With the Christmas and New Year holiday season fast approaching, the Australian High Commission today reminded Solomon Islanders planning to visit Australia to apply for visas well in advance of their intended travel date.

People intending to travel for Christmas should apply to at the High Commission visa office as early as possible. The standard visa processing time is 10 working days

Additionally, students planning to study in Australia next year are recommended to lodge applications at least 16 weeks before classes start. Sporting groups need to lodge at least four weeks before travel.

Anyone planning to travel to Australia should only book airline tickets once their visas have been issued.

"Australia welcomes people travelling to Australia for holidays, business, sporting events or study and the holiday season is the busiest time of year for Solomon Islanders visiting Australia. The Australian High Commission wants provide a timely service to those planning to visit Australia - it's important to apply early," said Principal Immigration Officer Mrs Pilar Davidson.

"Applicants need to make sure they always complete every section of their application and provide all necessary supporting documents as outlined on our checklists to ensure we can process them as quickly and easily as possible," she said.

"Lodging visa applications well in advance and with full documentation will ensure prompt processing and avoid delays. People living outside Honiara and those who are required to undertake medicals need to allow for additional processing time. Applications can be lodged without a passport but the application cannot be finalised until a current passport is presented," Mrs Davidson added.

The High Commission's visa office is open from 9 a.m. to 12 noon, Monday to Friday. Application forms and details of current visa application charges are available online at www.immi.gov.au .

The High Commission operating hours over the Christmas / New Year period are as follows: Closed 24th to 29th December 2009, Open 30 and 31st December 2009, Closed 1st to 4th January 2010 and Re-open 5th January 2010.

Source: (Press Release: Australian High Commission, Honiara)