COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Australia is a highly developed, stable democracy with a federal-state system. Tourist facilities are widely available. Read the State Department Background Notes on Australia for additional information.
SMART TRAVELER ENROLLMENT PROGRAM (STEP) / EMBASSY LOCATION: If you are going to live in or visit Australia, please take the time to tell our Embassy and Consulates about your trip. If you enroll, we can keep you up to date with important safety and security announcements. It will also help your friends and family get in touch with you in an emergency. Here’s the link to the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program.
Australian Capital Territory (ACT) or Queanbeyan:
U.S. Embassy in Canberra
Yarralumla, ACT 2600
Telephone: (61) (2) 6214- 5600
Emergency after-hours telephone: (61) (2) 411-424-608
Facsimile: (61) (2) 6214-5970
NOTE: The Embassy in Canberra only provides emergency assistance for U.S. citizens in the ACT. The U.S. Embassy does not issue U.S. passports or visas. Passports and other routine citizen services for Canberra and the rest of the ACT are provided by the U.S. Consulate General in Sydney (see contact information below).
New South Wales, Norfolk Island, Lord Howe Island, and Queensland:
U.S. Consulate General Sydney
Level 10, MLCCentre, 19-29 Martin Place, Sydney, NSW 2000
Telephone: (61) (2) 9373-9200
Emergency after-hours telephone: (61) (2) 4422-2201
Facsimile: (61) (2) 9373-9184
NOTE: The Consulate General offers an online appointment system for U.S. citizens seeking routine non-emergency services such as registration, passport, and other consular services. To make an appointment, visit their web site. Hours open to the public: 8:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., Monday to Friday (except U.S. and Australian holidays and the first Wednesday of each month). For emergency services (e.g., the arrest, death, or serious injury of a U.S. citizen) after 5:00 p.m. weekdays, holidays and weekends, please call (61) (2) 4422-2201.
Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia, and the Northern Territory:
U.S. Consulate General Melbourne
553 St. Kilda Road, Melbourne, VIC 3004
Telephone: (61) (3) 9526-5900
Emergency after-hours telephone: (61) (3) 9389-3601
Facsimile: (61) (3) 9525-0769
NOTE: The Consulate General offers an online appointment system for U.S. citizens seeking routine non-emergency services such as registration, passport, and other consular services. To make an appointment, visit their web site. Hours open to the public: 8:00am – 3:30pm Monday to Friday. All services other than emergencies require an appointment. For emergency services (e.g., the arrest, death, or serious injury of a U.S. citizen) after 4:30 p.m. or on holidays and weekends, please call (61) (3) 9389-3601.
U.S. Consulate General Perth
16 St. Georges Terrace, Perth WA 6000
Telephone: (61)(8) 9202-1224
Emergency after-hours telephone: (61) (8) 9476-0081
Facsimile: (61)(8) 9231-9444
NOTE: The Consulate General offers an online appointment system for U.S. citizens seeking routine non-emergency services such as registration, passport, and other consular services. To make an appointment, please visit the Consulate's web site. Hours open to the public for American Citizen Services: 8:30 to 11:30 a.m., Monday through Thursday. For emergency services (e.g., the arrest, death, or serious injury of a U.S. citizen) outside of business hours, please call (61) (8) 9476-0081.
ENTRY / EXIT REQUIREMENTS FOR U.S. CITIZENS: You must have a valid U.S. passport and a visa to enter Australia. Most U.S. passport holders traveling to Australia for tourism or business purposes for less than 90 days can obtain an Electronic Travel Authority (ETA). The ETA is an electronic label-free visa and can be obtained at the ETA website for a small service fee. Airlines and many travel agents in the United States are also able to apply for ETAs on behalf of travelers. If you overstay your ETA or any other visa, even for short periods, you may be subject to exclusion, detention, and removal by the Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC). You can find more information about the ETA, other visas, and entry requirements from the Embassy of Australia at 1601 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20036, via the Australian Visa Information Service at 905-280-1437 (toll charges to Canada apply) or their website.
On November 1, 2012, the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service began a trial extending Australia's automated border processing system, “SmartGate,” to U.S. Global Entry Program members. SmartGate gives eligible travelers the option to self-process through passport control upon arrival in Australia. It is an automatic border control system which uses the data in an ePassport and facial recognition technology to perform the checks which are usually manually completed by Australian Customs & Border Protection Officers.
