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Old 11-05-2015, 04:19   #16
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Re: To Fiji or not to Fiji? That is the question...

Thank you everyone for your very interesting feedback. Perhaps we should just get in the mindset of accepting that money and hours (or days) spent clearing in + out are a small price to pay to visit these countries (figuratively speaking, we are talking of nearly 3000 AUD just to set foot in Australia). We knew for instance that the Galapagos would be a rip-off (we paid about $940 for 3 weeks in Isabella), we considered skipping them, but eventually decided to stop-over and don't regret it: two years later, you remember the views, the walks, the endemic species of animals and plants, not the 2 days wasted clearing in and out, the fights with our agent, and the cost, the dozens of copies of passports, crew list, boat papers, etc. So, why not?
Thanks Belle-Isle for your long post, and in particular your interesting comments about Noumea and New Caledonia. We plan to visit Wallis and New Caledonia. It's good to know that you can stop over there (like in French Polynesia) after a quick and easy clearance process, and for free. We also agree with your comments about Vava'u (we visited in 2008). Still, we were quite impressed, and look forward to visit again, especially if we can clear in / out with much less hassle and a much lower cost than in Fiji.
We are now planning to sail from French Polynesia to Suwarrow (still no paperwork and US $50 per boat?), Vava'u, Wallis, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, the Solomons and PNG (spending the cyclone season in Kavieng, New Ireland). But who knows? Maybe we will end up in December in Australia after all... If only we could get a visa to Australia without stopping in Fiji, maybe we would be more enthusiastic. But the red tape of Fiji + Australia back to back seems to be a bit much.
We would welcome any feedback you may have about the Eastern islands of PNG, in particular New Ireland and Kavieng, and the Solomons (NW of Ghizo)
Of course, that would most probably mean home/boat schooling again.
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Old 11-05-2015, 17:53   #17
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Re: To Fiji or not to Fiji? That is the question...

Not sure where you get your $3000 AUD figure from.


Can you set it out please.


I am with those who say (including you) why come all this way to the best part of the world and miss out for the sake of a few dollars and cents.


Your children will learn a lot even if not in the formal education system.
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Old 11-05-2015, 19:22   #18
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Re: To Fiji or not to Fiji? That is the question...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Wrong View Post
Fiji recently had an election. Not sure it makes much difference in regard to the hassles encountered clearing into the country, especially since the military bloke who was at the head of the military junta won the election...

While Fiji has some beautiful islands and an interesting culture I opted to bypass Fiji in 2009 due to the hassles. Even got so far as anchoring off Suva, but communications over the VHF with cruisers in the process of clearing out and authorities ashore convinced me to haul anchor and leave. This is after I'd sailed into Fiji in 2000, clearing at Levuka. Even then, things were much less than ideal.

Clearing into Australia is not as onerous as you're led to believe. Done it twice. The rules are known ahead of time and easy to meet. While fees may seem steep, compared to other countries where staying a year and possibly longer is prohibited, factored out over the length of your stay fees are not as bad as they first appear. Weather in Australia is more pleasant than in N.Z. too. Would do Australia again in a heartbeat!

Obtain visas in New Caledonia, well worth visiting in its own right.

Hassles? Compared to what may lie in store for you in Indonesia, clearing into Australia is a piece of cake.

Think safety during the 'cane season too...
Don't know anything about Fiji although we hoped to get that way after we were done with Australia and New Zealand. I guess we're doing it backwards after just coming down from Thailand and Malaysia
arriving in Darwin at the end of April. We started the Visa process in Jan when we applied for 1 yr multi entry visa's. This online process was a complete disaster and was rife with bungling on the part of Australian Immigration. Communication was poor or non-existent and you are forced to deal with an official from the Embassy of your home country even if they happen to be in a time zone 12 hours difference and 13,000m away. The visa's for my wife and I were $140.00AU each and the cost for quarantine was $380.00. The NT government provides for the cost of bio-treatment directly. However the total cost to apply for a visa for our crewman was $140.00 for application. Cost of a trip to KL and overnight for biometrics with a fee of $60.00. $400.00 US for the cost of x-rays and physical exam to check for TB in east timor as he had been in SE Asia for 5 months or more. (Not sure whether this would apply if coming from South Pacific)After all this they then sent him a letter requiring proof of income and the ability to support himself during his stay in Australia and due to the fact that it would take at least another 2 weeks to complete time we had to fly him out of Timor Leste back to Thailand and make the passage without him.

