Getting a tourist visa to visit Australia is, for the majority of US citizens, a relatively straightforward process that can be completed online.
Note that this guide does not take into account any additional, temporary requirements in place during the Covid pandemic. For the most up-to-date Covid requirements, visit the Australia embassy website.
- Visa needed for US citizens: Yes
- Visa types for US citizens: Electronic Travel Authority visa (ETA) or transit visa
- Visa application: Online
- Visa issued: Online
- Cost: $20 AUD for ETA, free for transit visa
- Timing: 2+ weeks in advance
- Length of validity: 12 months
- Max length of stay: 3 months for ETA, 72 hours for transit visa
Who Needs a Visa to Visit Australia?
- The only people who do not need a visa to enter Australia are citizens of Australia and New Zealand (who can apply for a visa upon arrival).
- US citizens—and everyone else—need to obtain the appropriate visa in advance of arrival in Australia.
There’s even a transit visa available for people who will only be in the country for 72 hours or less, provided they already have an onward ticket to their next destination. (If you’re not leaving the airport, you may not need a transit visa; we explain more below.)
What Types of Visas are Available for US Citizens?
Any US citizens entering Australia will need a visa, and there are several types of visas for which US citizens can apply, depending on the purpose of their travels. The main visas most US citizens will need for a short stay are the Electronic Travel Authority visa or a transit visa listed below, but you can also search the “Explore visa options” page of Australia’s Department of Home Affairs website if your situation isn’t listed here.
Tourism: US passport holders (including those going to Australia during a cruise) must apply for an Electronic Travel Authority visa (subclass 601), which is valid for multiple entries over the course of one year. Holders of this visa can stay for up to three months on each entry to the country. If you’re already in Australia on an ETA visa and you want to extend your stay in Australia, you can apply for a Visitor visa (subclass 600), which may allow you to stay for up to one additional year.
Transit: US passport holders who will be traveling through Australia, staying 72 hours or less in the country, must apply for a Transit visa (subclass 771). Note that even if you have a shorter stopover in Australia during which you don’t plan to leave the airport you may still need to get a Transit visa. The threshold is whether you need to collect your bags and go through immigration before your next flight (which will be the case if you’ve booked your tickets separately). If you must go through immigration, you must get a Transit visa. You’ll also need to have an onward ticket to the next destination (plus the necessary documents to enter that country).
How to Apply for an Australian Visa for Tourism or Transit
All Australian visas have online application processes. (There are also paper applications available if for some reason you can’t apply online.) The Australian Department of Home Affairs website explains each visa in detail, including who’s eligible, what the visa costs, which documents are required, and even a notice (updated once per month) of how long the current processing time is. And, as mentioned, you can research your visa options on their website if you’re not sure which one is best suited to your needs.
Once you know which visa you need (and have obtained the necessary paperwork for it), you’ll create what the Department of Home Affairs calls an “ImmiAccount” to apply and pay (if required) for it online.
Required Documents and Information
For the application you’ll need:
- Valid passport
- For the ETA, a credit card to pay the processing fee
- For the transit visa, proof of onward travel
- The Electronic Travel Authority (ETA) visa is free, but there is a 20 AUD nonrefundable processing fee for the online application.
- The transit visa is free.
- Most ETA applications are processed immediately and you’ll find out whether it was approved before you even leave the ETA site. If for some reason it says your application is pending, you should be able to check back in 12 hours to get an update.
- Pre-pandemic, 75% of transit visa applications were processed in 8 days, and 90% in 15 days. (See most up-to-date processing times here.)
Process of Applying for an Australia Visa
You must apply for either visa before you arrive in Australia (you can’t get either visa in the airport once you land). Note that since this is an electronic visa, you won’t get paper documentation to put in your physical passport.
Process for applying for the Electronic Travel Authority (ETA) visa (subclass 601):
- Make sure you have the appropriate documents (valid passport and credit card) and information (email address)
- Fill out the application online and pay the $20 processing fee
- Find out whether your ETA visa has been granted (in many cases, as quickly as 30 seconds after you submit the application; in other cases, it may take 12 hours)
- Keep a copy of the email you receive that includes your ETA visa grant number (be sure to keep it with you during your travels to Australia)
Process for applying for a transit visa (subclass 771):
- Gather the necessary documents (valid passport and proof of onward travel no more than 72 hours after arrival) and have the appropriate health exam (if needed—learn more about who needs exams and how to arrange them here)
- Fill out the application online (there is no paper option)
- Receive notification about whether your visa has been approved or not, including the visa grant number
- Keep a copy of the notice that includes your transit visa grant number with you during your stay in Australia