To be eligible to use SmartGate, U.S. travelers must:
HIV/AIDS ENTRY RESTRICTIONS: Some HIV/AIDS entry restrictions exist for visitors to and foreigners seeking permanent residence in Australia. Depending on the type of visa you apply for, the length of your stay, and your intended activities in Australia, you may be required to undergo a medical examination before the Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) will issue you a visa. If during the course of the application process, you are found to be HIV positive, a decision on the application will be considered on the same grounds as any other pre-existing medical condition (such as tuberculosis or cancer), with the main focus being placed on the cost of the condition to Australia’s health care and community services. Additional information about Australian immigration health requirements can be found here. Please verify this information with the Embassy of Australia before you travel.
Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our website. For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information page.
THREATS TO SAFETY AND SECURITY: Australia has an alert system for possible terrorist attacks. The threat levels range from “low” to “high.” The Australian Attorney General's Office web site has up-to-date information regarding the current terrorism threat level. Depending on the alert, you should maintain a high level of vigilance and take appropriate steps to increase your security awareness. Travelers may also contact the Australian National Security Hotline at 61-1-800-123-400.
Stay up to date by:
CRIME: Although Americans are not specifically targeted for crime, travelers should be aware that robberies, burglaries, assault, and auto theft are common in Australia’s larger cities. Weapons are increasingly used in such crimes, which also may be associated with drug trafficking, gang activities, and drug or alcohol usage. Foreign visitors in popular tourist areas are targets for pickpockets, purse-snatchers, and petty thieves. Be careful when consuming alcohol with unfamiliar people, as drink spiking can occur; appropriate security precautions should be taken, especially at night, to avoid becoming a target of opportunity.
Do not buy counterfeit and pirated goods, even if they are widely available. Not only are the bootlegs illegal in the United States, if you purchase them you may also be breaking local law.
VICTIMS OF CRIME: If you or someone you know becomes the victim of a crime abroad, you should contact the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. We can:
Every state in Australia has an assistance program for victims of crimes and these programs will be able to generally assist you, even if you are only visiting Australia. For more information on local programs in Australia, please visit Victim Assistance Online's website.
The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in Australia is: 000 (Triple 0). To call for fire/police/ambulance services throughout Australia, dial “000” for urgent assistance.
Please see our information on victims of crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While you are traveling in Australia, you are subject to its laws even if you are a U.S. citizen. While you are overseas, U.S. laws don’t apply. Foreign laws and legal systems can be vastly different than our own. You may be taken in for questioning if you don’t have your passport with you. In some places, it is illegal to take pictures of certain buildings, such as inside certain areas of Australian airports and near prisons. It is prohibited to take photographs at military bases. If you break local laws, your U.S. passport won’t help. It’s very important to know what’s legal and what’s not where you are going. In Australia, driving under the influence could land you immediately in jail. If you violate Australian laws, even unknowingly, you may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. There are also some things that might be legal in the country you visit, but still illegal in the United States. You can be prosecuted under U.S. law if you buy pirated goods. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime prosecutable in the United States. If you break local laws in Australia, your U.S. passport won’t help you avoid arrest or prosecution. Penalties for possessing, using, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Australia are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Please be aware that all objectionable material is subject to declaration and inspection and may be illegal in Australia. Objectionable material includes child pornography, bestiality, explicit sexual violence, and graphic degradation, as well as terrorism-related material and anything providing instruction in or encouraging drug use, crime, or violence. It’s very important to know what’s legal and what’s not wherever you go.
While some countries will automatically notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate if a U.S. citizen is detained or arrested in a foreign country, that might not always be the case. To ensure that the United States is aware of your circumstances, request that the police and prison officials notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate as soon as you are arrested or detained overseas.
SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: Potential Health Screening: The 1908 Quarantine Law gives Australian authorities broad powers to prevent the entry of diseases and other materials into Australia that might pose a threat to its welfare. In the event of a public health emergency involving a communicable disease, passengers arriving in Australia may be subject to strict health screening measures, including testing, monitoring, and assessment for possible quarantine. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, please consult the infectious diseases section of the World Health Organization (WHO) web site. The WHO website also contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information.
Customs: Australian customs authorities enforce very strict regulations concerning the importation from all countries of items such as agricultural and wood products, as well as very strict quarantine standards for other products, animals, and pets. These regulations also apply to items you bring with you, including small quantities of food such as fruit. Please contact the Embassy of Australia in Washington, D.C., or one of Australia's consulates in the United States for specific information regarding customs requirements, or visit the Australian Government's Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry web site.
