa application to be prioritised.
Who is the EVisitor for?
The eVisitor is designed for short-term travel to Australia of up to three months and is particularly suited to tourists, those visiting family members and friends, business people, and those wishing to undertake a small amount of study during their trip. If you plan to make multiple small trips to Australia, the eVisitor will allow you to do so for up to a maximum of three months in a 12-month period.
You cannot include your family members on your eVisitor application as they will need to make their own individual application.
If you are planning to visit Australia for work, you can use an eVisitor visa, but you will only be permitted to:
- make general business or employment enquiries
- investigate, negotiate, enter into or review a business contract
- conduct activities as part of an official government visit
- take part in a conference, trade fair or seminar. The organisers can't pay you to take part
You will not be allowed to work for or provide services to a business or organisation based in Australia, or sell goods or services directly to the public. If you intend to do either of these things, then you may be better to apply for a temporary work visa.
Most importantly, you must be a genuine visitor and not have any intention to use the visa as a means to work or remain beyond the period of your allowed stay.
Can I Extend the EVisitor Visa?
If you plan to stay longer in Australia, you will not be able to extend your stay under this visa category. Instead, you will need to apply for another visa type; one possible option being the Visitor visa (subclass 600) Tourist stream which will allow you to stay for longer and apply from within Australia, and
There is, however, a limit on how long you can remain in the country as a visitor; “It is a condition of this visa [the visitor visa subclass 600] that you don't stay in Australia for a total of more than 12 months in an 18-month period. If you currently hold a Visitor visa, a Working Holiday visa, a Work and Holiday visa or a bridging visa, and grant of this visa would mean you stay in Australia for more than 12 consecutive months, you will need to show there are exceptional circumstances”.
If you are unsure of your options if you wish to stay in Australia, it is recommended that you seek the help of an immigration lawyer who will be able to advise you accordingly.
How do Apply for an EVisitor Visa?
The application process for an eVisitor visa is completed online[PM1] on the Australian Department of Home Affairs ImmiAccount system. As part of the process, you will be advised which documents you will need to scan and upload to support your application. There is no cost for an eVisitor visa, and, normally, you would expect a decision within 24 hours of submitting your application by email. At this point, you will be able to travel to Australia. Unfortunately, while you might normally receive a decision within one working day, due to COVID-19, this is now potentially much longer.
How has COVID-19 Impacted on the Processing of EVisitor Visas?
Due to COVID-19, the processing of visas by the Australian Department of Internal Affairs has been impacted considerably. At present, the borders of Australia are closed except for residents, citizens, and eligible family members. The processing time for the eVisitor visa is currently showing as four months, however, this reflects the fact that only priority cases are being processed.
On COVID-19, the Internal Affairs website states, “The Department is prioritising processing visa applications for those travellers in the exempt categories to support urgent travel”. It also confirms that travel to Australia at present is restricted as a result of the pandemic; “Australia has strict border measures in place to protect the health of the Australian community. Very limited flights are currently available to and from Australia and you may not be able to travel at this time. All travellers arriving in Australia, including Australian citizens, are subject to mandatory quarantine for 14 days at a designated facility, such as a hotel, in their port of arrival. You may be required to pay for the costs of your quarantine”.
The ability for tourists, family members, and business people to travel to Australia has been severely restricted by COVID-19. The Australian Department of Home Affairs COVID-19 website[PM2] confirms that individual exemptions may be granted for those travelling for compassionate and compelling reasons. It also explains that exemptions can be requested online at least two weeks, but not more than three months, before your planned travel. However, if you urgently need to travel to Australia as a result of the death or critical illness of a close family member, you will still be able to make an application within the two-week timeframe.