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.
I applied for a e-visa on February 10th on the website of the department of Home Affairs and it was granted. A friend did it last weekend and it went through.
I’m not sure the information about the App is correct. The Website was a re-direct from the Australian Embassy in Germany and the information on the website is still valid.
Sam, I will come clean as the person here. I agree, it seemed to be fine for me as well. However, at the airport in MNL when they told me it was not showing up in the system I tried again on the web portal and this time a message appeared (it didn’t the day before) that all E-Visa submissions must be via the APP. I downloaded the app then and redid it, it went through. But apparently they still need 12 hours for the info to show with the airlines and why Qantas in MNL needed to call Border Patrol to get it expedited.
Here is the message I got on the web portal the second time I tried:
“You cannot apply for an ETA online, or through an agent or airline at this time unless the application is lodged via the ETA app.If you are unable to use the app, you can apply online through ImmiAccount for another visa that suits your needs. The ETA app will be expanded to the remaining ETA-eligible passport holders from April 2022.
From 21 February 2022, all fully vaccinated visa holders can travel to Australia without a travel exemption. Unvaccinated visa holders will still need a valid travel exemption to enter Australia.”
Make sure your friend leaves extra time just in case at the airport. It may be fine. Or like me, it may not be.
He’s travelling there in 2wks. I’ll let him know. I had to postpone my trip to December.
Wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world to miss a Sydney-Melbourne flight as they are scheduled as often as every 15 minutes during peak periods
Missing a connection to say, Hobart, Yulara or Broome would be much more devastating
Agreed, but these flights are surprisingly full beyond belief right now, especially during peak periods you mention. And if holding a business class ticket most likely ends up getting you an economy seat for a later flight. Again, not the end of the world but still, not ideal to be told you can wait until 9PM for a business seat or take now a middle seat in row 27 at noon.
I mean, travel is exploding right now in Australia. Go figure. Want to stay at the MEL or SYD PH the next few weeks? Either pay $1500 or pray that on some nights a Globalist room guarantee is there for the most basic room at $500 in MEL. Take a look for fun at the top properties, especially on weekends, and the best you will find are standard rooms (if any) at prices triple pre-pandemic.
Sorry, wasn’t aware travel would be so hopping down there atm! I’m planning a trip in September around the Sydney Marathon I’ll be running, and will definitely be looking at booking lodging earlier rather than later, and maybe our flights as well
“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.” … Even your friends feel entitled and don’t think they should wait and play by the same rules as the rest of us.
If you do not ask, you do not receive. What’s the problem with pointing out that you are going to miss your flight without some help?
If you pay for a Mercedes but are given a Toyota are you supposed to keep your mouth shut and not act “entitled?” I believe entitled would be if I paid for a Toyota and demanded a Mercedes. You seem to have things backwards but, hey, you do you and just stand there.
I’m flying from the US (SFO) to SYD in June. I have a US passport. 1) Will I be able to use the chip lane at arrival? I don’t know if my passport has a chip. 2) I”m flying to SYD on United, but then flying from SYD to BNE on Virgin Australia. I have a business class seat on Virgin Australia. I am not checking a bag. I have 3 hours from landing to departure. Will I be able to take the bus from the international terminal to the domestic terminal or do I have to take the train? I hope 3 hours is enough time.
Does your passport have a little gold rectangle on the front cover near the bottom middle?
Yes! It does! I’m guessing that must be the chip? Do you think I’ll be okay with my transfer plans as is? (point 2 in my comment) Thank you for your help.. I’m kinda freaking out over here after reading this 🙂
I think you will be fine. Hopefully things will have calmed down by then. Even if not, you have plenty of time and don’t have to worry about a checked bag.
How can you say no id checks were the only positive?
I’m sure there were many positives am around you.
It seems like the international arrival experience nearly everywhere lately has just been a disaster. LHR, CDG, ZRH, YYZ, YUL, CUN, MEX, and now apparently SYD come to mind for me. I don’t really understand it because most of the Covid related formalities have been outsourced to the airlines, and the process of going through immigration seems fairly normal, just with massive crowds and chaos. What’s the deal?
Pre-covid I used to use the egates all the time and on occasion one malfunctioned. Just try another gate.
I had not seen them the end of 2018 on my last work trip here. But I zipped right through the regular line back then and might not have even noticed. The confusion for a lot of people who were walking around in circles trying to understand things is that it was not entirely clear who could use them other than returning Australian passports (the sign pointing to the E-Gate direction when I arrived was very vague – just pointing Australians (and “approved passports”.) As well the kiosk aspect and getting the little blue card was not at all explained clearly. Many would just wait for the e gate, not have a blue card, and stand there confused wondering where to enter their passport. It was the Aussies in line helping people and directing them back to the kiosks.
