Simon Haag and Tom Ying
After much anticipation, the Department of Immigration announced on 12 December 2016 that the new 10 year 'Frequent Traveller' visitor visa is now open to PRC nationals. The 10-year visa is of significant benefit to frequent short-term travellers by avoiding multiple visa applications being made, with related processing times and multiple government fees for each visa being avoided. The initial visa fee of $1000 however, is substantial and this has caused some controversy within the Chinese community as to this amount as well consideration for affected visitors as to the length of visa they will seek.
Visa applicants in China will be able to lodge the visitor visa applications in Chinese through the new online service provided by Australian Visa Application Centres (AVACs). This visa is suited to Chinese travellers who need to travel frequently to and for short-term stays in Australia.
Chinese passport holders wishing to apply for this visa must first make an appointment to provide biometrics identifiers (fingerprints and photograph) at an Australian Visa Application Centre (AVAC) in China before lodging an application which is then an online process.
Pros of new 10-year visitor visa for PRC nationals
Cons new 10-year visitor visa for PRC nationals
The government has given the Department of Immigration a degree of control over this visa through the imposing certain conditions/restrictions on the visa grant. These include restrictions that 1) allow the minister to request a 600 visa holder under the Frequent Traveller stream to under a new medical check at any time, 2) requires a 600 visa holder to update Immigration with any change of contact details including phone number, online profile, e-mail and address, and 3) restrict the visa holder from making any further visa applications other than a protection visa.
It will be interesting to see the developments over the next few weeks, particularly in relation to the number of trial visas available and whether Immigration requires additional evidence from the applications to justify the need of a 10-year tourist visa. As the number of visa availability is limited, it may be a 'first in first serve basis' similar to when the working holiday visa program was introduced to PRC nationals, where the 3000 spots were filled within 2 - 3 days after the program release.
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