I would like to emphasize that Australia’s visa rules are complex and frequently change. As a result, this text may contain unintended inaccuracies. Information that is important to your specific visa situation may be missing. Therefore, when reading the following texts it is important that you see this chapter as a guide to further self-studies. If you choose to proceed with a visa application, you must make sure that you check the latest requirements and conditions either via the Australian Immigration’s website (immi.homeaffairs.gov.au) or by engaging a migration agent.
Climbing the visa ladder
Whether you are going to Australia for just a long weekend or for the rest of your life, you must have a visa to stay in the country unless you are an Australian citizen. Each type of visa has a validity period (for example, a 90-day tourist visa or a 12-month student visa) and may have limitations on, for example, how many times you may travel in and out of the country during its validity period.
Having a visa does not automatically mean that you have the right to freely work or study in the country. For example, you are not allowed to work for an Australian employer if you are in Australia as a tourist. Each type of visa has specific rules about what the visa holder (you) can do in the country and it is very important that you have the right kind of visa to legally do what you want to do. The tourist visa eVisitor is free to apply for, which can be easily done online on your own. Most other visas are paid for in connection with the application.
The different visa classes are like a ladder with four steps where the next class gives you more and more rights.
At the bottom of the ladder are simple visas for visitors that give you the right to visit Australia for a short time: e.g. as a tourist or perhaps on a short business trip. On the next step you will find different types of temporary residency visas that give you the right to live in Australia for a limited time (for example, to study at a university, to spend a year on Working Holiday, or to work abroad for a few years). After this we have different types of permanent residency visas that will give you nearly full rights to live and work in the country. The top level on the ladder is when you become a citizen and have the same rights as all other Australians.
The following are some common types of visas that many people use when travelling or moving to Australia.
Free visas for visitors
There are two free visas for visitors to Australia. If you hold a passport from one of the following countries, you should look at the eVisitor visa (visa class 651) (homeaffairs.gov.au/visas/getting-a-visa/visa-listing/evisitor-651); Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Republic of San Marino, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom – British Citizen, Vatican City.
If you instead hold a passport from one of the following countries, you should look into the Electronic Travel Authority visa (visa class 601) (immi.homeaffairs.gov.au/visas/getting-a-visa/visa-listing/electronic-travel-authority-601); Andorra, Brunei, Canada, Hong Kong (SAR of China), Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan (excluding official or diplomatic passports), United Kingdom—British National (Overseas), United States of America.
These basic temporary visas are suitable for those who plan to go on a short business trip or a holiday that lasts for a maximum of 3 months, but note that you are not allowed to work for an Australian employer on these visas, You can study shorter courses (for example a 6-week language course) with these visas, but nothing longer than three months.
You can easily apply for these visitor visas on the Australian Immigration webpage under visa applications (online.immi.gov.au). When your visa is granted, you will receive an email with your visa details. You do not need a sticker or a stamp in your passport, instead the Australian authorities record your name and passport number in their register. When you land in Australia, the passport control will scan your passport to see that there is a visa linked to your passport number
If you want to stay longer in the country than your first visa permits, you can in some cases extend your stay by applying for a new visa.
If you want to visit Australia as a tourist for more than three months, you should instead of an eVisitor visa consider applying for the tourist version of a visitor visa (subclass 600) (immi.homeaffairs.gov.au/visas/getting-a-visa/visa-listing/visitor-600), which is an electronic tourist visa that was introduced in 2013. You can easily apply for this visa online (online.immi.gov.au) and the cost of this at the time of writing (October 2018) is $140 AUD. Like other electronic visas, you don’t need a label in your passport, instead the visa is stored electronically in the passport control’s computer system. This tourist visa is the second easiest visa to obtain and is suitable for those who want to go to Australia on a longer tourist trip (up to 12 months) without working during their time there.
You can apply for a new tourist visa when you are still in the country, but to avoid problems, it is a good idea to contact the Australian Immigration (immi.homeaffairs.gov.au/help-support/contact-us) to discuss your particular situation before applying for a new visa. If your first visa is a visitor visa or a Working Holiday visa (see below), in general you are only allowed to extend your stay in Australia for another 12 months. If your second visa application is rejected, you must leave the country when your first visa expires.
Foreigners coming to Australia on a visitor’s visa for a holiday, but who end up staying on a new visa after finding a job on the trip is not unheard of. While you are in the country on a visitor’s visa and accidentally stumble across a job, you can sometimes convert to a temporary residency visa with a job permission (such as a Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) visa) to be able to stay and work.
