I am travelling to Australia for about two months for work. I will not be working for an Australian company but rather for a European government entity, on a scientific endeavour in Australia, with the knowledge and cooperation of the Australian government. I will not be paid in AUD, and I will receive only my normal salary in my EUR account as well as a per-diem allowing us to recuperate the cost of a long hotel stay, which is to be done after we arrive back home.

I believe that this qualifies as a "business visit" insofar as:

Business visitor activities include: making general business or employment enquiries, investigating, negotiating, signing or reviewing a business contract, activities carried out as part of an official government-to-government visit, participating in conferences, trade fairs or seminars, as long as you are not being paid by the organisers for your participation.

I am a US national.

Is the correct visa for me the 601 ETA subclass?

Mostly I'm worried about the aspect of the per-diem and how this may affect the definition of it being a business visit.

I am also the first to land (small holiday first) so if any problems arise, they will arise with me. The rest of my colleagues are taking the EU-national version of this same visa.

What I can say to adequately explain my situation when I arrive at the border?

It would be stupid to say "I'm here for work!" even though I am there for work, I'm not there to work in Australia.

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    But what's your question? Also, the situation of a national of country A who works in country B making a research visit to country C happens all the time in academia (which sounds like essentially your situation). Commented Jan 11, 2017 at 17:15
  • My question is about whether 601 is an appropriate visa or whether I need something offering more explicit approval. And I suppose whether the fact that our living expenses reimbursed would create question about it being a business visit vs work. Commented Jan 11, 2017 at 17:19
  • @DavidRicherby yes it does, and we're not the only group doing this now either, so I'm probably overthinking it. I just worry about doing something wrong so I wanted to get some confirmation, since people here know what they're talking about generally. Commented Jan 11, 2017 at 17:22
  • @pnuts As far as I know, agreements have been signed and so forth. I don't have copies of those agreements but I know that they exist. Commented Jan 11, 2017 at 17:23
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    "What I can say to adequately explain my situation when I arrive at the border?" - You don't need to. If you have a US ePassport and are granted a visa you will be able to be processed through SmartGate without speaking to anyone - border.gov.au/Trav/Ente/Goin/Arrival/Smartgateor-ePassport
    – molypot
    Commented Jan 11, 2017 at 22:59

2 Answers 2


The right way to sort this out is to ask your employer. It's very likely they have done this before, and they will know all sorts of things which we can't, such as whether it is an official government to government visit. They should also give you help with your visa if you need one, and should provide you with a letter stating the nature of your visit.

Per diem are not considered pay, since they are supposed to be recompense for expenses you have incurred.

  • I asked them today, they're "fairly confident" that 601 is the way forward. I'm going to ask for some docs to bring anyway, in case they become necessary. As to 'per diem are not considered pay', excellent. This was the crux of my worries, namely because I know people have had this problem in the past in other countries (e.g. the UK). Thank you for your answer. Commented Jan 12, 2017 at 20:28

I contacted the Australian Embassy myself and explained what I needed to do in Australia, to confirm whether the ETA is correct or not. I was informed that in order to undertake temporary work of this nature (carrying out an experiment using a large amount of very specific equipment we bring ourselves, and not just using a computer), I was required to have a Temporary Work (subclass 400) visa.

My employer did not agree with this, but I went with the advice of the immigration official, so as not to risk any problems. Keep in mind that this option is significantly more expensive than the ETA, especially if you require translations.

NB: Probably I could have gone to Australia and been let in, but that would require lying, which I would not recommend. But according to the official I spoke with, given the speciality of the work being done, the correct visa is the 400.

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    +1. I regularly bring in people to work in Australia under very similar arrangements, and the 400 visa is indeed the correct answer. They're quite straightforward to apply for and quickly granted too. Commented Nov 18, 2017 at 0:10
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    @jpatokal unless your employment contract and documents are in another language, then it costs HUNDREDS to get certified, official translations. as i learned. And if you lived in 4 countries, you have to get clearance certificates in each one! I barely got the visa in time for my flight. But I felt so much better doing that than planning to lie at the border, as some people may have done. Commented Nov 19, 2017 at 18:53

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