Needless to say the passage took 40 hours longer than planned and the last 2 days we the worst seas that I have ever sailed/motored in with 35kt winds and 4-5mt seas. The bottom end of the Timor Sea and Beagle Bay are so shallow that the seas get up bad when the High moves north over the bight and the winds get blowing from the east.

Indonesia?? We spent 2 winters in Indonesia and it is a lovely place. Not much in the way of services but that is part of the beauty of the place. You have no choice but to get to know some of the locals everywhere you go. These are some of the most pleasant and helpful people we have ever had the privilege of meeting. Yes, there is a minor amount of corruption but certainly nothing huge and most places none at all. Bring lots of pencils and notebooks for the kids to use at school and a ball or bola goes a long way to making friends with the kids. You can buy kids outfits for a dollar and shirts and sandals are another cheap hit. all that it takes is a CAIT which is $200.00US and either a social visa good for 60 days or a visa on arrival for 30. Both the Cait and visa's can be extended for up to 3 years without having to leave Indonesia. Just make sure that you provide the necessary letter self written guaranteeing that the boat will not be sold or chartered during you stay to avoid any hassles with the PIB (Temporary Import Permit) and customs on arrival or departure. You can also get an agent for about $50.00US to do this for you as well he will get your passports stamped and clear you in with the harbour master and Customs.

We got 1 year visa's for Australia but only for 6 months entry at a time and we are Canadian from the so called Commonwealth. You can leave the boat in Australia for up to 3 years as well but then the boat has to leave for at least 2 years or you have to pay the 10% GST upon your return.

In the end we are looking forward to spending the next couple of years in Australia/New Zealand. The people we have met so far have been friendly and helpful. Thousands of miles of coastline must offer up some spectacular scenery.
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Old 11-05-2015, 22:49   #19
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Re: To Fiji or not to Fiji? That is the question...

Quote:
Originally Posted by DtM View Post
Not sure where you get your $3000 AUD figure from.


Can you set it out please.

Off the top of my head: (I asked the Australian Consulate in Suva to confirm the costs about 10-12 days ago, still no answer)
- 12-month visitor's visa x 5 = $1675
- biometrics in Fiji x 5 = $300
- cost of Fiji clearance, in + out, at least $500 (not counting having to give away or drink prematurely our wines and spirits )
IT WOULD BE GREAT IF WE COULD APPLY FROM NOUMEA, BUT ACCORDING TO THE WEBSITE OF AUSTRALIAN IMMIGRATION WE HAVE TO DO IT IN FIJI...
- estimated cost of "bio security", including fumigation = $250
- estimated cost of photos, copies, certified copies, for both AUS and Fiji: $100
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Old 11-05-2015, 23:05   #20
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Re: To Fiji or not to Fiji? That is the question...

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(...)
We started the Visa process in Jan when we applied for 1 yr multi entry visa's. This online process was a complete disaster and was rife with bungling on the part of Australian Immigration. Communication was poor or non-existent and you are forced to deal with an official from the Embassy of your home country even if they happen to be in a time zone 12 hours difference and 13,000m away. (...)
After all this they then sent him a letter requiring proof of income and the ability to support himself during his stay in Australia and due to the fact that it would take at least another 2 weeks to complete time we had to fly him out of Timor Leste back to Thailand and make the passage without him.
I have to agree RE poor communication. I have received only one general answer (mostly confirming what I had read on the website) so far from the Australian Consulate in Suva. They still haven't answered my specific questions in particular about the costs involved.
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Old 12-05-2015, 02:16   #21
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Re: To Fiji or not to Fiji? That is the question...

@Wellington, I will also be doing some research since we are also planning to visit Oz later in the year, but it is my understanding the process can be done online. I don't believe you physically have to go to Fiji. I may be wrong, but I sure hope not ! (we're in Nouméa...)


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Old 12-05-2015, 03:23   #22
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Re: To Fiji or not to Fiji? That is the question...

