Back in September, my sister in Australia told me over Viber that she’s considering asking our mother to spend New Year’s with them again in Melbourne, and asked me if I am willing to accompany our mother to Australia. Of course, I am!
I’ve heard from friends and read in the comments section of my previous visa application guides that Philippine passport holders can now apply for an Australian tourist visa online. Since I do not like the stress that Manila traffic brings, and I do like doing business online, this was very appealing to me.
Create an ImmiAccount
The first step in applying for an Australian tourist visa online is to create an ImmiAccount. To create an account, you will need a valid email address. Make sure that you type in your email address correctly, and that you use an email address you regularly check. The embassy will be communicating with you using this address, so make sure that you check this email address often.
Once you have created an account, you can start an application. This is basically the online, fillable version of Form 1419, so there is no need for you to download the form, fill it out, and upload it.
You can start filling out the application form, even if you have not completed compiling your documents yet. Make sure that the information you put in the application form are the same as the information in the supporting documents that you are submitting.
If you have filled out the form, but are not ready to submit yet, click on the Save button. This saves your answers in their database, and once you log back in, you can see your application, check the entries, and make edits.
Once you are ready to submit your application and upload your supporting documents, click on Submit.
When you submit your application form, you will be prompted to pay the Australian tourist visa application fee. For online applications, the only way to pay is through credit cards. If you do not have a credit card, or access to a credit card, I read that you can use prepaid debit cards.
Your card will be charged AU$135 + credit card surcharge fee. Based on BPI’s foreign exchange rate at the time, I paid Php 4,547.26. If you are applying via courier or VFS, the fixed visa fee is Php 4,900, and you would still have to pay for the VFS fee, courier fee, and the fee for the manager’s check.
I made sure that all of my supporting documents are complete before I submitted my application and paid the fee. I created my ImmiAccount and filled out the form on September 20, but I didn’t submit until October 5.
As soon as my payment has cleared, I uploaded my scanned documents. The Australian Embassy sets a limit of 30 files for Visitor Visa online applications, and none of the files must be more than 5MB in size. To keep file sizes small, they recommend that you scan your documents at 96 dpi, and to not attach photos in Office document files, as this will increase the file size greatly.
Since I know my documents will have more than 30 pages, I merged and grouped them together. Also, instead of submitting separate photo files, I created a collage on Photoshop and added captions. I saved them as Portable Document Files (optimized), and used a service like PDFMerge.com to merge the PDFs into one file.
Here are the documents that I submitted:
They did not give any specifications for the photo file, so I just scanned my passport picture at 180 dpi and saved it as JPG.
I wrote a letter addressed to the consul explaining the purpose of my trip, who will be sponsoring my trip, why I need a multiple entry visa, and the reason why I need to come back to the Philippines. I included the ways in which they can reach me, should they need to get in touch for an interview. I also mentioned that I will be traveling, and the dates when I will be out of the country.
The supporting documents I submitted corroborates the content of my cover letter, which means that I provided proof of the purpose of the trip, proof that my sponsor can afford to shoulder my trip, proof of my relationship with my sponsor, and proof of my activities and relationships in the Philippines.
Certified Identification Documents
This is a requirement of the embassy: a certified or notarized copy of my passport and birth certificate.
Letter of Invitation
In my previous applications, my sister would send me letters via mail, which I include with my documents. Since I am applying online, I told her to just email me, instead of writing a letter, which would have taken weeks.
In her email, she stated that she wants me to accompany our mother to Melbourne, and that she will provide our tickets, and that we have the option to stay at her house, or my other sister’s house. She also stated she wants us to have a short holiday in New Zealand.
Along with the email, I also included a scan of my mother’s passport and her visa grant letter (she has a 3-year multiple entry Australian tourist visa).
You can save the email as PDF by clicking on Print, and then selecting Save as PDF/Export as PDF in your browser or email client.
Since my sister is my sponsor, I had her send me a copy of her passport bio page, as well as her last four payslips, as evidence that she has the capacity to shoulder the cost of our trip to Melbourne.
Since I am self-employed and have my own business, I included my business registration papers in lieu of a Certificate of Employment.