Honestly, a lot of this could have been resolved with either proper signage, or an email from Qantas warning people to expect delays at immigration for some – and an explanation of the steps for those with chip passports to avoid the line up. Even just two roving guides to funnel people in the right direction would have worked. But I imagine finding enough agents right now for this is not easy as there were four agents working a regular line extending for hours from all the flights arriving from Asia in the morning.
Oh, and the gate was not “malfunctioning.” One would go through fine while another would get the dreaded message, “You are Not approved for e-gate entry and must wait to see an agent.” Yet if you tried again, as I figured out eventually, it was clearly a random message. My feeling is that if the photo process did not go properly it just spits you out instead of trying to take the photo again.
Nice article. Did not know about the DPD app and also stumbled in to the same ETA web/app weirdness.
Sounds like not much has changed in SYD except the kiosk ticket was Orange in the past. Yes, the kiosk is not explained anywhere and I have helped many people by saying follow me and do as I do. The kiosks are not that visible but there is usually one right where you come off the jetway no one see’s. The transfer from International to Domestic for Qantas also has not changed (the Bus). With UA and VA now teaming hopefully they will have a free transfer in SYD as you have to take the train which is not easier (at least it was not when Covid closed AU down)
It’s funny, I saw a few walking from the gate area (as you mention) but had no idea what they were at that point. You are right, they were empty. Next up was a cluster of them to the right in the hallway leading to immigration. Those were mobbed with hundreds of people seemingly huddled around them, no visible line of any sort, and complete chaos. It looked like mostly passengers off of Asian flights trying to figure them out and what to do.
The ones that were mostly empty were the ones next to the E-gates. There was a small group of four of them scattered in that lobby and usually just one person ahead of you to use.
Don’t worry about the egate not working. We are Australian citizens and I always have trouble with the face scan, but my wife just passes through .
The agent just comes once and does a manual look at the passport. I Said one day “whats the go with these machines , ” I DON’T KNOW ITS NOT MY PROBLEM…. Haa.
@Stuart: I agree, signage and explanations could be a lot better. And, yes, I think you’re possibly right about the photo process. I’ve seen this issue at other egates around the world.
Arrived in Melbourne coming from Singapore a few days ago.
Super smooth entry via the e-gates. From the aircraft to the SkyBus station in less than 20 minutes.
Collecting of checked bag included!
e-visa and DPD can be done without the apps but accounts required.
So if you want to go to Australia but don’t own a smartphone, you’re basically SOL? Sounds like the only option then is to go through the process of applying for a standard visa? That seems…harsh.
This whole process just seems unnecessarily stressful and convoluted in general. Almost as if they’re deliberately trying to keep the tourists away!
If you saw the airports and hotels here right now you would see that it’s clearly not working “keeping them away.”
Oh no. You don’t want to apply for a ‘standard visa’ for Australia. If you are just there on business the ETA is the way to go (good for a year multiple entries). Though the ETA website is there but not usable I did an ETA last night on the app and was approved instantly. I have not done the DPD yet as reservations not finalized.
Arrived into Sydney last week from Dallas on Qantas. Took about 10 mins to get out. Didn’t see any of this chaos. No lines anywhere. Bags arrived very quickly etc. Sydney customs didn’t ask to see any of my documents (eg vaccination certificate). Admittedly first flight of the day. Not arguing with you, just a point of reference. And yes the dpd is required to be done on the app (this is confusing).
I did not get eta. I just showed all my docs to the Qantas desk in Dallas and was in my way in about 8 mins. Me with an Aussie passport and my boy with a USA passport.
Checking in in Brisbane last night to Singapore took a long time but vtl hf just ended so who knows. Customs in changi took 5 mins if that. No lines. Again a very early arrival.
Border Force pays more attention when flights from countries where Visa overstay is a problem. You come in on Qantas, VA or an American carrier they are much more relaxed as long as you are not mixed up with them.
The kiosk machines have been low visibility/no signage since they were installed. When you walk off the plane there is usually one BUT it might be behind you. Example you get off plane and turn right towards immigration. If you don’t see a kiosk stop and look to your left. It’s like “the closest emergency exit may be behind you’. They are there prior to the gaggle of them near the eGates.
I would say you were lucky. Not sure what time the Dallas flight arrives. Mine arrived at 7:35AM from MNL along with what I saw as around 10 other aircraft, mostly from Asia and the ME. That’s where the chaos ensues I suppose. I have heard that in the afternoon and evenings SYD immigration is quite civil and easy.