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I'm a Malaysian passport holder and I require an ETA (Electronic Travel Authority) to travel to Australia.

Upon googling "Australia ETA for Malaysian passport", the first link is for the Australian High Commission Malaysia - https://malaysia.highcommission.gov.au/klpr/ETA.html. This website provides a link to this homeaffairs.gov.au website where you can apply online: https://www.eta.homeaffairs.gov.au/ETAS3/etas. The application fee is listed here as AUD $20.

I assumed this was the only route for applying for an ETA. However, further information on the High Commission website states that you "can also apply for an ETA through a travel agent, airline or specialist service provider".

One such website I found (which appears on the first page of the Google search I did earlier) is https://www.australianvisa.com.my/. Here, the price for applying for a tourist ETA is listed as MYR 20 (which is approximately AUD $7).

My question is, how can a supposed '3rd party website' be cheaper than simply applying through the official Australian government website? Is it a scam?

31

There are 2 ways that an ETA application can be lodged - via the official Australian Government website, or via a travel agents GDS system (basically, the same system they use to book flights/etc).

When done via the official ETA website there is a fee of A$20 as you've stated.

When done via the GDS, there is no additional fee, other than the fees the agent has already paid to access the GDS.

As a result, third parties can submit ETA application for "free". In some cases, they will actually provide this as a free service (eg, a Travel agent might choose to do an ETA application for you after you booked flights with them), however more normally they will charge you something for their time.

ETA and similar "electronic visas" are certainly an area where scams abound, and there are countless websites out there that will advertise different prices than what they end up charging (eg, the $x they advertise doesn't include the actual ETA fee itself, which is only mentioned in the fine print when paying). Without first-hand knowledge it's impossible to say if the one you've linked to is legitimate or not, however for Australian ETA's it certainly is possible that they are legitimate and still charging less than the standard A$20.

Personally, I'd still be going via the official website rather than taking the risk to save a few dollars, but that's entirely your call.

Note that the Australian situation is relatively unique - most countries do NOT allow similar free application via the GDS systems, and thus you would not expect to find (for example) a website offering US ESTA application for less than the official government website.

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    Wow. It seems like having a system like this just encourages scams... – R.. Nov 13 at 20:30
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The "official" government web site is actually not run by the Australian Government. Rather, it is operated by SITA on the Australian Government's behalf. You can verify this by clicking on the "About this website" link on the front page, which takes you to this page, with this description:

This site was developed and is operated by SITA on behalf of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP).

The service fee for an online ETA will be payable to third party provider. The charge on your credit card statement will be against iVisa Services.

As noted above, the AUD 20 fee goes to SITA, not the government. As travel agents already have access to (and pays for) the SITA network through their GDS, they can offer ETAs for free.

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    This is really just semantics. The fact that a website is outsourced doesn't make it any less of an official website. Nobody would claim that StackExchange doesn't run this website simply because it goes via the Fastly CDN... The statement above is that the fee is "payable" to SITA, not necessarily that some of the money doesn't go to the Government (although I have no idea if it actually does or not) – Doc Nov 14 at 1:31
  • @K2moo4: I don't know if you're able to clarify your answer - can it really be true that all of the $A20 is going to SITA (which I'm guessing is not a government entity) ? The text on that page is a little ambiguous (money could be paid to SITA and they, possibly, could pass some part of it to Oz immigration) and I just wondered if you had knowledge beyond the text on that page. – glaucon Nov 14 at 2:35
  • It's basically a volume discount. Providing you can prevent scams and MITM arbitrage ripoffs it works very well. – mckenzm Nov 14 at 4:39
  • @glaucon It’s true. As per clause 1208A of Schedule 1 to the Migration Regulations 1994, the official “visa application charge” (which goes to the government) for an ETA is nil. – k2moo4 Nov 14 at 5:06
  • @k2moo4 : thanks for that. Interesting that a private entity has been made the recipient of revenue flow like that in return for running a website. – glaucon Nov 14 at 5:15

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