This change has come under the “mobility and migration agreement,” while visitor visa (tourist stream) remains at three years.
Australia has further streamlined its visa application process here as India is now the fastest growing inbound market for it and the first to exceed 2019 visitation levels, Tourism Australia country manager (India and Gulf) Nishant Kashikar told TOI.“Australia saw 3.7 lakh visitors from India in June 2022-May 2023, over 2% more than same period of pre-Covid 2018-19. May 2023 saw 41,300 from India which is the highest ever number in a month since reopening of Australian borders. Now India is the fourth largest inbound market for arrivals while pre-Covid it was at the seventh rank,” Kashikar said.
The number is expected to grow with increased direct air connectivity. While in 2019 there were seven weekly nonstops between the two countries by Air India, at present the number is at 22 with Qantas also flying now and will rise to 25 this October. Qantas is increasing frequency of its Delhi-Melbourne and Bengaluru-Sydney nonstops.
“Australia now offers ease and speed of visa processing with no biometric required to be given in person and the entire process is online. There’s no need to buy a ticket or make hotel booking before applying for an Australian visa,” Kashikar said.
Indians are also splurging more than ever down under. According to Tourism Australia, Indians spent almost 2 billion Australian dollar (Rs 11,000 crore) in the year ended March 2023 — 16% more than same period in 2018-19. India is now the fifth largest source market in terms of overseas visitor spend at Rs 3.2-3.5 lakh per trip. Pre-Covid, Indians were the sixth biggest spenders here.
Visiting friends and relatives accounts for over 60% of Indian visitations (at 61.7%), followed by holiday (13%), business (8.6%) and then employment, education and others accounting for the remaining 16.7%. Australia has over 10 lakh persons of Indian origin and nearly a lakh desi students.
Tourism Australia organised its biggest ever trade meet — Australia Marketplace India — in India in Bengaluru earlier this week with over 210 delegates, including over 100 from Australia.
Regarding ease of visa processing, a spokesperson for the Australian department of home affairs told TOI: “In line with the government’s commitment to clearing visa backlogs, the department has now reduced on-hand temporary and migration visa applications to pre-Covid levels. On-hand applications for all nationalities are now almost 40% lower than the nearly 1 million on-hand in June 2022. Temporary visa applications have reduced by 73% from more than 600,000 on June 30, 2022 to just over 161,000 on June 30, 2023. The government announced over $36 million funding for an extra 500 visa processing staff at the jobs and skills summit in September 2022.”
“The government has announced further funding in the 2023-24 budget for visa processing officers, with an additional $48.1 million over 12 months to continue efforts to deliver improvements in program delivery. All additional positions have been filled and are now supporting temporary and migration visa processing. Application rates continue to increase and the Department is maintaining increased levels of activity and staffing to ensure that visa applications continue to be finalised quickly. The department finalised almost 8.3 million visas in 2022-23. This is a 190.3% increase over 2021-22,” the home department spokesperson added.