As of 23 March 2013, the Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship (‘DIAC’) has set in place a new short stay visitor visa program in an effort to streamline the previous scheme which contained nine different subclasses.

The new scheme consists of:

  • Temporary Work (Short Stay Activity) Visa (subclass 400)
  • Visitor Visa (subclass 600)
  • Electronic Travel Authority (ETA) (subclass 601)
  • Medical Treatment Visa (subclass 602)
  • eVisitor Visa (subclass 651).

While the subclass 651 visa has been in place for some time, all other visas are new to the migration program. Below is a snapshot of the short stay visas most relevant to employers.

Temporary Work (Short Stay Activity) Visa – Subclass 400:

This new visa has been introduced to accommodate for the fact that the other short stay visas do not allow work activities.

The subclass 400 visa is a short term visa which will permit six weeks highly specialised employment in Australia provided that these activities can be completed within a continuous period of three months or less. Hence, the activities proposed on this visa must be clearly short term in nature. DIAC will not approve an application which suggests otherwise.

Applications for this visa must be lodged and approved while the applicant is outside Australia. Current indications are that all applications must be lodged at the applicant’s local DIAC office overseas. To do so, applicants will have to contact their local Australian consular mission in order to initiate the process.

It is expected that applicants will have to provide a number of supporting documents to their local Australian consular mission when lodging the application, including evidence of their ability to financially support themselves, evidence that the work is highly specialised and short-term, and evidence of their relevant skill background.

The filing fee for this visa is AUD145.

Visitor Visa – Subclass 600:

The subclass 600 visa may be granted for tourist or business visitor activities and is designed for applicants who do not possess an ETA or eVisitor eligible passport (see below for more details).

Business visitor activities include general business or employment enquiries, investigating or negotiating contracts, attending conferences, trade fairs and seminars. Employment and the sale of goods to the general public are specifically excluded from this definition.

Generally, applicants seeking to enter Australia for business visitor activities will have to lodge the application outside Australia while in most cases, applicants can apply for the visa in Australia if their intention is to stay on as a tourist. Applications may be lodged online or at a local DIAC office in paper format depending on the passport held by the applicant.

The period of stay available on this visa is variable depending on the applicant’s individual circumstances.

Electronic Travel Authority – Subclass 601:

The subclass 601 visa is available to ETA eligible passports (e.g. United States and Canada) and is intended for tourist or business visitor activities. Holders of this visa will be permitted to stay in Australia for a maximum of three months on each entry.

Applicants for this visa must be outside Australia on lodgement and approval.

It is important to note that only certain passport holders are able to apply for this visa online (Brunei, Canada, Hong Kong (SAR), Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, and United States). All other ETA passport holders will be required to approach an Australian consular mission, travel agent or airline in order to obtain the visa.

eVisitor Visa – Subclass 651:

The subclass 651 visa is similar to the subclass 601 visa, however, only available to eVisitor eligible passport holders (e.g. Italy, United Kingdom, Sweden, France, Germany, Switzerland, The Netherlands and Norway).

Holders of this visa will also be permitted to stay in Australia for a maximum of three months on each entry.

eVisitor passport holders may apply for the visa online without the assistance of an agent or other third party.