Who needs a visa

Only Australian citizens have the unrestricted right to travel in and out of the country.

With the exception of Citizens of Papua New Guinea who live in the Torres Strait, all non citizens in Australia are required to hold a visa which is a formal permission to travel to, enter and remain in Australia. Even citizens of New Zealand must hold a visa, however they are granted a special type of visa, called a special category visa, and because these are issued automatically, there is no application involved. These visas allow New Zealand citizens to visit, live and work in Australia for as long as they like. Not all New Zealand citizens are entitled to a special category visa and people with convictions or special health concerns should make enquiries of the Australian authorities before departing for Australia.

There are over one hundred different types of visas available for entry to Australia. Each visa has its own specific requirements (called criteria) and in order to successfully obtain the grant of a visa, it is necessary to show that all of the qualifying criteria can be satisfied. When applying for a visa it is therefore important to have some understanding of the criteria that will be required for the visa that is appropriate to your circumstances. For example, one of the criteria which attaches to a Visitor visa is that there must be a genuine intention to visit Australia for tourism purposes. If you were a business person intending to spend a week or two in Australia involved in business meetings and negotiations and then have another week or two on holiday, it would be incorrect to apply for a Visitor visa because the purpose of the visitor involves more than tourism. In this case, the appropriate visa to apply for would be a Business Visitor Visa.

Visas come within one of four groups:

  • Permanent visas entitling people to remain in Australia permanently.
  • Temporary visas – authorise temporary stay in Australia subject to conditions.
  • Protection visas – for people who have been granted refugee status, and
  • Bridging visas – provide lawful status to people who would otherwise become unlawful.

Permanent visas, Protection visas and most Temporary visas are referred to as substantive visas. Bridging visas are not substantive visas and generally have very limited rights attaching to them. Probably the majority of bridging visas are held by people waiting for the outcome of processing of a substantive visa application. For example, someone who was in Australia on a Temporary visa may have married an Australian citizen or Permanent Resident and applied for a Spouse visa. This person would be issued a bridging visa to cover the processing period so that they would not become unlawful if the processing continued through the expiry date of the original Temporary visa.

New migrants are issued with a multiple re entry visa when their immigration to Australia is approved. These visas last up to five years from the date of grant. After the initial visa has expired, if the holder wishes to continue to travel to and from Australia as a Permanent Resident, they must obtain a Resident Return Visa [RRV].

Visa evidencing

The Department of Immigration and citizenship has a very sophisticated computer program system which records all visa grants on it. In the past, all visa grants were evidenced by the insertion of a visa label into the applicant’s passport. These days the Department is granting an increasing number of visas electronically without the need to have a visa label endorsed and in these cases the Department will simply write to the applicant informing them of the visa grant number which is important to keep in a safe place should any issue ever arise.

Where can a visa be applied for

Some visas can only be applied for whilst the applicant is outside Australia, some only while the applicant is in Australia, and others while the applicant is either in or out of Australia. If the visa applicant is in the wrong place when the application was lodged, the application will be invalid and cannot be considered. Before applying for a visa it is necessary to determine where the applicant must be in order for a valid application be made.

No further stay

Many visas are issued with what is called a “no further stay- condition attached to it. This means that although the visa holder is permitted to travel to Australia, they will not be able to make a further visa application once there.

The no further stay condition often creates confusion for visa applicants because in the absence of the condition the visa that they have been granted would be a visa which would otherwise permit a further visa application been lodged while the holder is in Australia. Often people have the idea that they may be able to change status while in Australia because they know of someone who held the same visa as they do, who had a successful application. Unfortunately, the devil is in the detail and what they have overlooked is that their visa is subject to a “no further stay- condition, whereas the other was not.

Typically, no further stay conditions are imposed on Visitor visas and Student visas.

While it is possible for application to be made to remove the no further stay condition, this is usually quite a difficult thing to achieve and no one should approach the task with the belief that it is just an administrative step which needs to be taken. Basically, the applicant must show the Minister that since they were granted the visa compelling and compassionate circumstances that developed over which they had no control and that had resulted in a major change to their circumstances.