- As a second-time applicant, I got my Visa Grant Notice after only three weeks, compared to one month the first time I applied back in August 2014.
You can apply as early as six months before your intended arrival date in Australia, as the “Must Not Arrive After” date is exactly six months after the Visa Grant Date (see image below).In our case, we applied four months before. Many folks in the comments section applied only a month before, leading to much anxiety as their travel dates loomed near but still no visas in sight. Applying as early as allowable saves you from unnecessary stress, and in the case of denial, gives you ample time to reapply.
Good news: the Philippines is now among the select countries whose citizens can apply for an Australian tourist visa online directly at the official website of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) of the Australian Government. Before this welcome development, Filipinos residing in the Philippines had no choice but to go through a third-party service provider to get their visas. You can still apply the old-fashioned way through the Australian Embassy’s new partner, VFS Global, but you will be charged an additional service fee on top of the visa fee, not to mention courier fees for document collection and return.
Applying online is definitely cheaper and more convenient, especially for provincial applicants. It is also environmentally friendly as it saves a lot of ink and paper. A visa label is also not required, which means you don’t have to submit your passport to the embassy along with your application. (I remember my mother having to cancel a trip to another country because her passport was still stuck at the Italian Embassy, back when we applied for our Schengen visas.)
1. Create an ImmiAccount
2. Start your application
Once you’ve created an ImmiAccount, you can log in and start a new application. For a tourist visa, choose Visitor > Visitor Visa (600). Filipinos are not eligible for the other choice, the free eVisitor (651) visa.
It’s pretty straightforward from there. You are also able to save your application and get back to finish it later, if you feel you need more time to review it.
3. Submit your application and pay the fee
After you send in your application, you will be prompted to pay the visa fee
by card. For a subclass 600 Visitor Visa, the fee is AUD 135 (as of August 2016). Acceptable cards are: Visa, MasterCard, American Express, JCB, and Diners Club International. There is a surcharge for card payment, but it is very minimal, and even with it added to the visa fee, the total amount is still less than the fixed amount in Philippine peso you will be charged if you apply through VFS Global.
After payment, you will receive an acknowledgment email confirming the successful submission of your visa application.
4. Attach your scanned documents
You can now attach the necessary documents to support your application.
You can attach the requirements only after submission of your application and payment of the visa fee, and not before. Please click the following links for the official list of recommended supporting documents:
We personally attached clear scans of the following:
- Cover letter with itinerary. This is not required, but since there is no personal interview, we included one to better explain the purpose of our visit. There are two of us in our traveling party, and we submitted the same letter. (We previously answered ‘Yes’ to the group processing question in our application.) You can download our sample cover letter here.
- Biographic data page of passport
- Birth certificate issued by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA)
- Marriage certificate issued by the PSA. We attached this as evidence of name change through marriage.
- Personal bank statements
- Latest credit card billing statements
- Evidence of employment
- Confirmed round-trip flight booking. The DIBP does not require nor recommend buying plane tickets before applying for a visa, but we risked to buy because they were promo fares (the low price was hard to resist).
- Previous Australia visa. My mother has an old Australian visa label; we scanned it along with the information page of her old passport. She got her Visa Grant Notice one week before I (a first-time applicant) did, even though we requested for group processing.
- Evidence of previous overseas travel. We scanned previous and current visas to other countries as well as immigration stamps, along with the information pages of old passports.
And that’s it. After the initial acknowledgment email, we didn’t hear from the DIBP again until they emailed us our Visa Grant Notice 3-4 weeks later. To verify your visa status, you can use the DIBP’s Visa Entitlement Verification Online (VEVO) service. You can also access this page through the QR code on the upper right hand corner of the Visa Grant Notice (see image above).
All in all, applying online for an Australian tourist visa through ImmiAccount was a smooth and painless process. Hopefully other countries will follow suit and transition to an online visa application system.