Well, I have to say, as an Aussie, I am feeling pretty uncomfortable about all this.

The sentiments about the difficulty of coming to Australia have been echoed by freinds and relatives from the UK. At the time I assumed it was something unique to their situation that was making it difficult, but that list from Wellington is somewhat sobering.

Well, I am biased but I think the trip to Oz is worth it, and despite the somewhat strange posting by Wugwa I would say the place is not a xenophobic hell-hole that it could appear from the outside (certainly from Wugwa's post). At least, not from my experience.

I've personally seen about 80% of the coast of Oz and loved most of it and my current dream is to circumnavigate Oz as soon as life stops getting in the way.

Whatever happens, if you do decide to forge your way through the paperwork and bureaucracy I reckon you'll be glad you came.

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Old 12-05-2015, 06:41   #23
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Re: To Fiji or not to Fiji? That is the question...

Hi Wellington,

So I did my homework tonight and I don't really get the same information you had concerning visas for Australia. Disclaimer : I am not related in any way to immi.gov.au , just sharing my understanding of the rules...

If you are planning on staying there 3 months or less, you can get an eVisitor visa (651), which is free and pretty straightforward to obtain online, providing you're a national of the allowed countries : Visitor visa online applications

If you're planning on staying longer, it won't be free, but you will most likely be allowed to apply online for a Visitor visa (600) : http://www.immi.gov.au/Services/Page...g=visitor-visa. It's a bit longer to apply for, there may be additional supporting evidence to be provided, but the application can be filed online. You may have to go through an interview process, but among the places listed as possible for the interview are not only Suva (Fiji) but also Apia (Samoa) and Nouméa (NC) among others. I hope this helps.

However, you may have a bit of a low figure regarding biosecurity : the initial quarantine search is deemed to cost 380 AUD at a minimum and I don't believe this includes fumigation : Australia — Noonsite . Compare this with free inspection in New Zealand... I sure hope Australia lives up to the expectations !

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Old 12-05-2015, 15:35   #24
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Re: To Fiji or not to Fiji? That is the question...

@ Belle-Isle (what a nice name... anything to do with Belle-Isle-en-Mer, in Southern Britany?)

The free 3-month visitor's visa won't do it for us, as we can't safely leave Australia before May at the earliest. A 6-months visitor's visa could work, but it's the same hassle as 12-month, and marginally cheaper it seems. We are in French Polynesia, it's my understanding that we have to do it in Fiji. The "Where are you applying from?" link doesn't give you a choice. Also, I understood that we should meet the immigration officer face to face (and it will be up to him or her to decide if the visas are granted or not, what will be allowed or not - it sounds quite arbitrary). And what about biometrics? Can they be done in Noumea? If we could apply directly from Noumea (provided you don't have to go to lenghthy and costly medical visits, x-Rays, etc in lieu of biometrics) that would be great. Also, we can't obviously afford to wait for weeks and pay $$$ for the applications for an answer that may turn out to be positive, but with caveats or strings attached (see Undercutter) that would make us eventually decide against it.
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Old 12-05-2015, 15:58   #25
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Re: To Fiji or not to Fiji? That is the question...

@Wellington,
You and others seem to have some real misconceptions about Fiji.
It used to be very bureaucratic, but not anymore.
I have been cruising there since 2010.
Communicate with Copra Shed Marina to reserve a mooring in Savusavu before you arrive.
When you arrive at Savusavu (best when coming from the E), the Copra Shed Marina will take you to your mooring, organise the quarantine and customs and immigration to come to your boat and do the necessary clearing in - takes about an hour. Then you have to go ashore to the quarantine office and pay the fee...around F$300.
COpra Shed organise a Cruising Permit for you (F$10) and that's it, you are free to cruise Fiji.
Clearing out is simple and there is no fee.
Checkout noonsite.com for full information.
If you don't visit Fiji you miss something very special
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Old 12-05-2015, 16:00   #26
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Re: To Fiji or not to Fiji? That is the question...

Hi Wellington,

Yes, Belle-Isle has to do with the very Belle-Ile-en-Mer, Brittany... My nautical backyard. If you allow me, a much nicer name than Wellington to my (French) eyes ! Ha ha ! Joking, of course. I even worked in Waterloo, Belgium for a year and a half, so I can live with that. And very much enjoyed Wellington, NZ.

