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Australia: Visa Information for a Longer Stay

By Jennifer and James Hamilton — last modified Aug 22, 2015 08:28 AM
This is a useful report if you wish to stay in Australia for longer than a year.

Published: 2015-08-21 23:00:00
Countries: Australia

Australia: Visa Information for a Longer Stay

MV Dirona

Below is a report on our experience with staying in Australia for more than a year, and updating our US passports in Australia during that stay:

Australia: Staying for more than a year with passport update

Prior to entering Australia, we applied for and were issued 12-month multi-entry subclass 600 visitor visas. This visa allowed us to stay in the country for up to 12 months after every entry. The Australian immigration web site doesn’t give much detail about how to apply for this, but in the online visitor visa application there’s a “Proposed period of stay” where we specified our initial entry and final departure dates (these don’t need to be exact), and for the “Length of stay in Australia” we selected “Up to 12 months”. And there’s a freeform text section where you can “Give details of any significant dates on which the applicant needs to be in Australia”. Here we said we would be visiting by yacht and how long we planned to be in the country for and that we would like a 12-month multi-entry visa to allow us to return to the US while we were there.

The visas had a “Must Not Arrive After” date which is one year from the date the visa was issued. There’s a lot of confusion (both inside and outside Australia Immigration) as to what that date means, but the bottom line is you cannot enter or re-enter the country after the “Must Not Arrive After” date. We applied for our visas on Nov 16th, 2013 and they were issued on Nov 18, 2013. So we could entry any time up to Nov 18, 2014, but couldn’t enter or re-enter after that date. We first entered Australia in May of 2014 and returned to the US in July of 2014, re-entering Australia in August of 2014 on that visa. At that point, we could remain in Australia for 12 months, until August of 2015. But we had to make a subsequent return trip to the US that would have us coming back into Australia after Nov 18, 2014. So we applied for a second visa while we were back in the US on that November trip and were issued new 12-month multi-entry visas. These have “Must Not Arrive After” dates of Nov 13th, 2015.

A later application date on those first visas would have given us more flexibility on that “Must Not Arrive After” date, but getting another visa wasn’t that difficult. For US citizens, the visa processing is paperless and online and generally is super-fast. Both sets of visa applications were processed within three days. We also uploaded a swack of supporting documentation (financials etc). We’re not sure if that helped or not. And in our case, because we needed to make a third return trip to the US in July of 2015, we’d have had to apply for a new visa anyway because the latest possible “Must Not Arrive After” date on that first visa would have been May of 2015 for our initial May of 2014 entry into the country.

We asked Australian Immigration about limits on total length of stay in Australia, and were told that there’s no official limit so long as you’re still classified as a visitor. You have to leave at least every 12 months (or whatever the maximum stay period is on your visa). But you can apparently just keep applying for new visas. This must be done outside the country–when you’re in Australia all you can do is extend the existing visa.

While in Australia, we also needed to get our passports updated. This is actually more difficult to organize than one might expect. We rarely return to the US for more than two weeks at a time, so renewing them there is difficult as the processing times are 4-6 weeks standard, 3 weeks expedited, or possibly 8 days expedited based on need. None except the last option would work for us, and even if we could get that assuredly, 8 days still is a little tight. Handling this while in Australia turned out to be remarkably efficient and straightforward with the US Consulate’s committed 2-3 weeks processing time. We mailed our applications from Hobart to the Melbourne US Consulate, and the new passports were waiting for us with a friend in Melbourne when we arrived in town. Once we received the new passports, we updated our visa information online with Australia Immigration. We have since exited and re-entered Australia with those new passports without issue.

That got us into Australia for more than a year. The boat, however, is given only a one-year duty free entry called a control permit. This can be extended for up to three years. After that, you have to either remove the boat from the country or import it and pay taxes. We extended our control permit once, about eleven months after we arrived. This was a quick and easy process–we just sent an email to Brisbane customs (our port of entry) requesting the extension and got it within a couple of days. Australia Customs requires a quick email giving the boat’s location every three months or when you arrive at a designated Port of Entry. The fact we’d been keeping up with ours seemed to help with the extension.

While in Australia, we cruised the Great Barrier Reef, Tasmania and the Kimberley Coast with stops in Brisbane, the Hawksebury River, Sydney, Melbourne, Townsville, Cairns and Darwin. Details on our travels in Australia are at http://mvdirona.com/category/australia/.

Jennifer and James Hamilton

mv Dirona

http://mvdirona.com

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