Welcome to Australia… well, almost!
There’s No Place Like Oz
Australia is probably the only country in the world that requires visas for every person who crosses its borders. And, arguably, it has the most complex visa requirements in the world. Because of this, it is vital to know what visas are available and what the criteria are for each when you plan to come to Australia. Changes are frequent, and new possibilities open as old pathways close.
The Migration Act governs the entire Australian migration program. Under this Act, there are detailed regulations that describe the criteria for most visas, and define the procedures for their administration. Under the regulations, there are a large number of gazette notices and prescribed forms, Ministerial Directions and Migration Series Instructions. Filling in all the gaps at the base are the Department’s internal laws, contained in the Procedures Advice Manuals, or PAMS.
Unfortunately, we do not have the space here to reduce all the possible visas to any simple formula. However, we can provide you with some of the basic rules.
First, some visas are permanent, meaning that you can stay in Australia for as long as you like, even after they expire (if you want to leave after your permanent visa has expired, and you haven’t become a citizen by then, you need to apply for a resident return visa). When applying for a permanent visa that is intended to be granted from overseas, this is called ‘migration.’ When applying for a permanent visa which can be granted while you are in Australia, this is known as ‘change of status.’ There are different processing rules for migration and change of status applications. Permanent visas can be granted for business migrants, skilled individuals (whether they are independent or sponsored by a business or a family member), and family members and partners.
Permanent visas can be granted for:
- business migrants
- skilled individuals (whether they are independent or sponsored by a business or a family member)
- family members and partners
- refugees and humanitarian entrants
Temporary visas can be granted for holidays, temporary employment sponsored by an employer, business purposes leading to a permanent business visa, or family/spouse grounds. There are many categories of student visa as well. All temporary visas expire. If you remain in Australia after they expire without making some other application, then you become an “overstayer”; if you choose to become an overstayer, best to carry a toothbrush with you at all times as there’s no telling when you might be detained by the Department and sent to an immigration detention centre.
Some visitor visas are granted on the basis of your passport of nationality, without ever requiring documentation to be submitted. You do need to make an application but in many cases a travel agent might do that for you. These are knows as ETAs or eVisitor visas. Generally a visa of this kind only permits a stay of up to three months on the initial visit, however they all allow you to apply for another visa after your arrival. It’s important to note that in some circumstances a visitor visa of this kind may permit short periods of employment-related activities.
Some visas require sponsorship and some do not. Most temporary sponsored visas are liable to cancellation if the sponsor (whether a company, other organisation, or family member/partner) withdraws their sponsorship. Most permanent sponsored visas are not liable to cancellation after they are granted if the sponsor withdraws sponsorship. Sponsorship can be very expensive (in the case of contributory parent visas, it can cost over A$100,000 in fees and bonds to sponsor both parents). Likewise, sponsorship can be very cheap for some other sorts of visas. In each case it is important that the sponsor is aware of their obligations before accepting the commitment.
Since 2003, Australian immigration law has employed two stage visa processing for business skills migrants. Under these arrangements, almost all business migrants are granted a provisional visa for four years.
After establishing a business with the requisite level of business activity, or maintaining the requisite level of investment in Australia, provisional visa holders are eligible to apply for permanent residence.
A direct permanent residence category is available for high calibre business migrants sponsored by state/territory governments. This is known as the Business Talent visa.
In order to migrate to Australia as a skilled migrant, you need a skill. This is defined as an occupation that requires a degree of formal training (although in some cases you can be accepted on the basis of work experience which is equivalent to formal training). Most skilled occupations are included in the skilled occupation lists which are used to define who can apply.
If you have an employer who can sponsor you, the nature of the occupation is again critical and there are limitations based on the employer’s own eligibility to sponsor.
Other skilled migrants can apply either without a sponsor or be sponsored by family members or a State government. Most of these applications are points-tested, and generally it is not possible to lodge a skilled application unless you have a skills assessment relating to an occupation on the skilled occupation lists, have adequate English, and are under 50. We so encourage you to take our online Assessment form to help determine where you stand (a fee of AU$220 applies).
There are many different family reunion visas. The most common categories relate to bringing a partner (including partners of a same sex relationship) or prospective spouse to Australia, but it is also possible to bring children, adopted children, parents, carers and remaining relatives (where most of the family has already migrated).
The most common humanitarian applications are made to allow refugees to remain in Australia (a protection visa application) or to bring them here from overseas (offshore humanitarian applications). A further and important part of the migration program is the request which can be made to the Minister for Immigration to allow someone to obtain a visa although they do not fit the legal framework (Ministerial intervention cases). Because protection visa applications and Ministerial intervention requests are commonly abused, we take particular care to counsel applicants before proceeding with such an application or request.
Planning is crucial. You may not be able to obtain a visa immediately. In many cases it is necessary to undertake careful planning to bring more than one adult member of an extended family to Australia. In other cases, someone may have to undertake some study in Australia, obtain further work experience in Australia or overseas, improve their English, or wait until a relative is qualified to be a sponsor, before they will be able to apply.
If you want to study in Australia there are now complex rules in place determining what evidence you need to show, where you can make the application from, and what courses you can study. It is very important to understand the rules for skilled migration if your objective is to remain in Australia permanently.
Because most people don’t know what opportunities there are when they make an initial enquiry, we have provided an online Assessment form on this site. The assessment’s cost is AU $220 and you will be required to submit your most recent CV. We can identify the options for 90% of enquirers from this form. Please note that occasionally we may ask for more information, such as a family tree, or a detailed job description.
In addition, the Department of Immigration has established links on its website for most common visas. These can be identified using their website www.border.gov.au and using the website search engine for the visa you’re interested in.