Anyways, what I was trying to understand is where you get your "understanding that we have to do it in Fiji" ? What "Where are you applying from? link " are you talking about ?

Like I said in my post, I started the process for the 600 Visitor visa, for which the application can be done online for many nationalities. I assume you may be from the US, UK or Canada, and all these countries are on the list (Visitor visa online applications). For other nationalities, things may be different.

Once you're in the application process (logged in with your Immi account), they indeed ask you where you are located, and then a bit further on, like you mentioned, they say that you MAY have to meet an Australian official face to face and ask you were the most convenient place is. In this list, I had the choice between several places including Suva, Apia and Noumea, so this is why I am stating that this meeting does not have to take place in Suva.

Now for the rest, I don't know what kind of medical exams and biometrics will be required or not, they don't seem mandatory, but I suppose this will be asked on a case by case basis. So I can't help you there, everyone's situation is different.

My only point is : get started with the application, it's free to do so up until you submit the application. You might then see that it's not so complicated and that there could be more options than you have been led to believe.

Finally, I mentioned the eVisitor visa (651), because you may consider this one nonetheless in the following situation : it is free and gives you a 3 month stay in Australia. Then you have two options : you can go through the process of asking for a visa extension once in Australia. OK, this will be more costly than asking while outside Australia, but it might give you time to clarify things, etc. Or second option, you might fly out and back into Australia on a second eVisitor visa. Perhaps this is the opportunity for a flight to Indonesia, PNG or NZ. In the end, it might not cost you more, since you'll be staying on two free visas.
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Old 13-05-2015, 23:41   #27
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Re: To Fiji or not to Fiji? That is the question...

Having just gone through this I am sure that we are as familiar as any layman can get with the process of obtaining visitor visa's for Australia. I will reiterate that we did in fact apply for and receive 1 year multi entry visa's and arrived in Darwin on the 28th, May this year.

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Originally Posted by belle-isle View Post
Anyways, what I was trying to understand is where you get your "understanding that we have to do it in Fiji" ? What "Where are you applying from? link " are you talking about ?

this is the whole idea i guess is that you can do the application from anywhere that you can get online. However there are a couple of issues; There are only certain locations that you can get the required Biometrics done, (generally performed on person's who come from countries with a high rate of recidivism "overstaying visa's" and from countries with poor policing and identification controls. If you are from a "first world country carrying that passport you would not likely be asked to provide these biometric samples Fingerprints and photo. These locations are limited although a full list is available online and from the Australian embassies visa sections.

Like I said in my post, I started the process for the 600 Visitor visa, for which the application can be done online for many nationalities. I assume you may be from the US, UK or Canada, and all these countries are on the list (Visitor visa online applications). For other nationalities, things may be different.

Once you're in the application process (logged in with your Immi account), they indeed ask you where you are located, and then a bit further on, like you mentioned, they say that you MAY have to meet an Australian official face to face and ask you were the most convenient place is. In this list, I had the choice between several places including Suva, Apia and Noumea, so this is why I am stating that this meeting does not have to take place in Suva.

Now for the rest, I don't know what kind of medical exams and biometrics will be required or not, they don't seem mandatory, but I suppose this will be asked on a case by case basis. So I can't help you there, everyone's situation is different.

This is in fact one of the the problems in that the whole process is undefined and seems entirely arbritrary although in fact I am sure that they have a complete guideline as to which countries citizens will be subjected to bio-metric submissions and additional screening or potential interview .The issue is that they do not make it clear at the outset and combined with the time delays associated with each step in the process exacerbated by the complete breakdown in their own communication protocol resulted in a horrible experience. As well here are a list of additional issues that we faced;

-there is no method whereby you can link the individual visa applications together for consideration by Australian Immigration when applying for a cruising yacht of less than 23m. There is a special superyacht crew visa that allows sponsorship by Owner's of vessels greater than 23m who will likely post some kind of bond or guarantee. (I gave up on this idea as I could only stretch the tape to 21m including the bowsprit and davits.) As a result of this each individual application is considered separately which in no way accelerates the process.

