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Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Australia Tourist Visa for Indians via VFS- FAQs

Recently I got my Australia tourist visa. Assuming nothing else goes wrong in next few weeks (floods, volcanic ash, airport closure etc etc) I am looking forward to visiting Australia for the first time.
Kangaroos spotted in Copenhagen Zoo. Hopefully will see them in their native country.
I had booked my ticket way back in May 2015- in an Air Asia discount sale- Rs 32000 Chennai-Melbourne round trip with 20kg luggage and all taxes and fees included. That was about 10-15k cheaper than next cheapest option. But Indians will need visa to visit Australia, so I had to apply for one. Since I didn't know for what duration it will be issued, if I had applied earlier there was a risk that it might expire before travel date. So I differed this process for end of 2015

I started checking about Australia visa process sometimes mid December. VFS Global is an authorized agency to accept visa applications for Australia- so I spent some time checking their website but the information there was not easy to comprehend (It tries to cover all types of visas and nationalities and thus takes lots of time to figure out what exactly is needed for your specific case). So I went to their office in Egmore, Chennai in person and asked for checklist, fees etc. Got a checklist that was simple to follow. Two days latter I submitted my application and about 10 days later, I got my e-visa by email. This post tries to provide all relevant information for Indians trying to apply for Australia tourist visa.

What is the fee?
I had to pay about Rs 8300. Fee would vary from person to person, depending on services availed and no of pages in passport that needed verification.
Fee breakup as below
  • Fee paid to Australian commission: Rs 6900
  • VFS processing fee: Rs 966
  • DD charge: Rs 70
  • SMS charge: Rs 90 (Check next para if it is really worth
  • Document verification fee: Rs 10 per page (every page of the passport that has a stamp or a visa or a seal is counted as one page- getting verified at VFS is lot cheaper than going to a notary).
Is the SMS Alert really worth?
No. I got only 3 SMS from VFS- one that my application is sent to embassy and another that it is received by embassy. Last SMS came one day after I got my visa by email- it just said that a decision has been taken and details will be sent by email. No other updates. You might as well opt out of this and save 90 rupees. Doesn't serve much purpose.

What are the documents required for Australia Tourist visa for Indians?
  1. Application form (Form 1419)
  2. Verified copies of all passport pages- since you are not submitting original passport, you need to submit verified copies of all passport non-blank pages. Black and white photocopy will do. You can either get it verified through a notary or VFS staff can verify it for you. Notary is going to be expensive, so it is cheaper to let VFS staff verify it at Rs 10 per page.
  3. Photos- 35mm by 45mm, 2 of this will be needed
  4. Travel proof- hotel bookings, flight tickets etc
  5. Proof of financial ability- 3 years tax returns, bank statement etc
  6. Leave approval in case of salaried folks
What is the processing time for getting Australia tourist visa for Indians?
15 working days is official timeline. I got in 10 days approx.  Add few more days if post/courier or a travel agent is involved (you are not submitting in person at VFS). Be sure to initiate the process at least one calendar month before date of travel to be on safe side (in case of rejection due to technical grounds you will have time to apply again or change your plan). Once I submitted, VFS took 2 full days to send it to embassy, after that I got an email informing me of visa grant after one week.  But time line could vary based on season/work load etc.

Do we need to submit original passport while applying for Australian tourist visa?
No. That is a big relief because your passport won’t get locked in the process and you are free to go anywhere.

What would be the duration of Australia tourist visa? Single entry or Multiple entry?
Typically 3 months. You can ask for longer duration by ticking right check boxes, but be sure to include proof/justification. Validity at the discretion of embassy.

What else should I keep in mind?
  1. Don’t carry your laptops to VFS centre- security won’t allow it in. Unless you have a car to keep it or someone else with you to hold it and wait outside.
  2. Most VFS centres won’t have parking (building may have parking, but VFS customers can't use it- security will create unnecessary nuisance- their website has details of the parking space availability- mostly you will end up parking by the roadside somewhere nearby.
  3. VFS staff won't verify the paper work, unless you pay for premium service- be double sure everything is in order before going- this will reduce chances of delay/rejection
Is VFS’s premium service worth?
VFS Chennai had a premium lounge access. A regular Australia Visa costs you about Rs 8300, Lounge access I am told would cost Rs 10000 total. That is Rs 1700 extra for which you will get following extra facilities
-    A nice comfortable lounge to sit in in VFS office (You still have to go there, no one will come home)
-    A dedicated staff will attend to your paperwork- they will do the photocopy, verify if entered details/attached documents are adequate, take photocopies if required.
-    Some refreshments

In standard Submission for Australia Visa, VFS will NOT verify the documents submitted by the applicant- VFS staff didn't even check if all the documents are there they won’t point out if any important document is missed or if something is incorrect in the application- this can result in delay or even rejection of an application. The Onus is on the applicant to ensure that all papers are in order. Despite collecting close to 1000 Rs as VFS fee, VFS largely works as postman- sending your application to embassy. I feel they should do one simple screening and advice if anything is missing or incorrect as per their experience- saves lots of time for applicants as well as embassy. But unfortunately VFS offers that service only if you are paying about 2k more. So you can take a chance, save 2k and take extra precautions to ensure everything is in order or if you can afford it, try the lounge access.