Safety Concerns: Be aware that Australian fauna can be dangerous. From jellyfish off the Great Barrier Reef to crocodiles, sharks, poisonous insects, and snakes, the continent and its waters host wildlife that merit awe and respect in equal doses. Visit the Wet Tropics Management Authority visitor info guide for information on Australian wildlife and marine life. While swimming, take important safety precautions, such as swimming only between the flags where a lifeguard is present, and never swimming alone. SCUBA diving can be a treacherous sport. Over the past few years, there have been numerous deaths related to diving incidents. We urge divers to follow recommended precautions and never dive alone.
Accessibility: While in Australia, individuals with disabilities may find accessibility and accommodation very different from what you find in the United States. Australia has and enforces laws prohibiting discrimination for access of premises, facilities and accommodation; however, please keep in mind, that many of the downtown areas of Australian cities were built in the 1800s. These cities often have narrow sidewalks crowded with pedestrians and tourists. Also, many of the tourist spots at the beach or in the outback may have varying degrees of accessibility. Generally, most public transit means, parking, streets, and buildings are accessible to disabled travelers. Modern accessibility improvements include ramps, tactile indicators, and audible street crossing indicators. Many websites offer information on accessible hotels, motels, and rental properties. Parks, gardens, stadiums and other public venues often share accessibility information on their websites.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: Excellent medical care is available in Australia. Serious medical problems requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the United States can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Most doctors and hospitals expect immediate cash/credit card payment for health services. We recommend travel insurance.
You can find detailed information on vaccinations and other health precautions on the CDC website. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the World Health Organization (WHO) website. The WHO website also contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information.
MEDICAL INSURANCE: You can’t assume your insurance will go with you when you travel. It’s very important to find out BEFORE you leave whether or not your medical insurance will cover you overseas. You need to ask your insurance company two questions:
In many places, doctors and hospitals still expect payment in cash at the time of service. Your regular U.S. health insurance may not cover doctor and hospital visits in other countries. If your policy doesn’t go with you when you travel, it’s a very good idea to take out another one for your trip. For more information, please see our medical insurance overseas page.
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in Australia, you may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning driving in Australia is provided for general reference only and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Traffic operates on the left side of the road, and all vehicles use right-hand drive. Please use caution when crossing streets and when driving. When crossing roads on foot, make sure you look carefully in all directions. Wearing a seat belt is mandatory, and fines apply for not wearing them. Speed limits and laws regarding driving while intoxicated are rigorously enforced, and random breath testing of a driver's blood alcohol limit is a common occurrence. Roads and streets are frequently narrower and less graded than U.S. highways. Outside major metropolitan areas, most highways are two-lane roads with significant distances between destinations. Speed limits vary throughout Australia and are measured in kilometers, not miles. Be aware that speed cameras are everywhere and you will be ticketed for driving over the speed limit.
When driving in Australia, exercise caution while passing or merging with adjacent traffic. If driving in rural areas, be cautious of free-roaming animals, such as kangaroos, and "road-trains" (several semi-truck trailers connected together). Passing road-trains is dangerous, and you should pull over to allow on-coming road-trains to pass to avoid being sideswiped. A number of fatalities have occurred in the Northern Territory where vehicles driven at high rates of speed have skidded and overturned after hitting loose gravel on the shoulder of the road. If you have no experience with a 4-wheel drive vehicle, you should exercise common-sense when driving in the Australian outback.
Texting or holding your phone while driving is against the law, but you can use a hands-free system to communicate while driving. For specific information concerning Australian driving permits, vehicle inspection, road tax, mandatory insurance, and the rental and operation of motor vehicles in Australia, visit the Australian Tourist Commission web site.
Each state/territory has different rules about using a foreign driver’s license and the conditions under which a visitor might have to get an international driver’s license. In some cases, you can apply for a driver’s license from the state in Australia where you intend to remain for the duration of your stay in Australia. More information about driving rules and regulations is available by state.
Please refer to our Road Safety page for additional resources.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the government of Australia's Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of Australia’s air carrier operations. Further information may be found on the FAA’s safety assessment page.
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This replaces the Country Specific Information for Australia dated September 12, 2012, to update the section on Entry/Exit Requirements for U.S. citizens.