Thursday, May 11, 2017

Travel tips to Australia (visa & customs)

If you're following me on Instagram, then you've probably been seeing photos of our family vacation to Brisbane and Gold Coast in Australia. Before I post about the places we visited and things we did, here are just some info on how I applied for our tourist visa here in the Philippines and what you can bring into Australia.


Getting a an Australian tourist visa here in the Philippines was a breeze this time around. I remember back in 2012 when I went to Sydney, I applied through their VIA Centre (now VFS) and it took 15 days before I got my visa. I even went to their office in Makati to pass my documents.

This time, I was happy to learn that you could process your visa application completely online. You can still apply via VFS Global but aside from the visa charge of AUD$135 or about P5k (as of this writing), you'll still have to pay for additional logistic service fees.

To apply for a Visitor Visa (subclass 600), you just need to create an ImmiAccount.

Then I filled up the application form, scanned and uploaded all the usual necessary supporting documents like current and previous passports showing entry and exit stamps, valid and past visas, birth and marriage certificates, financial documents, proof of assets, etc. There was no ID picture needed like last time. Then I paid the visa fee via credit card. I just made one account for me and my kids, but I had to fill up their application form individually and upload supporting documents for each of them.

I like referring to for visa and immigration tips and I read there that some people got their Australian tourist visas approved in just 1 or 2 days. For us, it took about 5 days. Mine was actually released first then I got a call from the embassy saying that I needed to attach some more documents for my kids which was my husband’s passport and visa (I didn't attach these because it was just me and my kids applying but they needed to see it pala because he would be traveling with us also). I uploaded the files at once and the next day their visas were also released! Whew! I was also so happy that the Australian embassy is more generous this time. The first time I applied I just got single entry good for 6 months. This time, my kids and I got multiple entry for 1 year! :)

A visa label is also not required, which means you don’t have to submit your passport to the embassy anymore. They will just email you the Visa Grant Notice which I then printed out since they usually ask to see this here in the Philippine Immigration. In Australia, they don't ask for it since it's already in their system.

sample Visa Grant Notice


Australia is very strict with what you can bring in their country especially with food (no fruits, veggies, meat products). I was actually so worried since my kids are picky eaters and they only eat certain snacks. I researched about it and the general advice was to just declare everything you’re taking with you. You can check their website for more details on what you can and can't bring in.

So I just listed down all the food I brought (like cookies, biscuits, chips, powdered milk) and also medicines (multivitamins, anti-allergy, ointments). And I left everything in their original packaging just in case they needed to inspect it for the ingredients. 

Before you arrive in Australia you will be asked to fill in an Incoming Passenger Card. If you are carrying any food, plant or animal products you must tick "YES" on the Incoming Passenger card to declare them. If you're not sure, just check "YES" because it's better to be safe then sorry right?

Once we landed and got in immigration, the officer asked me what medicines I brought and I told her it was the kids' vitamins and medicine for their allergies. It was the food that she was more concerned with so we were ushered to a customs clearance point where they check your bags. I was then asked by another officer what specific types of food I brought and I showed him my list. Next step was for a detector dog to sniff our bags. The officer even asked me if my kids were scared of dogs and I said yes since the dog was a bit big! So she asked me and the kids to stay in one side while the dog checked our luggage. I watch Border Patrol so I was holding my breath the entire time because I was worried he might start barking lol! Anyway, we were cleared and they didn’t even open our bags anymore yey!

Anyway, hope this helps you when planning your trip to Australia. We had a great vacation and I can't wait to share the awesome places we went to. :)

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