4 important things you need to know about Australia Immigration (Visa, Prohibited items, Tax refund etc)

Aside from the United States, Australia‘s immigration & customs have been known to be one of the strictest in the world in which our Singapore Travel Blogging team experienced first hand when we took a trip there not too long ago.

To help you ease past Australia’s immigration, we thought to share with you some of the things you would have to do to make sure you don’t get held up at the airport and can completely immerse yourself in your long awaited holiday.

1. Australia visa & ETA

australia immigration

Unless you are from Australia or New Zealand, to enter Australia, you would have to have either a Visa or an ETA (Electronic Travel Authority).

The difference between a Visa and an ETA is that while a Visa is processed and issued by the Government of Australia and would often have to include a trip down to your local Australia Embassy, an ETA is now fuss free and can be issued by authorized agencies/websites and can be done easily online such as at Visa4oz or Australia government (Department of immigration and border).

Secondly, because it is processed online as compared to visas which are approved by the government, you can always amend details on your ETA if need be. ETA applications are also generally much faster and usually takes less than 48 hours to approve.

The catch? Online applications for ETA is not available for every country. For example, from Visa4oz site that we mentioned earlier, only passport holders from Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, (SAR) Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Malta, Monaco, The Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Republic of San Marino, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, United Kingdom – British Citizen, United Kingdom – British National (Overseas), United States of America, Vatican City are eligible to apply for an ETA. Passport holders who are not listed on Authorized websites would not be able to apply online and would have to check with Travel agents or a Australia Visa Office to find out more.

Australian Customs prohibited items

australia immigration

Amongst other things such as the usual drugs, guns etc that is prohibited, Australia also takes a serious stand against people bringing in food and animal/plant related goods as they seek to prevent the introduction of pest and diseases into their agriculture and unique environment they took so long to build.

The list of prohibited items include but do not restrict to:

  • Food (Includes Cup noodles and airline snacks)
  • Dairy and Egg products (Includes Infant Formula)
  • Meat, seafood and poultry
  • Seeds & nuts
  • Fruits & Vegetables
  • Plant material (Includes tea containing seeds or fruit skin, medicines containing herbs, handicrafts such as wreaths and Christmas decoration, wooden items)
  • Live animals and animal products (Includes skin,hide, fur, jewellery with shells and corals, beeswax and bee related products, handicrafts of animal nature such as drums)
  • Other items (Include used sporting and camping equipment [need to be checked and ensure that it is clean from soil contamination], used freshwater watercraft and equipment  such as fishing rods etc)

All such items have to be declared if they wished to be brought in, and this includes domestic flights as well as certain states and territories prohibit bringing in fresh fruits etc from other states.

Upon declaration, the item would be either:

i) Treated by Fumigation or Gamma irradiation (at your cost)
ii) exported
iii) destroyed

If you are found with any of the prohibited items without declaring (intentionally or unintentionally):

i) you may be issued an on the spot fine of AUD$360
ii) you could be prosecuted, fined more than $66000 and risk 10 years jail and a criminal record

If you ask our travel blog, we suggest you not to risk anything and just don’t bring any food or any of the said items into Australia unless absolutely necessary. For the most parts, if there’s anything you absolutely need, like infants milk etc, you can just purchase them at a local supermarket after you touchdown, milks pretty cheap in Australia.

ePassport self-service Kiosk


If you are a passport holder of any of the above national flags, rejoice cause you can skip the long immigration queues and use this ePassport self service Kiosk!australia-tax-refund-immigration-visa-eta-prohibited-items


Simply look for one of these self service Kiosk, insert your passport and key in some simple information and the machine would produce a card with your name printed on it as shown in step 2. Then take your card and head towards immigration where you will be segregated from the rest. Insert your card into the slot provided and follow the instructions on the screen. The technology then picks up your facial features and automatically lets you pass. Straight, simple and takes you less than 3 mins to get through and now you are all ready to enjoy your holiday in Australia!

Australia Tax refund

australia immigration
Australia charges a 10% Tax on most Goods and services, which can be a hefty sum if you purchase large priced items. The good news is that as tourist and visitors, we get to do a Tax refund and get our 10% back.

How to do it? First of all you would have to spend AUD$300 worth of goods (not services) and above in a single store (not brand) i.e You can’t combine your receipt from the Pandora you bought in Sydney and the one you bought in Melbourne. It has to be from the same shop but we do however, believe that you can combine multiple receipts (do check with the shop assistant prior to your purchase).
When you are leaving Australia, right after clearing their immigration, there would be a Tax refund counter where you can process your tax refund. Do however, note that on top of the receipts, you MUST have your purchased item with you on hand and in your hand carry as proof of purchase. We have had friends who were denied their refund claims because they checked in their items and the immigration officer was unable to verify the goods.

Lastly, do also have your Credit card with you as most of the Tax refund officers do not offer cash returns but debits the refunds to your credit card instead.

Hope this has been useful and do remember to share this article with all your friends and family that will be or wants to travel to Australia!

Have fun in Aussie!

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