Can I Travel to Australia with a Criminal Record?
Tourism is an important economic sector and all free countries welcome foreign visitors. Australia is no exception, but local authorities take the safety of their citizens seriously and there are certain provisions that bar access to the country to dangerous people.
In order to obtain a tourist visa for Australia one must have a clean criminal record. Or almost clean. Let’s have a look at the requirements for the different types of visas available for foreign tourists wanting to travel or take a gap year in Australia.
Types of Tourist Visas for Australia
In order to travel to Australia for a holiday or for business reasons, you must first apply for a visa. In some cases, the process can take up to 30 days so make sure to take this into account when you plan your trip to the land of Oz.
There are two main types of visas you can apply for:
- eVisitor (Subclass 651) is a visa you can obtain from the Department of Immigration and Border Protection. This can be obtained online and is totally free.
- ETA or Electronic Travel Authority is a visa that can be obtained through your travel agent or the airline that will take you to Australia. While the visa is still free, expect to pay a $20 service fee. Check out the Australian Visa Bureau to learn more about ETA visas.
Both types of visas allow for a stay of up to three months within the next 12 months and can be used for business purposes, as well as visiting the country or friends and family living in Australia.
For longer, more flexible stays you should apply for a Subclass 600 Visitor Visa.
Can I Visit Australia if I Have a Criminal Record?
Obtaining a visa for Australia sounds very simple and, in most cases, it is, unless you have a criminal record. Foreigners with a criminal record need to apply for a full tourist visa from the Australian Home Affairs. The conditions state very clearly that you can hope to get such a visa only if you don’t have a substantial criminal record.
What does this mean? You must not have criminal convictions carrying a sentence of 12 months or more in jail. Keep in mind that two six-months convictions served concurrently in your home country (that is you were actually in jail for only six months), in Australia they count as a full 12 months prison sentence, making you ineligible for the visa.
As part of your visa application vetting you will be required to pass a Character Test and will probably fail if you have a substantial criminal record. It should be noted that all police checks in Australia come at a cost of normally around $48 AUD per check. You cannot just simply get a free police check.
At the same time, if you have previously spent more than one year in Australia you might be asked to provide a police check for that period to demonstrate that you did not commit any criminal offences while in the country. National police checks for immigration purposes can be obtained via the Australian Federal Police. If you are applying for work purposes in Australia then you can get it online from a character check agency and can get started by completing an online application form.
Bottom line - having a criminal record does not mean that you have no chance to obtain a tourist visa. You can apply for a tourist visa and prove that the criminal offences you were found guilty of are well in the past and you have changed your life since then, by answering truthfully to the Character Test.
If you like the idea of doing more than tourism, view our guide for how to work in Australia.