Although the U.S. has added Australia to the Visa Waiver Program, visas are required for U.S. citizens to enter Australia, regardless of the duration of the trip. A visa is a document that allows a traveler to enter another country for a set period of time. There are several types of visas available for travel to Australia, with slightly different requirements.
Electronic Travel Authority (ETA)
The easiest way to travel to Australia as a U.S. citizen is to apply through the country's Electronic Travel Authority. This may be done with your travel agent or the airline on which you will be flying. You may also apply online through their website. The ETA is issued directly and electronically through the Department of Immigration and Citizenship. When you arrive to check in for your flight to Australia, the staff will electronically confirm that you are eligible to board the flight. This method has a processing charge of AUS $20.00. You may only use an ETA for vacations or to visit friends or family. It is valid for multiple visits of less than 90 days for 12 months from the date of issue.
Tourist Visa (subclass 676)
The tourist visa is for travelers looking to stay in Australia for 3, 6 or 12 months or if an ETA was not accepted. (This happens in very rare cases.) For this visa, you must have a current U.S. passport that is valid for 6 months after the date of entry into Australia. You must have valid onward or return tickets from Australia. You will be required to show proof that you have sufficient funds to support your stay in the country either by showing that you have purchased traveler's checks or by having a current bank statement showing what funds are available to you. You must have a letter from your employer on business letterhead stating that you are on a leave of absence and will be returning to your job, and you will also be asked to provide a letter outlining your plans while you are in the country, along with contact information for anyone with whom you might be staying or the hotels where you are choosing to stay. The consular fees for a tourist visa are $105.00.
Business Visa (subclass 456)
A business visa may be obtained for stays up to 3 months to work in Australia. This may also be used to attend a conference or to pursue relationships with Australian companies. This visa also allows your partner and dependent children to travel with you. You will be required to show that you have a valid U.S. passport that is good for 3 months from the date of entry into the country. You may be asked to provide proof that your company is currently in operation, details of your contacts with Australian businesses, evidence of your current employment with said company and your educational or professional qualifications. This could be in the form of a business registration certificate or an annual report. You will have to provide a business letter of responsibility from your company stating your purpose of travel and duties to be performed and a guarantee of financial support during your stay. If you are attending a conference, a copy of the invitation may be accepted in lieu of this letter. A consulate charge of $105 is required for this visa.