-each individual application is processed by person's in Australia and then follow up communication from a designated centre or area for that person's citizenship. For the entire North and South America that centre is located in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada and these are the people who were able to provide information as to the status of our accounts although they did not have access to the actual "immiaccount's" themselves. They also could provide status and reporting requirements on their systems for our South African crew member, however they had no access to correspondence that was sent by email to or from Australian Immigration officers for any of the crew. On top of this the only crew member who had correspondence posted to their immiaccount was myself. Also, correspondence to my wife was inadvertently sent to a misspelled e mail address even though 3 of the 4 crew members were using the same account. On top of that Australian Immigration only wants to be communicated with by email and the number they list on their website if you absolutely have to get hold of them only works from inside Australia. They instruct you to send them an email and that they will respond within 5 business days. We sent them an email, five days later we sent them another email, five days later we sent them another email and then we finally gave up and called the clearing centre for North and South America.

-They do not ask for all the information that they may require at the same time!! They go through the process one item at a time, before moving on to the next and of course there are fees or costs for each step in the process. As you do not know which steps they will put you through it is impossible to estimate the cost of your application and you never know at what point you may be turned down. as you do not know what they will require you cannot even make an intelligent appraisal of whether it is all worth the effort or not and bypass Australia altogether. Of course none of the costs are reimbursable but of course you can appeal any refusal. It only takes more time and money.

This may sound confusing however I think for most visa applications (651) of less than 3 months the process is more straight forward and nothing more is usually required than the initial application, however as soon as you ask for an extended visa the whole process becomes untenable. For the cruising community to sail into Australia and actually spend any time cruising requires more time than 3 months and if you couldn't extend your visa's then you would have to get your boat out as well unless you could get a letter from a boat yard documenting ongoing extensive repairs or refit. They only give you a cruising permit for the duration of the Captains Visa. Don't forget that they really frown upon granting visa's and extensions from inside Australia as posted on their website and they will fine the Captain $1,000.00AU for anyone onboard arriving without a visa.


My only point is : get started with the application, it's free to do so up until you submit the application. You might then see that it's not so complicated and that there could be more options than you have been led to believe.

Imagine the scenario whereby you start your immiaccount application 4 months prior to your expected arrival in Australia and you still haven't finalized your visa by the time you were expected to arrive. How can you even plan to visit the country if the entire process takes so long. Are you going to hang out somewhere during the process so that you can change your plans at the last minute if someone cannot get in for whatever reason.don'tforget that you will have to find a place that can perform all the test/procedures required. Not all places provide all services and even then although East Timor could do the TB exam and x-rays they couldn't transmit the data electronically resulting in a further delay to courier results to Australia for review by Australian Medical Professionals. However the biggest risk would likely be failing the financial means standard requiring you to demonstrate that you can afford to live as a tourist for the entire period of your visa and not as a liveboard who is part of the cruising on $500.00 a month club. As stated above, The owner or Captain cannot Sponsor or Bond a crew member on a vessel less than 23m so each individual has to demonstrate means. This included our 21 year old daughter who is not a student.

Now I am not saying that everyone's experience will be the same as our's but I can assure you that some of them will be the same due to the system in place.


Finally, I mentioned the eVisitor visa (651), because you may consider this one nonetheless in the following situation : it is free and gives you a 3 month stay in Australia. Then you have two options : you can go through the process of asking for a visa extension once in Australia. OK, this will be more costly than asking while outside Australia, but it might give you time to clarify things, etc. Or second option, you might fly out and back into Australia on a second eVisitor visa. Perhaps this is the opportunity for a flight to Indonesia, PNG or NZ. In the end, it might not cost you more, since you'll be staying on two free visas.
Yea, everyone could take a short hop to East Timor and back but how much is that going to cost?? Thousands I am sure as nothing is cheap in Australia not to mention the inconvenience of it all. On top of that Custom's requires you to tell them of your departure from the country as well as all trips, destinations planned prior to sailing within Australian waters. I am sure that it would be obvious to them that you were intentionally circumventing the system getting multiple 651 visa's although in fact it may not matter at all to them.

