AUSTRALIA has extended the validity period for tourist visas and business visitor visas from one to two years for GCC nationals.
Most nationals from the GCC issued a visa from December 11, 2006 – and valid for two years – can visit Australia as often as they like over that two-year period with just one visa, said a senior official. Up to 70 per cent of these people are repeat visitors making regular family holiday trips to Australia, and the validity extension will benefit an estimated 11,000 visitors from the Gulf every year, said Australia’s Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, Amanda Vanstone.
Travellers should check their visa validity if issued prior to December 11, 2006, as they will not be automatically extended by the announced changes, a statement said.
It said the 2006 visitor peak period has been the best yet for travellers from the Gulf. “The Australian Government implemented a number of initiatives in 2006 which helped ease the peak in visa applications for nationals of the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait,” Vanstone said.
“These include visa label-free arrangements for the nationals of five Gulf countries, an increase in the number of processing staff and contact lines for urgent cases.”
Citizens of the UAE, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, and Kuwait can now obtain visas to travel to Australia without having a label placed in their passports. This can be done on line www.immi.gov.au or through a travel agent.
January through August 2006, Australia has received 31,600 visitors from the GCC countries, an increase of six per cent on 2005 figures, said Andrew Oldfield, distribution development manager – GCC countries. He said: “A sizeable number of those visitors are repeat visitors who head Down Under every year so these visa improvements will be great news for them and their travel agents.”