Visa facts every Australian should know

DISCLAIMER: This article is intended as a general guide only. As early as possible prior to departure you should check official travel advice for your intended destinations at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade website

Having the correct visa for your destination is an integral part of the holiday planning process. Here’s an outline of the visa requirements for Australians travelling to a number of popular countries.

Land abroad with the wrong documentation and the consequences can be disastrous. Make the mistake of not researching a country’s entry requirements beforehand or travelling on the wrong type of visa, and you could be detained in a foreign country or even deported. So it’s crucial to know if your passport alone is sufficient to ensure entry, or which visa is required as an Australian traveller.

Visa and passport basics

Regardless of your destination, there are some visa basics every Australian traveller should know:

  • a visa never guarantees entry, which is the decision of a border’s immigration officials
  • strictly adhere to your visa expiry dates and never overstay
  • you may still need a visa to transit through a country
  • your passport must be valid for more than six months from your planned return date – and a visa in a passport that soon expires can be deemed invalid.

Countries where Aussies don’t need a visa

The good news is that Australians are exempt from needing a visa to enter a considerable number of countries, generally for short and temporary stays only, mainly for the purpose of tourism. Temporary stays are between 30 to 90 days provided travellers meet some additional entry criteria and the following  countries are some which may exempt you from needing a visa to enter.

  • Indonesia, Thailand, Taiwan and the Philippines generally allow visa-free exemption entry by air for visits less than 30 days, however you cannot extend your stay once you enter under the visa free arrangements.
  • Japan and South Africa generally allow visa free entry for visits up to 90 days. Taiwan started trialling this entry period in 2017.
  • The 26 European Union countries signed to what’s known as the Schengen Convention allow Australians to move freely between the countries in the Schengen area, if their stay is up to 90 days and occurs within a 180-day period. Travellers require a visa for the country within the Schengen area that is their point of entry. 
  • The United Kingdom (UK) and Peru allow Australian citizens who don’t intend to work during their visit, to stay up to six months without a visa.
  • New Zealand does not restrict entry by passport carrying Australians to any length of time under the Trans-Tasman Travel Agreement, except Australians with prior criminal convictions or who have been deported from any other country.
  • Hong Kong allows Australian tourists visa free entry for visits of less than 90 days.
  • Singapore does not require a specific visa, however it strictly enforces at least six months validity on traveller’s passports. All Australian travellers will have their thumb print scanned upon entry.
  • North America currently enforces a visa waiver program for Australians. However, if you want to stay up to 90 days from the arrival date, you must submit an online application via the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). An approved application is then valid for two years after authorisation is issued.

Countries where Aussies do need a visa

Some other regions require Australians to secure a visa, usually before entry, no matter how short the intended stay, including the following:

  • Fiji issues visitor visas to Australians upon arrival in the country, as long as proof is presented of accommodation and departure arrangements.
  • To visit Brazil Australians need to obtain a tourism visa prior to arrival, which is valid for up to 90 consecutive days.
  • Cambodia has an e-visa for tourists arriving by air, valid for 30 days only, for entry across borders a visa needs to be obtained prior to arrival.
  • Laos issues a 30 day tourist visa to Australians upon arrival at the main airports, but only if their passport has more than six months validity.
  • Nepal requires a visa for entry, and tourist visas are available upon arrival.
  • Sri Lanka requires an Electronic Travel Authority obtained prior to arrival.
  • China requires a full visa, obtained prior to travel, for all foreign nationals although transit visas for short visits can be issued upon arrival by air. Travel between China and Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and Macau require specific travel permits.
  • Australians require a visa prior to entry in Vietnam, with an exception for Australians with Vietnamese ancestry.

Other entry requirements

Regardless of visa requirements, Australians often also need to satisfy other conditions in order to be eligible for entry to specific countries, including:

  • an onward ticket, or return ticket to Australia
  • proof of sufficient funds to pay for your expenses, and/or no criminal record
  • parts of Africa, Asia, South and Central America require proof of vaccinations against particular diseases. Seek medical or official advice regarding health recommendations for your destination, at least six weeks before travel.

Working or studying abroad

If you intend to reside, study or work in a foreign country, visa regulations must be checked and followed carefully. Work abroad includes voluntary, unpaid, skilled or unskilled, or for either an Australian or foreign company while on holiday.

The UK and North America are currently reviewing these and other visa requirements for all nationalities, due to recent political changes. Regardless, most countries set stringent requirements for any business-related visa, so it’s important to adhere to correct advice before travelling. 

Ancestry and dual citizenship

 Ancestry and dual citizenship can also affect visa applications. You may be subject to local laws as a national of a country upon entry, such as the requirement to complete compulsory military service. You can also be restricted from Australian assistance if you run into visa problems while in such countries.

The bottom line

In some cases visa problems can lead to fines, arrest, jail time, deportation and bans from re-entering a country. Check for up-to-date advice for Australian travellers and the correct visa links for your destination country. Or contact that country’s foreign embassy, high commission or consulate at least six months before you plan to travel.

SOURCES: (Indonesian Embassy) (South African Embassy) (Thailand Immigration) (Philippines Immigration) (Taiwan Economic and Cultural Office in Australia) (Europe entry requirements) (Peru Embassy) (US ESTA travel) (U.S. Embassy) (U.K. government) (Maldives Immigration) (Canada High Commission) (Brazil Embassy) (Cambodia Ministry) (Maldives Immigration) (Nepal) (Chinese Embassy) (Vietnam Embassy) (Sri Lanka High Commission)