It seems to me that in fact there are not a lot of foreign boats visiting Australia except for maybe New Zealand boats. There seems to be a tremendous fleet of there own sailing and motor yachts and the business foreign yachts brings may be insignificant enough that we are not worth the effort although those Super Yachts seems to get special treatment. Don't forget that if you are going to Australia you will need a minimum of 10 million Liability Insurance that will cover wreck and Pollution to be in compliance with Queensland and Darwin Marina's regulations. Thankfully this process is rather painless with a couple of companies able to assist but you won't get into any Marina without it.

Again, I want to reiterate that everyone we have met including all the officials were very friendly and welcoming. We do look forward to spending as much time as possible and would appreciate any suggestions or advice from those in the know that would make our trip the unforgettable experience that we expect it will be.
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Old 14-05-2015, 08:43   #28
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Re: To Fiji or not to Fiji? That is the question...

In 2000 I applied for my Australian visa in Fiiji. Only hiccup there is when I asked about applying for a work permit. How old are you the woman asked with a smile? Fifty something I replied. Oh, they won't let you work in Australia, too old... That was a kick in the pants since it was part of my plan to replenish the cruising kitty. Otherwise, it went well. I was issued a six year (?) multiple entry visa I hadn't applied for.

Clearance into Scarborough, Aus. was possible then and marina fees affordable. Otherwise, besides the fact costs were lower than when I obtained my visa in Noumea in 2009, the song and dance was pretty much the same. Exceptions were an x-ray because I'd been in French Polynesia for more than 90 days ($100), 72 hour notice in advance of arrival accomplished via an email, and quarrantine was now $380 rather than what, $180 in 2000? Cost for visa was essentially unchanged @ $140.00. I'm under the impression it may have been part of a scam with kickbacks, but the main headquarters for Noumea in Fiiji was requiring health insurance as part of the visa process. I bought the insurance from a suggested company on a list, but cancelled coverage when I was not credited for payments made while in Australia. I learned afterward the health insurance is a recommendation. Not required. But, that ain't what I was told in Noumea. My unhappy bone was tweaked when the quarrantine officer took my red beans! Didn't matter when I begged him to take the rice instead. Bugger.

Why pray tell would anyone want to do Australia after South East Asia? Coming the 'wrong way' from Europe makes sense. But, East to west?
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Old 15-05-2015, 20:26   #29
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Re: To Fiji or not to Fiji? That is the question...

Quoted from Undercutter:
"They do not ask for all the information that they may require at the same time!! They go through the process one item at a time, before moving on to the next and of course there are fees or costs for each step in the process. As you do not know which steps they will put you through it is impossible to estimate the cost of your application and you never know at what point you may be turned down. as you do not know what they will require you cannot even make an intelligent appraisal of whether it is all worth the effort or not and bypass Australia altogether. Of course none of the costs are reimbursable but of course you can appeal any refusal. It only takes more time and money."

It seems that clearing into both Fiji and Indonesia can be a piece of cake compared to Australia... (Even if "Your mileage may vary"). Yes, it doesn't sound welcoming at all. And what about the cyclone season? I thought that international rules asked countries to provide a safe haven to boats and crews until the cyclone season is officially over (15 April) - wishful thinking probably
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Old 15-05-2015, 20:53   #30
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Arriving in Australia on a 3-month visa

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Originally Posted by belle-isle View Post
(...)
Finally, I mentioned the eVisitor visa (651), because you may consider this one nonetheless in the following situation : it is free and gives you a 3 month stay in Australia. Then you have two options : you can go through the process of asking for a visa extension once in Australia. OK, this will be more costly than asking while outside Australia, but it might give you time to clarify things, etc. Or second option, you might fly out and back into Australia on a second eVisitor visa. Perhaps this is the opportunity for a flight to Indonesia, PNG or NZ. In the end, it might not cost you more, since you'll be staying on two free visas.
Yes, we also consider this option, even if it kind of defeats the purpose of clearing into Australia to spend time visiting the country - after giving up on the idea of school for our kids (as we can't afford the $3900 a month fee for 3 kids in NSW)
But can we leave the boat while out of the country (to renew our 651s?) Do we have to find a marina If so, does the $10M liability insurance applies to NSW as well?
Still haven't heard back from the AC in Suva after nearly 3 weeks now, that's why I'm asking these questions here. Thanks
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