A friend of mine flew to Australia earlier today and shared his international arrivals experience with me, which I found so immensely helpful I want to share it with all of you. Entering Australia right now is still pretty complex, but if you know what you are doing you can save yourself a lot of time and stress.
Australia International Arrivals Experience
Download Two Apps
You will need to download two apps. One is Australian DPD and the other Australian ETA.
E-Visa Only Available Via Australian ETA App
The second (ETA) is the visa application and cannot be done online anymore via a web portal. It must now be completed via the app. It is deceiving, though, in that there are still portals on the web that you go through for a half hour only to later find out that as of February 2022, you now can only use the app. This is why I had problems. I thought I had done it earlier in the day but it never went through as you have to do it on the app. Qantas in Manila worked with me for an hour and we managed to get it done there but only after calls to Australia Border Control to get it approved right away. Don’t make my mistake!
DPD Requires Uploading Health Documents
The DPD is the health form App. There are three parts. Basic information, Vaccine information, and Covid test info (which will go away in mid April). Make sure all three parts are filled out. It is very straight forward.
Arrival Into Sydney – Go For The Kiosk If Your Passport Has A Chip
Arriving into Sydney (SYD) is absolute chaos at immigration right now. It makes New York (JFK) at 4:00PM look like a breeze. Even worse is that Border Patrol seems completely short-staffed which is creating lines stretching forever and utter confusion unless you are familiar with the new e-gates and the system there.
I had not been here since 2018 so things have changed a lot. There is one standard line for old school immigration that will have literally thousands of passengers waiting from all the flights arriving in the morning. But just to the right is another area with some kiosks where you scan your passport if it has a chip. But no one explains this and the signs are not clear. And there are no staff anywhere helping people.
Everyone seemed to be walking in circles trying to figure out the system on the fly. When you enter your passport into the kiosk you will get a few questions and after a small blue ticket is produced. Next you take that ticket to one of the gates and enter it into the machine. Your photo is snapped and you are through. But don’t lose that ticket! You also need it to exit customs!
E-Gates Are Fussy…Try, Try, And Try Again
Here’s where things got really bad for me after spending 15 minutes trying to figure out how you get the little blue ticket. After finally receiving one, I went to the gate and entered it. It went to take my photo. Next? An alert came up that said, “You are not approved for e-entry and must see an agent.” That meant the line with 4,000 passengers, which was barely moving. I figured three hours at least and getting Covid for sure. It was a madhouse.
I saw the same thing happening to a number of people, including other Americans. After standing for nearly a half hour in the line and it barely moving, I was growing increasingly agitated. So, I thought to myself, I’m going to go try the kiosk one more time. I asked the guy next to me to hold my place as I am going to try this again just in case I was randomly selected for additional screening. I told him to keep an eye on me as if it works to try as well. It worked! This time I got the ticket and went right through with no message that I needed to see an agent! I waved to him and he told all the others trapped there as well. I watched as they came running over and sure enough, they all got through as well!
Paper Forms Still Required
My Qantas crew never handed out landing forms so I just assumed that, like the USA, they are a thing of the past. Only at customs did I realize you need one. I had to go over to a special area to fill it out and cost me 10 minutes. And they also need that blue ticket from the kiosk so don’t just toss it between the e-gates and getting your luggage.
Transfer To Domestic Flight In Sydney: Utter Chaos
If you are transferring to a domestic fligh, be prepared for the next bit of chaos. The transfer desk has no business class line now, “due to COVID.” There were 200 people in front of me. After the debacle at immigration now I had this facing me. I ended up sweet talking one of the Qantas staff there and explained I am Emerald, on a paid business class, and is there something they can do? She realized I would miss my connection so she took me over to a special area and got me out of there.
Next up is going to the bus which is packed and only leaves every 30 minutes to the domestic terminal. How they only have two buses an hour is beyond me, but that’s the case. Two tips for this, either don’t check a bag or if the line is long just bring your checked bags to the domestic terminal on the bus and do it there…they have business class check in and the lines were minimal even for economy. I only found out after when on the bus that it was ok to bring them over and do the baggage transfer there. And, for goodness sakes, do NOT book any connection from intl to domestic without at least 2-3 hours. I had almost three hours and just made my flight to Melbourne (MEL).
By the way, they do no ID checks at security for domestic flights. Or even at the gate. Was so odd to me. That was about the only positive!
I hope you find this Australia international arrivals guide as helpful as I did. If you have specific questions, please pose them in the comments below and we will do our best to answer them.