As you may know, we’re traveling to Australia in a few weeks. Three weeks out, it finally dawned on us that we still haven’t gotten our travel visa yet and we need to get on it ASAP. Since we have passports from one of the few countries that are allowed to apply for an electronic visitor visa to Australia, we thought it would be quite simple: fill out the form online, pay the $20AUD fee, and and be on our way. The whole electronic visa process is supposed to be hassle free with a high acceptance rate of 99.8%. But nothing is ever easy or hassle free when I travel, and it turns out that I am in that special 0.2% that got rejected – with no explanation and also no refund for the $20AUD fee. So this post is not so much about travel tips as it is things you should not do from my personal experience.
A little bit about me: I am a non-threatening Asian girl, working in a non-threatening job with no criminal record. I travel frequently, and have had no problem obtaining visas to any other countries. The only odd thing is that I was born in Vietnam, with a Canadian passport, and currently live in the States. I couldn’t understand the visa denial. I was super stressed out, frantically searching online for any kind of advice or help from people who have also been rejected. The only article I found that closely resembled my situation was posted back in 2007. The problem with high acceptance rates is that there is really not much information available for people who don’t get accepted. It’s less than 3 weeks until our flight to Australia and the nearest Australian visa office is in Ottawa.
I had a major “why me moment”, and thought, maybe I entered the passport number wrong, so I tried again, going through the whole ETA application and paying another $20AUD, only to be rejected AGAIN. At this point I felt pretty down in the dumps. Since the office was not open on the weekend, I had to wait until Monday morning to get any kind of help.
First thing Monday morning, I called the toll free number and got through to a representative right away. It’s interesting to note that their automated message said no inappropriate and abusive language is tolerated, too many pissed off people calling the Australian visa office perhaps? They asked for my information and said I’ll get an email right away with next steps. Great, I love waiting.
Fausto will tell you that I am not a patient person, and on top of waiting, that feeling of not knowing what’s going on really makes me anxious. When 3 hours roll by and still no emails, I decided to call back again. Once through the queue and in contact with another person, I provided my passport number and other pertinent information and was told that I had the visa all along. Say WHAT?? Apparently there was a glitch in the system and I was worrying for the last 48 hours for nothing. Since it’s an electronic authorization that’s linked directly to your passport, there was no way to actually confirm that I have the visa. Being my paranoid self, I had to ask the visa guy to verify all my passport information twice just to be sure. *cross my fingers that I make it all the way to Australia*
So here are the tips. If your ETA application is unsuccessful, just wait until the next business day and call the Visa office (hours: 10 am – 4 pm eastern time). There might have been a glitch and the representative can help you figure out the issue. It’s unnecessary to apply on the ETA website again because most likely you’ll get the same result and worst case scenario you’ll end up confusing the system further. In some cases, they just need some more information and will send you an email with questions that you need to complete ASAP and send back. Most importantly, don’t be a spaz like me. In retrospect, it was not as bad as I thought, I just hope Australia will be more stress-free than the whole visa process.