Everyone entering Australia needs a passport. Australia, like many countries, requires your passport to have at least 6 months left before its expiration when you apply for a visa. Here is a list of passport offices:
- Canada -- Passport Office, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Ottawa, ON K1A 0G3 (tel. 800/567-6868; www.ppt.gc.ca).
- Ireland -- Passport Office, Setanta Centre, Molesworth Street, Dublin 2 (tel. 01/671-1633; www.foreignaffairs.gov.ie).
- New Zealand -- Passports Office, Department of Internal Affairs, 47 Boulcott St., Wellington, 6011 (tel. 0800/225-050 in New Zealand or 04/474-8100; www.passports.govt.nz).
- United Kingdom -- Visit your nearest passport office, major post office, or travel agency or contact the Identity and Passport Service (IPS), 89 Eccleston Square, London, SW1V 1PN (tel. 0300/222-0000; www.ips.gov.uk).
- United States -- To find your regional passport office, check the U.S. State Department website (travel.state.gov/passport) or call the National Passport Information Center (tel. 877/487-2778) for automated information.
Along with a current passport valid for the duration of your stay, the Australian government requires a visa from visitors of every nation, except New Zealand, to be issued before you arrive. If you are a short-term visitor or business traveler, the process is easy and can be done in a few minutes on the Internet using the Australian government's Electronic Travel Authority (ETA). This is an electronic visa that takes the place of a stamp in your passport. Tourists should apply for a Visitor ETA. The visa itself is free -- though there is a service charge for getting it via the Internet -- and permits unlimited visits to Australia of up to 3 months each, within a 1-year period. You can apply for an ETA yourself, or have your travel agent or airline do it when you book your plane ticket. (This service may incur an additional fee from the airline or travel agent.) To apply online, visit www.eta.immi.gov.au; the charge is payable by credit card (Amex, Diners Club, MasterCard, or Visa). European and U.K. passport holders should apply through www.ecom.immi.gov.au. You can also apply for the visa at Australian embassies, high commissions, and consulates. Children traveling on their parent's passport must have their own ETA.
If your travel agent or airline is not connected to the ETA system, you will need to apply for a visa the old-fashioned way -- by taking or mailing your passport, a completed visa application form, and the appropriate payment to your nearest Australian embassy or consulate.
In the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, and many other countries, most agents and airlines are ETA-compatible. You will also need to go the old-fashioned route if you are someone other than a tourist or a business traveler -- for example, a student studying in Australia; a businessperson staying longer than 3 months; a long-term resident; an athlete going for a competition; a member of the media on assignment; a performer; or a member of a social group or cultural exchange. If you fall into one of these categories, you will need to apply for a Temporary Residence visa. Non-ETA visa application fees for other kinds of travelers vary, from free to thousands of dollars. Contact the Australian embassy, consulate, or high commission to check the forms of payment they accept.
Apply for non-ETA visas at Australian embassies, consulates, and high commissions. In the United States, apply to the Australian Embassy, 1601 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Washington, D.C. 20036 (tel. 613/216-7603; www.usa.embassy.gov.au).
In Canada, contact the Australian High Commission, Suite 710, 50 O'Connor St., Ottawa, ON K1P 6L2 (tel. 613/236-1437; www.canada.embassy.gov.au).
In the United Kingdom and Ireland, contact the Australian High Commission, Australia House, The Strand, London WC2B 4LA (tel. 0906/5508 900 for 24-hr. recorded information or you can speak to an operator during normal business hours Mon-Fri; www.uk.embassy.gov.au). There is counter service Monday to Friday (call for hours).
You should obtain an application form for a non-ETA visa by post or over the Internet at the Australian Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs website (www.immi.gov.au). This site also has a good explanation of the ETA system. Allow at least a month for processing of non-ETA visas.
U.S., Canadian, British, and Irish citizens ages 18 to 30 may qualify for a working holiday visa that allows them to stay and work in Australia for a year (with conditions).
The duty-free allowance in Australia is A$900 or, for those under 18, A$450. Anyone over 18 can bring in up to 250 cigarettes or 250 grams of cigars or other tobacco products, 2.25 liters (41 fluid oz.) of alcohol, and "dutiable goods" to the value of A$900 or A$450 if you are under 18. "Dutiable goods" are luxury items such as perfume, watches, jewelry, furs, plus gifts of any kind. Keep this in mind if you intend to bring presents for family and friends in Australia; gifts given to you also count toward the dutiable limit. Personal goods that you're taking with you are usually exempt from duty, but if you are returning with valuable goods that you already own, file form B263. Customs officers do not collect duty -- less than A$50 -- as long as you declared the goods in the first place.
A helpful brochure, available from Australian consulates or Customs offices, as well as online, is Know Before You Go. For more information, contact the Customs Information and Support Centre (tel. 1300/363 263 in Australia, or 02/6275 6666), or check out www.customs.gov.au.
You need not declare cash in any currency, and other currency instruments, such as traveler's checks, under a value of A$10,000.
Australia is a signatory to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which restricts or bans the import of products made from protected wildlife. Banned items include ivory, tortoise (marine turtle) shell, rhinoceros or tiger products, and sturgeon caviar. Bear this in mind if you stop in other countries en route to Australia, where souvenirs made from items like these may be sold. Australian authorities may seize these items.
Because Australia is an island, it is free of many agricultural and livestock diseases. To keep it that way, strict quarantine applies to importing plants, animals, and their products, including food. "Sniffer" dogs at airports detect these products (as well as drugs). Some items may be confiscated, and others may be held over for you to take with you when you leave the country. Amnesty trash bins are available before you reach the immigration counters in airport arrivals halls for items such as fruit. Don't be alarmed if, just before landing, the flight attendants spray the aircraft cabin (with products approved by the World Health Organization) to kill potentially disease-bearing insects. For more information on what is and is not allowed, contact the nearest Australian embassy or consulate, or Australia's Department of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Forestry, which runs the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (tel. 02/6272 3933; www.daff.gov.au/aqis). Its website has a list of restricted or banned foods, animal and plant products, and other items.
For information on what you're allowed to bring home, contact one of the following agencies:
U.S. Citizens: U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP), 1300 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20229 (tel. 877/CBP 5111; www.cbp.gov).
Canadian Citizens: Canada Border Services Agency, Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0L8 (tel. 800/461-9999 in Canada, or 204/983-3500; www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca).
U.K. Citizens: HM Customs & Excise, Crownhill Court, Tailyour Road, Plymouth, PL6 5BZ (tel. 0845/010-9000; from outside the U.K., 020/8929-0152; www.hmce.gov.uk).
New Zealand Citizens: Auckland City Customhouse, 50 Anzac Ave., Auckland, (tel. 09/300-5399 or 0800/428-786 in New Zealand; www.customs.govt.nz).
No vaccinations are needed to enter Australia unless you have been in a yellow fever danger zone -- that is, South America or Africa -- in the 6 days prior to your arrival.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.