The Australian Immigration Service is currently facing long delays in processing visa applications. As a result, travellers who are actually eligible for a visa may not be able to travel to Australia.
New travel rules since 1 November
Because of the global outbreak of corona, Australia kept its borders closed for a long time. Travelling to Australia was only possible in exceptional situations. On 1 November 2021, the Australian government decided to ease the travel rules. Since then, parents of Australian citizens have also been able to travel to Australia. However, they must have a valid Australia visa and a so-called ʼTravel exemptionʼ in their possession. The exemption, or exception permit, is usually granted within a week if the applicant can prove that he or she is indeed the parent of an Australian citizen. Normally, the visa is also approved within a week on average. However, recently there have been long delays. Travellers have to wait, in some cases, for more than a month for their visa.
Validity of exemption causes problems
The Australia visa is valid for one year. This period of validity starts from the moment the visa is granted. A delayed visa application therefore does not mean that the visa is valid for a shorter period. However, the travel exemption must be used within eight weeks. Although it is generally recommended to apply for such an exemption first and then apply for a visa, the delays at the Australian Immigration Service cause many problems. As with the visa, the validity period of a travel exemption starts as soon as it is granted. However, since a visa is required for a trip to Australia, travellers are forced to wait until the visa is approved, while in the meantime the validity period of the travel exemption already starts to run. It is also possible to apply for the visa first and then proceed with the application for the exemption. Experience shows, however, that visa applications are approved more quickly if you already have a travel exemption.
Large increase in eVisitor applications for Australia
A spokesman for the Australian Immigration Service said that they had processed more than 100,000 eVisitor visa applications since 1 November. In the same period in 2020, there were less than 5,000 applications. This is partly due to old applications that are still on hold. Australia had temporarily stopped granting tourist visas due to the Covid-19 outbreak. One of the consequences of this is that the official average delivery times have become considerably longer, because the immigration service now has to process all those old applications due to the new travel rules. According to the official figures, 75% of all applications are approved within seven months and 90% within nine months. This does not mean that you have to wait for seven or nine months after submitting your visa application. The backlog of visa applications gives a distorted picture of the real delivery times.
All visa applications for Australia are processed individually. As a result, delivery times may vary widely. Couples travelling together sometimes report that the visa of one of the travellers is approved immediately, while the partner has to wait several weeks for his or her visa.
New visa rules in Australia do not apply to tourist visas
Since 15 November, specific visa holders have been allowed to travel to Australia again without having to apply for an exemption permit. However, this does not apply to tourist visas. The eVisitor visa (subclass 651) and the ETA Australia (subclass 601) are not covered by the new travel rules. Travellers to Australia on a tourist visa also need an exemption permit. Those who do not qualify for such a permit are not yet allowed to travel to Australia on a tourist visa only.