Processing time for Australian visas cut
The Australian mission has cut the processing time for visas issued to UAE tourists by half, Noel Campbell, Australian ambassador to the UAE, said.The processing time has been cut to between seven or eight days, from 14 to 15 days earlier, he said in a Gulf News report. UAE nationals, who account for one-third of Middle East tourists to Australia, are issued five-year multiple entry visas. The ambassador said that following September 11, Australia had increasingly been seen as an alternative source of education services by UAE nationals. Between July 1, 2000 and June 30, 2001, the Australian Consulate General in Dubai issued visitor visas to 12,483 applicants from Gulf countries. By comparison, 10,042 visitor visas were issued from July 1, 2001 to June 30, 2002. While this reflects a 20-per cent decline in the number of visas issued, overall international air travel has declined by up to 30 per cent, said Alex Fraser, First Secretary at the Australian embassy in Abu Dhabi. Moreover, this does not take into account the fact that many of the visas issued are multiple-entry visas. Repeat visitors are not being picked up in visa issue figures. Many of the visas issued in previous years have been valid for up to five years or the life of the passport, are multiple entry and allow a stay of up to three months at a time, Fraser said. This means that potential tourists do not have to keep coming back to the Australian Consulate General in Dubai to get a new visa each year. Conversely, the UAE is also attracting more Australian holidaymakers. Over the past five years, 32,000 Australians visited the UAE. That figure is expected to rise to 80,000 following Emirates airline's opening of a direct, 11-hour Dubai-Perth route in August. This is in addition to the daily flights to Melbourne since 1996 and the four weekly flights to Sydney since 2000.