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Mon 1 Jan 2007 04:00 AM

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Oz visa extension

The validity of tourist and business visas to Australia has been extended from one to two years for all GCC nationals.

The validity of tourist and business visas to Australia has been extended from one to two years for all GCC nationals.

That means most nationals issued with a visa to Australia any time after December 11 can visit the country as many times as they wish in the next two years.

The decision to relax the rules follows a number of initiatives implemented by the Australian Government in 2006, which aimed to ease the GCC visa application process as the number of nationals heading to Australia continues to climb.

“These include labelfree arrangements for nationals of five Gulf countries, an increase in the number of processing staff and contact lines for urgent cases, explained Amanda Vanstone, Australia’s Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs.

Travel agents and tour operators have welcomed the new two-year rule, which takes into account the fact that 70% of GCC visitors to Australia are repeat customers.

“This will encourage a lot of repeat business; people who have recently visited the Gold Coast for example, will now return to visit other places such as Sydney and Melbourne,” said Zaeem Gama, sales and marketing manager (GCC) for KSA-based Kanoo Holiday, which has a brochure dedicated to Australia and New Zealand.

Between January and August, Australia received 31,600 Gulf visitors, up 16% on the previous year.

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