I'm planning on traveling to Australia so I applied for an ETA. The site said you wouldn't be eligible if you had a conviction with a sentence of 12 months, which I don't. However, I do have a couple of speeding tickets which is considered criminal. One of the questions asked if you have any criminal convictions, so I said yes, assuming there would be a later screen to provide details. However there wasn't, and my application was denied. Is there any way to get it approved, as I should be eligible under their guidelines. Or do I have to apply for a standard tourist visa now? I'm not sure if the standard one would be approved before I have to leave.

  • Welcome to Travel.SE. Speeding tickets are usually not considered "criminal convictions" (or is there something more to this?), but if your ETA was denied, your only choice is likely to apply for a regular visa ASAP. Dec 5, 2018 at 4:39
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    @jpatokal A speeding ticket typically becomes criminal if you exceed a certain speed, or the speed limit by a large margin. (80 MPH and +20 in my current state, respectively) More precisely, it usually becomes a charge of reckless driving. It sounds like this happened to the OP.
    – user71659
    Dec 5, 2018 at 4:46
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    @HonoraryWorldCitizen If you've previously ticked YES, that will trigger all sorts of flags and would likely be much worse than applying for a regular tourist visa and explaining what happened. Dec 5, 2018 at 10:50
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    @jpatokal I don’t know about that. It’s well documented that with simplified forms where people tick a simple yes or no without a box for explanation, many people mistakenly check the wrong box. Dec 5, 2018 at 11:05
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    I think this user has long gone, but nobody has yet asked where they are from. Different jurisdictions have different semantics around speeding tickets that are critical here. OP should clarify what the tickets were and what jurisdiction. Suggesting that they re-submit the ETA is only valid if they actually are eligible. Jan 18, 2020 at 1:36

1 Answer 1


Here's the basic step-by-step. I'll go into the sources I used and how I got the information and more detailed explanations afterwards.

  1. Do NOT check the box for a criminal conviction for a DUI or a speeding ticket or other minor misdemeanours on an ETA unless you have been sentenced for a total combined period of 12 months or more, whether or not you served them.

  2. If you have accidentally checked it, you have now been flagged by the Australian government. Do NOT apply for another ETA as you will be denied. Instead, apply for 600 tourist visa. This requires more info on any conviction. Here is what one person wrote: "(Date), DUI, over legal limit in US, no imprisonment, probationary period and fine." Make sure that you explicitly state that you were not sentenced to any prison time or suspended sentence that adds up to 12 months or more in order to meet character requirements and literally state that you believe you meet the character requirements outlined by the Aussie Immigration guidelines.

  3. DO go get your FBI and State background check done: FBI comes back to you digitally in 24 hours and State gets mailed to you in 3-4 days. You could be asked to provide a police check ore more info depending on the circumstances of your conviction or the duration of your stay.

  4. DO attach a Cover Letter to your application with an explanation of your circumstances and details of conviction which say you have not been sentenced nor served any time in prison (make sure to tell the truth). The Australian immigration office in Sydney advises people in this situation to state very clearly, the DATE(S) in which they need to have a visa to enter the country and to mark it "REQUEST FOR EXPEDITION". They have no additional information; they have only what you give them, so give them as much as you can and be explicit. Add as many documents as you can: your itinerary, flight details, Driver License, Passport, and your pay stub, for example.

  5. When entering the country, declare your speeding ticket etc. on the incoming passenger card given to you on the plane.

(NOTE: the above is a compiled and condensed version of this thread. If you're going to read through the thread, though, beware: some of the information is incorrect and I have had to extensively fact-check it.)

Now here's the long bit:

First things first: as many commenters pointed out above, a speeding ticket is not a criminal conviction. However, you did check that box, even if in error, and your ETA was denied.

In the future, note that unless you were sentenced to 12 months or more in prison, you should be OK to get an ETA (that is, check "no" on the criminal convictions bit". However, just make sure that you're honest about your speeding ticket / DUI / whatever else when going through customs. Here's one person talking about their experience:

I came in with a DUI on an ETA. Just be honest about it when you go thru customs: they give you a form when entering the country that asks if you've been convicted of a crime so I checked it. Then they have another guy take you off to the side and ask you some questions: what [the conviction] was, when it happened, and how much it cost for the ticket. He wrote it down and copied it and put in some file. So if I ever go back they'll probably ask the same question.

If your ETA is denied (and it will be automatically if you have any criminal convictions), you can apply for a 600 visa. This costs more money and will take more time. If any of the following apply to you, though, you will be denied a visa:

  • Have been sentenced to death, imprisonment for life or imprisonment for longer than a year.
  • Have been convicted of a sexually-based crime involving a child by an Australian or foreign court.
  • Have had a charge proven for a sexually based crime involving a child, even if you were discharged without conviction.
  • Have been found guilty of a sexually-based crime involving a child, even if you were discharged without conviction.

As per the Australian Home Affairs website, you can appeal it as long as you appeal within 28 days of your denial:

In certain cases, you may appeal to the AAT if we refuse or cancel your visa for failing to meet character requirements.

If a delegate of the Minister decides not to revoke the cancellation of your visa, you can apply for a review by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT).

However, note:

If you have had any criminal convictions in any country, you should apply for a Visitor visa (subclass 600), rather than an ETA. If you arrive on an ETA with criminal convictions, you could be refused entry to Australia.

  • Weird stuff in here. Who decides if a charge was "proven" if the jury does not convict? Likewise, who can "find guilt" if the jury does not convict?
    – A. R.
    May 23, 2023 at 17:34
  • @AndrewRay In several legal systems, including Australia/Canada/NZ/UK, conviction is not synonymous with a finding of guilt. A "sentence" of conditional or absolute discharge may be pronounced after a guilty verdict, which in many jurisdictions means that a conviction is not registered and the accused does not receive any punishment (subject to conditions for, well, conditional discharges), even if a finding of guilty was made or even if the accused pleaded guilty.
    – xngtng
    May 26, 2023 at 15:48
  • @xngtng is that like a JNOV, where the jury returns a guilty verdict but the judge has reason to believe they were acting in bad faith and enters a not guilty verdict instead? (This can happen in US law when, for example, the jury was found to be colluding with the prosecution, the jury returned a contradictory verdict, or the jury admits to an ulterior motive.)
    – A. R.
    May 26, 2023 at 19:56
  • @AndrewRay A discharge is given when a judge deems the criminal case itself enough punishment, despite the accused's factual guilt, sparing the accused from a criminal record that may cause personal hardships (if the public interests are not harmed of course). The finding of guilt can still be used in e.g. related civil cases despite the discharge, and can be considered by foreign immigration authorities (like the case here). A conditional discharge is similar to e.g. probation-only sentences in California, where convictions are dismissed after successful probation.
    – xngtng
    May 27, 2023 at 9:04
  • @xngtng Admittedly, I'm not in California, but I have never heard of having a conviction absolved after probation. Sure, you don't go to jail, but you still have a criminal conviction on your record. This whole thing sounds very odd. Why bother having a trial at all if you're going to disregard the outcome? Presumably not solely for the benefit of foreign immigration authorities and related civil suits.
    – A. R.
    May 29, 2023 at 23:02

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