Parents overseas? Here's how to get them an Australian visa and travel exemption
Overseas-based parents of Australian citizens and permanent residents will now be allowed to enter Australia, bringing relief to many migrants. But they’ll need to be fully vaccinated and have their paperwork in order before their visit.
Who can apply for a travel exemption to come to Australia?
To help prevent the spread of COVID-19, Australia closed its borders to non-citizens and non-residents in March 2020. But immediate family members (a spouse, de facto partner, child or a parent/legal guardian of a dependent child) of Australian citizens and permanent residents were allowed to apply for a travel exemption so they could still enter.
From 1 November, the definition of immediate family will also include parents of Australian citizens and permanent residents. The definition of parents includes biological parents, legal (including adoptive) parents, step-parents as well as parents-in-law.
What visa can they apply for?
Based on the nationality of the applicant, parents can apply for one of the following three short-term visas.
1. eVisitor Visa (Subclass 651): Citizens of the following European countries can apply for this visa: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Republic of San Marino, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and Vatican City.
- Length of stay: Up to three months.
- Processing time: Between 31 days and four months
- Fee: No fee
“[That] is a fairly lengthy processing time,” says Brisbane-based Rebecca Baggiano, senior associate at immigration firm Fragomen. “But the way to reduce that processing time is to lodge the visa application first [and then apply for] a travel-ban exemption.” (See details below).
“If the travel exemption is approved, it will trigger the visa processing team to pick up that case. That’s what we have seen over the past 18 months where visa applications are pushed through a lot more quickly if you’ve got that travel-ban-exemption approval in hand.”
2. Electronic Travel Authority (Subclass 601): Citizens of the following countries can apply for the Electronic Travel Authority (ETA): Brunei, Canada, Hong Kong (SAR of China), Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea and the United States.
- Length of stay: Up to three months
- Processing time: Unconfirmed
- Fee: $20
While the Department of Home Affairs website doesn’t list a processing time for the ETA, Ms Baggiano says: “The government has released a trial app, it’s called AustralianETA app. As long as you’ve got a smartphone or a smart device with a camera and your original passport in hand, you can apply for the ETA using that app and most of the decisions are actually coming through within one or two days, which is really fast processing”.
3. Visitor Visa (subclass 600): Citizens of all countries (including the ones mentioned above) can apply for this visa.
- Length of stay: Up to 12 months
- Processing time: Eight to 20 months.
- Fee: $145
“This is the standard visitor visa that’s open to all nationalities,” says Ms Baggiano.
“You may ask, ‘well, if I am a US citizen, why would I apply for an ETA as opposed to a Visitor Visa (Subclass 600)?' The main reason is the duration that is granted on these visitor visas. You can have the visa granted [for] up to 12 months, at the discretion of the Department of Home Affairs, [which means] travellers can enter Australia and remain in the country for that entire time.”
“[The processing time] is extremely lengthy but – as I mentioned – the way to get around those types of processing time frames is to lodge a travel-ban-exemption request immediately after lodging the visitor visa.”
How should parents apply for a travel exemption?
Overseas-based parents of Australian citizens and permanent residents can visit the Department of Home Affairs Travel Exemption Portal to apply for a travel exemption.
Australian citizens and permanent residents can also request a travel exemption on behalf of another person.
The person applying will need to create an online account and sign in. Once in, fill out the form, which is fairly straightforward and attach colour, scanned copies of documents that establish:
A. The identity of the Australian citizen or permanent resident, such as passports, birth certificates, citizenship certificates and visas.
B. The identity of the parent of the Australian citizen or permanent resident, such as passports, birth certificates and citizenship certificates.
C. The relationship between the applicant and the Australian citizen or permanent resident, such as birth certificates and family booklets.
D. The vaccination status of the foreign national. Only four vaccinations are currently recognised by the Australian government (see list below).
But before attaching all the documents in the portal, Ms Baggiano says, don’t forget to rename the files to, say, “passport” or “birth certificate” to make it easier for the Australian Border Force team processing it on the other end.
“The clearer you can make it for the case officer, the better. It would just result in the exemption or the visa application being processed a bit more quickly.”
Only four COVID-19 vaccinations are currently recognised by the Australian Government: Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, and Johnson and Johnson.
What if I need language support?
If the documents you are uploading aren’t issued in English, Ms Baggiano recommends using a NAATI-accredited translator.
“While travellers can use certified translators in their home country, we find that using an Australian-based NAATI-accredited translator is the best way to go, so the Department of Home Affairs case officers can be assured that the translation is true and correct.”
All of this can be done digitally via the NAATI website. Once you find an accredited translator you'll need to share colour, scanned copies of the documents that require translation and they will send translated versions back to you.
When can parents arrive?
It is recommended foreign nationals get their visa and travel exemption approved before booking flights.
In terms of dates parents can arrive, “at the moment, it’s really dependent on each state and territory, and what quarantine requirements they have in place,” Ms Baggiano says.
“The two states that’ll be [easing] restrictions for international travellers [from 1 November] are Victoria and New South Wales ... allowing fully vaccinated travellers to enter Australia without the need for hotel quarantine. As for the other states and territories, they’re still working through their roadmaps.”