Changes to Visitor, Business Visitor and ETA Visas

webster By Mark Webster
Monday, 18 March 2013

Major changes to the visitor, business visitor and ETA visa subclasses have been announced and will come into effect on 23 March 2013.

Most of the current visitor visa subclasses will no longer be available for new applications, and instead will be replaced with a new series of visa subclasses.

Temporary Work (Short Stay Activity) Subclass 400 Visa

The Short Stay Activity visa partially replaces the business visitor visa (subclasses 456 and 459) and business visitor ETA (subclasses 956 and 977).

This visa is for people seeking to travel to Australia to:

  • Do short-term, highly specialised, non-ongoing work; or
  • Participate in a specific event at the invitation of an Australian organisation
Generally, it is valid for up to 6 weeks, but can be valid for up to 3 months in particular circumstances.

The proposed work or participation in the specific event needs to be approved by the Department of Immigration. Applicants seeking to work in Australia on a subclass 400 visa need to have specialised skills, knowledge or experience that assists Australian business and cannot be found in the Australian labour market.

The duration of the visa (6 weeks in most cases) is also shorter than the current business visitor and ETA options (in general, these are for stays of up to 3 months).

As a result, the subclass 400 can be used for short-term work in Australia, but is more restrictive than the current options.

The subclass 400 visa can be lodged as either a paper-based application or via the internet for selected countries.

Visitor Visa (Subclass 600)

The new subclass 600 visa replaces a range of visas including tourist visas (676 and 679). It allows travel to Australia for tourist activities and can be valid for between 3 months and 12 months in general.

It is also possible to engage in business visitor activities on a subclass 600 visa. These can include attending conferences, negotiations or exploratory business visits. Accordingly, some aspects of the business visitor visa have been folded into the subclass 600 visa.

Four streams are available under the new subclass 600 visa:

  1. Tourist Stream: this is for people seeking to travel to Australia for tourism activities or to visit friends or family in Australia.
  2. Business Visitor Stream: it is not permitted to work on this type of visa, but certain "business activities" are permitted such as:
    • Making general business or employment enquiries
    • Investigating, negotiating, signing or reviewing a business contract
    • Participating in conferences, trade fairs or seminars in Australia
  3. Sponsored Family Stream: this allows you to be sponsored by Australian family to visit Australia. It may require payment of a bond to ensure that the visa holder returns home after their stay in Australia.
  4. Approved Destination Status Stream: for Chinese nationals coming to Australia as part of an approved tour group
The subclass 600 visa will be a paper based application for most people, but will gradually be moved onto an electronic lodgement system over time.

Electronic Travel Authority (ETA Subclass 601)

The electronic travel authority visa will replace the various ETA visas currently available (subclass 976, 977 and 956). Only passport holders from certain countries (mainly in Europe, North America and North East Asia) are eligible to apply for an ETA.

Similar to subclass 600, it is possible to visit Australia for either tourism or business purposes on the new ETA subclass 601 visa.

The ETA subclass 600 visa will be available either through travel agents, airlines or through the Department of Immigration website (unless you are eligible for an eVisitor visa - see below).

eVisitor (Subclass 651)

The eVisitor visa is already in existence and can be applied for by passport holders from certain European countries.

This visa is free of charge and is applied for via the Department of Immigration website.

Medical Treatment (Subclass 602)

This visa replaces the current medical treatment (subclasses 675 and 685) visas.

It allows holders to come to or remain in Australia to undergo medical treatment.


The main effect of the changes to visitor visas is to reduce the number of visa subclasses and make the visa system simpler for the Department of Immigration to manage.

For the main part, there appear to be only minor changes to the eligiblity criteria.

The main exception to this would appear to be the new subclass 400 Temporary Work (Short Stay Activity) visa. The work rights and duration of stay for this visa are significantly more restrictive than the current business visitor options. The application seems to be paper-based, and the proposed work or activity needs to be specifically approved by the Department of Immigration before travelling to Australia.

For more information on qualifying for a visitor visa, please contact us for more information.

Stay up to date - Subscribe to Immigration News!