The move will make the application process hassle-free and boost the already-burgeoning inbound tourist arrivals from India
Starting 1 July 2017, Australia-bound Indian nationals can say goodbye to the hassle of physical paperwork for their visitor visa applications. They will have to lodge their applications online from that date.
Online lodgement of visa will offer benefits such as 24/7 accessibility, electronic payment of the visa application charge and the ability to check the status of applications lodged online.
Being able to check the status of an application online, as soon as it is finalised, will allow Indian applicants to finalise their travel arrangements as soon as possible, confident that they have first obtained the necessary visa for their visit.
The development is part of the Australian government’s continued expansion of online access to visitor visas globally.
The visitor visa (subclass 600) lets people visit Australia for tourism or business visitor activities. Tourism includes holidays, recreation and seeing family or friends. Business visitor activities may include attending a conference, negotiation or an exploratory business visit.
People intending informal study or training for less than 3 months, may also apply for a visitor visa.
The online visa application will be particularly gladden Indian tourists, who have been flocking Down Under since a few years. As many as 259,900 travellers from India visited Australia in 2016, a jump of 11 percent from the year before that.
In the first four months of 2017 alone, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection granted more than 65,000 visitor visas to Indian nationals.
India is now the ninth largest inbound market for Australia in terms of visitor arrivals, with China at the top. Their spending was pegged at a whopping $1.2 billion dollars, a year-on-year rise of 9%, and is expected to cross $1.9 billion by the year 2020. Indians also ranked fifth in terms of visitor nights spent in Australia, with a median figure of 29 nights.
The Assistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Alex Hawke, said the online application option would make applying for Australian visitor visas easier and ultimately enhance the visitor experience for Indian citizens.
“Indian nationals wishing to visit Australia will soon be able to apply for a visitor visa in a more convenient and accessible manner,” Mr Hawke said.
“Online lodgement for visitor visa applications is a significant enhancement that will benefit Indian applicants seeking to visit Australia as tourists or business visitors, or those wanting to reconnect with family and friends.”
Australia has made sustained efforts to promote tourism in India through print and television advertisements as well as some unconventional promotions. Some regional tourism organisations have roped in Indian celebrities to visit Australia. Through eye-catching holiday updates on social media or TV shows that feature new destinations in every episode, the celebrities have reached legions of their fans and subtly pitched the place to them.
Bollywood actor Parineeti Chopra was one such celebrity who holidayed in Tropical North Queensland in February last year. She visited Tjakupai cultural park, Daintree Rainforest, took a helicopter ride over the Great Barrier Reef, went snorkelling and even cuddled a koala at Kuranda Koala Gardens. She chronicled her travel extensively on social media, which news outlets promptly picked up as well.
Celebrity chef Ranveer Brar, too, made a Twitter Video show #RanveerOnTheRoad in collaboration with Twitter India and Tourism Australia last year.
Brar travelled to Australia’s most celebrated food and wine destinations, interacted with MasterChef contestants and tweeted a 3-minute episode twice a week.
Such activities have helped Australia gain traction among the upwardly mobile Indian tourists and travellers. With the online visa applications, the process to get here will become significantly less cumbersome and hassle-free.