Travel Tip: Australian Visitor Visa

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.

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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What I did all weekend long

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18 thoughts on “Travel Tip: Australian Visitor Visa

    • Hi Chris, they told me they were going to email me with the next steps and they never did! I had to call back again. I suggest calling during the office hours. The second time I called, they said I have the visa… Without having to do anything else. On the phone, they just asked you the regular passport questions, name, address, etc. I asked them to double check my passport numbers a few times to make sure that is correct. Hope that helps!

  1. OMG! I’m going through what you did, right this moment – I applied on Friday evening and was informed my application was unsuccessful and I’m freaking out! It’s Sunday today and will definitely give those guys a ring tomorrow. I hope mine gets approved too! Still, so stressful though!

    • Ohh no!! I will keep my fingers crossed for you. Definitely call, and if they tell you they will email you something and you don’t get it in a few hours, call back again. I am still confused about what exactly happened, but I guess sometimes there is a glitch in the system.

    • I finally got my visa after 3-4 days of panic over a weekend like you. My strategy would be to call as many Australian consulates and embassy as you can stomach, and email as well.

      I was emailing the consulate in Malaysia where I was located at the time it happened. They requested that I scan or take a picture of a couple of pages of my passport and send it to them.

      I also called the Canadian consulate (where I’m a citizen) – and asked me a simple question of whether I had a criminal record or not. I proceeded to provide them with my ETA application number, which they couldn’t find and didn’t seem interested in receiving either. They indicated that my request would be put on a spreadsheet to be checked out. I called them again after the weekend and went through the same process.

      The processing times I was told varied from 3-5 days to “48 working hours” – which I assumed they meant 48 hours.

      Anyhow – I finally received my ETA, and was noticed via email by the Malaysian high commission (of course with no explanation). My girlfriend who had applied for the ETA minutes before had no problem getting through the system, suspects that there was a “glitch” caused by my Internet connection dropping and then having to resubmit the form. Who knows? I’ll never know – just makes for a interesting story now.

      Keep harassing them and bothering them. As long as you’re not due to travel within 5 working days you should be fine.

      • Yay!! So glad to hear the good news! I called the Canadian consulate and their response was not too clear either as you read in the post. All the stress and panic for nothing, but glad yours finally got resolved. Australia is so beautiful, enjoy your trip!

      • hi Chris,
        once you email the passport picture and the form, do you get any other responses other than the automatic reply? im having the same problem now and confuse what should i do next after i email the required documents. how many days exactly to get the reply from the embassy. Im super worried. My travel date is in 3 weeks time.

      • I would wait 48 hours and then call the embassy, consulate again. Like Chris I don’t even know what I did that finally got approved but I find that calling them and following up helped.

  2. hi there my partner has applied for 3 etas and all were unsuccessful …he is canadian with no criminal record or overstay when he was in australia just a refused visa…he will be applying for a tourist visa but i cant understand why he cannot come back to australia on an eta visa…australian high commission in ottowa havnt given any reason for the refusal….any help or suggestions welcomed thanks polly

    • Hi Polly, sorry for the late reply, I am in NZ at the moment with spotty wifi. In my case, when I applied for the eta online, it was declined but when I called them up, they said it went through. It seems like you’re partner already called the Australian embassy. I believe there is a number that you can call when the eta is declined. Otherwise I think you have to apply for the official tourist visa which can take longer. Sorry I cannot be of any more help. It’s a very frustrating situation and I hope you get it resolved.

  3. I have same problem applying ETA for my son to AUSTRALIA.He is holding Malaysia passport the system reject my applicationas stated is Wrong ID.what shd I do? What number shall I call from New Zealand.

    • Hi Jacqueline, I would search online for the nearest Australian Visa office in NZ and give them a call on Monday. Explain to them the situation and they will be able to direct you to the next course of action. Good luck!

  4. Hey.. my GF has a canadian passport and she lives currently in Italy, she wants to come and visit me and monday last week has went to the aus embassy in rome, italy and applied with them for an ETA, they said would take up to 48 hours to be approved, well she waited those hours plus a few days more until thursday she went back to aus embassy there and they said her eta was denied because she had a working visa being processed in slovenia from when she was living there with her ex, she had to go to embassy in slovenia driving 6 hours away to fully cancel that visa which she did, had to stay overnight there and first thing in the morning drove back to italy and went to embassy to reapply for the ETA, the woman said to her since it was denied she had to wait 6 months to reapply for an ETA…… we couldnt believe that and there was nothing or noone on any given forum ive read online about someone being denied an eta to having to wait 6 months to apply again, she said it wouldnt let her apply online either afterwards, every person ive read online said if denied they can apply many times as they want without waitingl but 6 months for a temporary visa that takes almost instantly to be approved???? I have seen nothing in my life like this…. i just want to be able to see her and have her here and its been the worst thing hearing this, is there any proof that this 6 month wait is legit real or is there any other way or something she can apply again for her ETA because really feel depressed beyond belief so does she and shes done so much to be here..

    • That sounds awful Sam and I hope she can get it resolved soon. I didn’t read anything about waiting 6 months either, but to be honest, there was not much info for denied cases because apparently most for accepted. My suggestion is, to wait a day or two, then call the embassy number again, maybe you’ll get another person more helpful. I had to call twice and the second time it worked out. Good luck to you both!

  5. Hi, thank you so much for sharing your stories I am in the same position but not for me but my 9 years old son. I don’t understand we didn’t have a problem with applying for his passport. Granted me and my ex are separated but he filled out all the paper required for his son to get a passport but here I am in your shoes worries bee. Can you give me the number you called?

    • Hi Kameelah, I don’t remember the name right now, but I believe it was the Australia visa office in Ottawa. You can search for it online. However, I don’t think they were open on the weekend. It might be worth it for you to wait until they are open to talk to a live person. If you’re not based out of the same area, you can search on Google for an Australia visa office near you. Good luck, I am sure it’ll be fine!

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