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21 December 2006
Amanda Vanstone, Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, announced on 17 December that Australia will remove the application charge for electronic visas issued through its Electronic Travel Authority (ETA) system for all current European Union citizens. This will mostly affect new member states from the EU-25 expansion, as most EU citizens could already obtain the visa without a state fee.
The new member states previously had not been included on the list of eligible countries. The new rules go into affect from 01 July 2007. New member states for the EU-27 expansion on 01 January 2007, Romania and Bulgaria, are not currently included in the expanded eligibility listing.
"This initiative is part of the Australian Government's commitment to ensuring visa reciprocity with the EU and equal treatment of all member states," said Vanstone. "The Government is committed to ensuring Australians can continue to travel to one of their favorite holiday destinations – the European Union.
"Visa fee-free access is an important part of reciprocating bilateral immigration arrangements with the EU".
The Australian government is also taking steps in making the process more convenient for all EU citizens. Most visa applications in this category can be processed in minutes.
"Other initiatives already announced this year to improve visa access for EU citizens include a new e-visitor system for all Europeans traveling to Australia and the expansion of the existing auto-grant visa system, allowing citizens from some EU countries to have their visa approved within a few minutes of applying online at any day or time."
Tourism from the European Union is very important to Australia. According to the government, in 2005 - 2006, the number of arrivals from the 10 new member states in the EU exceeded 23,000, an increase of 24 percent on 2003 - 2004.
Subclass 676 visa
Persons from many countries of the world may apply for the Subclass 676 in one of two categories: Tourist or Business Short Stay (also listed as Short Validity Business Visa).
Under both visas, employment is strictly prohibited, although the Business Short Stay allows a person to conduct business-related work for a "very short period" that cannot be performed "by any Australian citizen or permanent resident."
Single-entry and multiple-entry visas are possible choices. The visa is granted for 12 months (or until the expiration of a persons passport, whichever comes first), and a person cannot stay in Australia for more than three months at a time.
This means that a person on a multiple entry visa can leave the country for a day and then return for another three months until the visa expires. A person entering Australia on the last day of the visas validity may stay for a full three months (so long as their passport remains valid), although they will need a new visa to re-enter if they leave.
Under a 676 visa, a person may study for up to three months.
You may apply from within the country or from outside the country, with slightly different fee schedules. An agent or an airline may make the application on your behalf. The visa is subject to an application fee to process the request, and another fee to pay for the visa itself if it is approved and issued.
The citizens of some countries are eligible to apply for the special Electronic Travel Authority (ETA) version of the visa. There is a processing fee but, for some countries and situations, the state fee for the visa itself is waived.
With this visa, your border crossings are electronically authorized, meaning there is no physical stamp in your passport. Border control authorities verify by database that your passport is currently approved as a Subclass 676 visa.
Related:• Australia and New Zealand lead in education immigration initiatives