Disclaimer: Above post is based on my personal experience of applying for Australia tourist visa. This post is neither validated nor endorsed by either VFS OR Australian Consulate. Visa process, document required, timelines etc are subject to change at the discretion of consulates, so please be sure to cross check latest applicable rules and requirements from official channels before applying. This post can only be used as a reference and nothing else. Mine was a pretty simple case- just wanted to visit Australia for a week, had adequate funds to survive and had enough motives to come back. If your case is complex (such as traveling with family/minors, visiting relatives etc or you don't have proper job or motive to come back) please plan accordingly as additional paperwork might be involved. Best wishes.

Similar VISA related posts: Best way to get Dubai tourist visa * Thailand Visa on Arrival for Indians * Malaysia visa application process *

14 comments :

Rajiv said...

It is strange that they don't even do a primary verification of the documents. Few years back, I went to VFS Bangalore for Canadian VISA and as far as I remember, my each and every document was checked and only then accepted.

Looks like all they are thinking these days is money! Sad.

Cheers,
Rajiv

vignesh said...

Hi Shrinidhi,

Is it possible to apply it online? Or somebody on behalf of me?

Currently I am working in Congo, I would like to visit Australia directly from here.

Thanks
Vignesh

The wild said...

Visa for any country -is the exact process described in the sms process ,vfs is just a facilitator.

That is the ONLY information(sms update) that you as an applicant will know for any country across the world.As a general norm they wont let you know the reason for your rejection of your visa unless ofcourse its fraud and your passport is stamped saying you are barred from entering the country for a specific period of time.

It may be one of the mitigating circumstances described by you.

Arun Prasadh said...

Very informative post. Not checking the documents is bad. No other option than VFS?

Shrinidhi Hande said...

@ Arun:

I think VFS is the best option. We can go to embassy directly in Delhi as an alternative, but going there, getting passport pages notarized etc will make it even more expensive, unless you live in Delhi or have know a notary or have only few passport pages to notarize

@The Wild
Below are some comments on SMS service- I was expecting one acknowledgment SMS that my application has been received by VFS-but there was none.
The final SMS was received one day after I got email. It didn’t serve any purpose. If it was received earlier or if it had the decision/visa number etc, it would have helped.
I feel that for four useless SMS, spending 90 rupee is not worth.

@Vignesh

I am not sure. Check with your nearest Australia consulate. If you can send notarized copies of passport and other documents, someone else can possibly apply on your behalf in India I guess.


@Rajiv: I guess they are trying to push customers towards their premium services. May be situation is different for other countries.

Srinivas Chatrapathi Simhadri said...

Hello Shrinidhi - My name is Sim located in Australia on visitor visa- Looking to apply for Visitor Or Tourist visa for my family of 3 members ( Spouse, 2 Children below then 2years ) . I am wondering required funds to be shown for 2 months of visit ( Who can show the funds & how long funds should be shown to immigration ) . I would request to guide required documents .

Your reply would much appreciated .

Thank you,
Sim

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Hi Sim

Unfortunately no one can give exact amount that authorities will consider adequate...

A simple calculation would be to calculate per day expense per person (hotel, food, transport etc) multiply by no of people and no of days, add some buffer. Head of family or any earning member in the group can show their proof of funds in their name I guess.

Note that I am not an authority on this matter- just stating what I feel might be required. Check with a Visa processing agency or use embassy helpline to get authentic information.

Shrinidhi Hande said...

6 month bank statement, Income tax return statements, credit card statements are usually accepted as proof of income/funds

vignesh said...

Hi Nidhi,

I don't have income tax return statement, is just a bank statement and credit card statements are sufficient? or they really insist on IT return?

Also, can I apply for visa 6 months before?

Thanks
Vignesh

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Hi Vignesh,

Hope you understand that I am no authority in this matter and it will be discretion of Australian officials to take a decision on your case. Just as my opinion, they need assurance that you have enough funds to support yourself and a motive to come back and not settle there in Australia. If you are salarized, better to include Form 16 at least if not returns. Else attach additional proof of your business/income etc just in case.

I think you can apply 6 months in advance if you have ticket and everything. But you will only be wasting 6 months of validity if it is issued for 12 months and if issued for shorter duration, it might expire before your trip. Better to apply closer to travel date.

Unknown said...

Hi,

Can we go directly to submit Tourist visa application or do we have to take an appointment for the same.

Thanks,
Neha.

Shrinidhi Hande said...

You can walkin to VFS and submit your documents. No appointment is required AFAIK, because not too many people come to apply for Australia visa every day

atheos said...

Hello

does the Application form (Form 1419)have to be typed or it can be handwritten

Thanks
Anurag

Shrinidhi Hande said...

I think both should be fine. But check with VFS