DISCLAIMER: Before I begin, I just wanna remind everyone that this is based on my own experience in securing my Australian Tourist Visa. Also, I also want to point out that I am not in any way connected to the Australian Embassy and its partners.
Any Filipino who wish to satisfy his wanderlust, has to face three grim realities of global travel early on: high cost of plane tickets, expensive hotels, and hard-to-secure visas.
The first obstacle is becoming easier and easier to overcome what with the proliferation of budget airlines and online sites providing cheaper plane tickets. Expensive hotels, meanwhile can easily be avoided thanks to hostels, airbnb, couchsurfing and other forms of homestays. But the problem on visas is a roadblock that one has to face like a soldier. You must be brave and you must be ready.
Most ASEAN countries have already waived their visa requirement but major destinations such as the US, Canada, Europe, Japan, and Australia continue to require visas for all travel purposes.
For the longest time, I have always wanted to visit Australia and discover the adventures that await me there. But to be honest, I have always been discouraged by the complex process of applying for a visa.
Thank God I finally had the courage to try and after going through a lot of difficulties, I was finally able to secure a 3-month tourist visa to Australia and I will be flying to the land down under in December.
I got my visa in as fast as two weeks after the embassy received my documents.
So how did I do it? Here’s a step-by-step procedure on how to apply for a visa.
First and foremost, you must know that you can’t lodge your application directly to the Australian Embassy. The embassy has tapped a commercial company VFS Global to accept all visa application for the Commonwealth. Got it, you may read on.
PREPARING YOUR APPLICATION
1. The very first step is quite simple and obvious. Know the visa type you need to apply for. You can check it out by clicking this site of the Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP). Find a Visa. At the left side of that page, there is a pricing estimator which will guide you on the cost of visa application fee you will need to pay. Or you can just simply click Pricing Estimator
For the purposes of this blog, I will disclose that I applied for a multiple entry tourist visa for holiday which falls under Visitor Visa Subclass 600. And the visa application cost was AUD130 or about P5,700 (this is the most updated rate)
2. To apply for this visa, you must first gather all the required documents. According to the Australian Embassy, here are the Required Documents.
Basically that list includes the ff:
- Information on Visitors Visa—http://www.immi.gov.au/visas/visitor/600/applicants.htm
- Visa Application Form—http://www.immi.gov.au/allforms/pdf/1419.pdf
- Visa Application Fee (for tourist visa is P5,700) payable to Australian Embassy
- Addl Service Fee for VFS Global (P1,330 payable to VFS Services Philippines Private Inc.
- Personal documents (copy of passport, stamps, visa, entry and exit stamps) and 1 passport size photo attached to the application form
- Financial documents (copies of bank deposits with history, bank statement or payslips over a period of time, credit card statements and limits, letter of support from Australian contact with the above evidence of financial capability
- Evidence of intended purpose of travel (plane booking, hotel booking, detailed itinerary
My passport was really thick and it has a lots of stamps on it due to my travels over the past years and I was undecided which stamps to include so I decided to include my entire passport (not adviseable though).
The Visa fee and the service fee for VFS should be paid via Manager’s Check. Go to your bank and ask them to issue them for you. Normally, banks charge P100 for each check.
For financial documents, I included ITR, certificate of employment with compensation. I have very little money in the bank since I traveled to three countries earlier this year, so I included pay slips and bank statements for 3 months.
For evidence of travel, I sought the assistance of leading travel agency Avenix Travel (www.facebook.com/AvenixTravel) to issue a dummy plane booking. Avenix booked me a tentative booking at one of the leading airlines in Asia and sent me a copy via email.
Separately, I made tentative hostel booking at hostelworld and attached the reservation form. I also included an approved leave of absence form.
Understand this: Australia is a first world country and the cost of living is high. Since I have very little money in the bank, I explained well in the application form how I intend to survive with the amount of money in my bank for the duration of my stay.
I explained that I will be staying at a hostel (identified) and that I will be visiting tourist areas, places of interest that do not necessarily require expensive fees and transport. e.g. (Coogee to Bondi walk, Manly beach.
I do not know whether that will work for everyone, but I guess, the embassy considered my travel history (as seen on my stamps) that I travel a lot and I always go back.
SUBMITTING YOUR APPLICATION
Once you have filled up all the forms including the 14-page application form, you may now call up VFS Global and arrange for pick-up appointment at your preferred date and place. You can schedule by clicking this link http://www.vfsglobal.com/australia/philippines/Schedule_an_appointment.html
Or by emailing email@example.com or by making a personal appearance at their office located at VFS Global Services Philippines Private Inc., Mezzanine floor Unit M01, Ecoplaza Building, 2305 Pasong Tamo Extension Makati City.
Once the courier picks-up your documents, the waiting game begins.
As a matter of policy, it takes the Australian Embassy one month to give a reply to your application form.
Note however that the time it takes VFS to collect all your documents and sort it is not included in the 1 month rule. It is really adviseable to apply for your visa two months before your intended travel.
In my case, it took only 2 weeks. I think its because of my travel history and the completeness of my documents. But again, this does not happen often so apply early.
TRACKING YOUR APPLICATION:
You can track the status of your application by clicking this link. http://www.vfsglobal.com/australia/philippines/track_application.html
Be advised however that you will have to have a VLN number before you can use this portal. It takes a week before after application before you get a VLN and you can get it by calling the VFS hotline.
HOW TO FOLLOW UP WHEN YOU GET NO RESPONSE
Two weeks after, the embassy returned my passport. It’s an original document so they had to return it. Unfortunately, it had no response included in the pouch. No Visa Grant and No Visa Rejection as well.
I was beginning to panic. I didnt want all my hardwork to go to waste so I contacted VFS Global to report the situation. After a few calls, they gave me the direct landline of the Australian Embassy which I immediately called. the phone was answered by a computer prompt which advised me to email the embassy regarding the status of my visa application form.
The email was ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’
I advise everyone to exercise caution. Please email only if the visa application is already past one month. I only emailed them since they already completed processing my visa as checked on the VFS Global portal and they already returned my documents without a decision.
After a day, they emailed me back and it was A Notice of Visa Grant.
I really cried because of too much joy. All the difficulties I went through paid off and I couldn’t be happier now that I will soon be able to see Australia, one of the most gorgeous countries in my bucket list.