Income Tax Return
As evidence of my income, I attached my latest Income Tax Return, which was submitted to the BIR last April 2015.
Most Recent Credit Card Statement
I also stated in my application that I will be using my credit card as a way to pay for goods and services while in the country.
I submitted the Statement of Account for the previous 3-6 months. I did not request for a Bank Certificate anymore.
This was comprised of photos of me and my two sisters when we holidayed together in Tasmania during my previous visit, photos of me with my sisters’ families in Melbourne, photos of me with my family in the Philippines, and photos of me with my friend Khursten when I visited her in Sydney in 2013, and when we traveled to Japan together in 2014.
Travel Plans in 2016
To show that I have strong reasons to come back to the Philippines after my trip to Australia, I included the plane tickets that I have already booked. Since one of my travel plans include accompanying my mother and aunt to their hometown in Sorsogon in 2016, I included a photo collage from our trip last summer with extended family members.
One of my close friends is also getting married next year, so I included a scan of their wedding invitation, photos of me and my close friend during our trip to Japan together last year, and a photo of me together with my friend and her fiancé.
Current Passport Visas and Stamps
Since the application checklist includes evidence of previous travels, I scanned all the entry and exit stamps from my previous travels in my current passport.
Previous Passport Visas and Stamps
My last Australian tourist visa is under my old passport, so I included it as well. My old passport also has my other visas, which includes a used visa for Canada, China, and Schengen, as well as valid multiple entry visas for Japan and the United States. I also included the pages with entry and exit stamps from my trips between 2011 and 2013.
I submitted my application in the early morning of October 5. I received an acknowledgement immediately after. On October 6, the Immigration and Visa Office of the Australian Embassy Philippines sent me an email requiring me to fill out a short online questionnaire. The questionnaire is basically the Application Checklist. Luckily, I was still at home when the email came, so I was able to quickly respond to their request.
This is why it’s very important that you type your email address correctly, and why you should always check your email after submitting your application online.
Almost immediately after I submitted my filled out questionnaire, I left the house to go to the airport. By the following day, I received an email again from the Immigration Office, this time saying that my visa has already been granted.
To summarize my timeline:
September 20 – Created ImmiAccount, started filling out application form
October 1 – Requested statement of account from banks, notarized documents
October 2 – Scanned documents and created PDF
October 5 – Submitted application, paid visa fee, attached supporting documents
October 6 – Submitted Immigration Manila’s online questionnaire
October 7 – Received Visa Grant Notice
I remember back in 2006, when I first applied for an Australian visitor visa, I also submitted around this time of the year, and was granted in just a matter of days — I received notification of my visa grant while on a trip as well! Maybe there’s something about October?
Do you need a sponsor or to have a family in Australia to visit? Absolutely not! Many applicants are just there to tour the country. If you are a tourist, or visiting for a specific purpose (e.g. watching the Australian Open), make sure to include documents pertaining to them (tickets, bookings, etc.) with your application.
This is based on my personal experience in applying for an Australian tourist visa online. I’ve already written down everything I know. Please feel free to share your experiences in the comments. I’ll do my best to answer your questions, but I can’t really answer if your situation is different from mine (e.g. no work, no bank statement, no previous travel, etc.) however, there’s bound to be someone who is in the same boat, who may be able to answer your question. The visa discussions in the comments of this blog can get quite lively.
How to apply for an Australian Tourist Visa (2007)
Applying for an Australian tourist visa (2008)
How to apply for an Australian Tourist Visa (2013 Edition)
[EDIT October 22, 2015] Many in the comments both in this post and previous visa posts said that their application, even when lodged online took a month or more to get processed. I got really lucky with my application, and up until now, I don’t know why my application was granted so quickly. Is it because I said I was accompanying my 80-year old mother, because my sister is sponsoring me, because this is my third application, because I provided proof of my plans in 2016, or because I said I was going to watch the Australian Open?
Bear in mind that the Australian Embassy website that average processing time for a tourist visa is one month. To be safe, consider this as a minimum, rather than a maximum, and apply for a tourist visa as soon as you can, instead of waiting for the last minute and fretting over the long processing time as your flight date looms closer.