A Working Holiday Visa is a 12-month tourist visa that gives the holder the right to work in Australia, and just like with the free visitor visas there are two different Working Holiday type visas depending on which country you are from. If you hold a passport from one of the following countries, then you should look at the Working Holiday Visa (class 417) (immi.homeaffairs.gov.au/visas/getting-a-visa/visa-listing/work-holiday-417); Belgium, Canada, Republic of Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong (SAR of China), Republic of Ireland, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Taiwan (other than an official or diplomatic passport), The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
If you instead hold a passport from one of the following countries, then you should look at the Work and Holiday Visa (class 462) (immi.homeaffairs.gov.au/visas/getting-a-visa/visa-listing/work-holiday-462); Argentina, Austria, Chile, China, People’s Republic of, Czech Republic, Ecuador, Greece, Hungary, Indonesia, Israel, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Peru, Poland, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Thailand, Turkey, Uruguay, United States of America, Vietnam
These visas are suitable for backpackers who want to work while on a holiday for up to one year. Available for people over 18 but under 31 (except for Irish and Canadian citizens who can use this visa up to the age of 35). If you meet certain requirements (immi.homeaffairs.gov.au/visas/getting-a-visa/visa-listing/work-holiday-417/specified-work) or (immi.homeaffairs.gov.au/visas/getting-a-visa/visa-listing/work-holiday-462/specified-462-work), you may be allowed to extend your visa with a second year (and unlike for your first application, you do not need to leave the country to apply for your second working holiday visa). This visa is seen as a kind of temporary residency visa. From 1st of July 2019 there is an option of doing 6-months of specified work in a specified regional area during your second year and then apply for a third year Working Holiday visa.
The purpose of these visas is to give young tourists the opportunity to work during their holiday to be able to afford spending a long time in Australia, and to help Australian employers find young workers for jobs in agriculture or the service industry.
To be granted this visa you must be between 18 and 31 (you must not have reached the age of 31, except if you are Irish, French, or Canadian in which case you are allowed to use these visas up to the age of 35) when applying for the visa and you must be outside Australia both when you apply for the visa and when it is granted. Once the visa has been granted, you will have a year to enter the country before the visa is forfeited.
These visas are valid for 12 months and this time period starts from the first day you enter Australia on your new visa. These visas allow you to travel in and out of the country as many times as you want, and many backpackers choose to travel to nearby countries in Asia or to New Zealand during their working holiday year.
You are only allowed to work up to 6 months for the same employer unless you work for an agricultural (plant and animal cultivation) employer, in which case you are allowed to spend up to 12 months with the same employer. Some backpackers decide to study a short course (for example, a four-week language course) when they are in Australia on this visa. You can study up to four months (17 actual weeks of study).
To be granted this visa, you must meet the Health, Character and Financial requirements. This means that you must be able to show that you are healthy enough, that you are an honest person, and that you have enough money to support yourself while in Australia and enough money to go back home.
Whether you as a foreigner need to undergo a medical examination when applying for a temporary visa depends on factors like age, what country you are from (what risk of tuberculosis your country poses), your previous medical history and what area you are planning to work in if applicable (immi.homeaffairs.gov.au/help-support/meeting-our-requirements/health/who-needs-health-examinations). If you are going to work in a hospital or school environment or have any previous medical problems, you may be asked to undergo an examination (and it may also happen that you are asked to undergo a medical examination in case you are applying for a permanent residency visa). You may also be asked to undergo a medical examination if you have spent significant time in countries where tuberculosis and other infectious diseases occur. This usually involves a chest X-ray together with a general medical examination. What Australia wants to avoid is to grant visas to applicants with diseases that are particularly infectious and expensive to treat. If you must undergo a medical examination in connection with the processing of your application, you will receive more information from the Australian Immigration about where and when they want you to do your medical examination.
Just like other countries, Australia is not very interested in letting in serious criminals and people who might be more of a burden than an asset to society. When you apply for an Australian visa, you may be asked to submit extracts from the police records in all the countries you have lived for more than twelve months in the last ten years (counting from the year you were 16). You will also be asked to enter all international trips you have made and countries you have visited or lived in during those ten years.
You will find it hard to get into Australia if you:
- Have served a prison sentence for serious crimes and spent a long time in jail
- Have a close relationship with people or groups who are suspected of being involved in criminal activities.
- Have behaved in such a way that it is considered that there is a serious risk that you will:
- Commit crimes in Australia
- Harass other people or groups in Australia
- Will incite hatred between ethnic groups or conflicts in society
- Engage in activities that interferes with, harm or will be disadvantageous for the Australian society or any part thereof.
For more information about the Character requirements for visas and how to obtain a Police certificate, visit Australian Immigration’s website (immi.homeaffairs.gov.au/help-support/meeting-our-requirements/character).
This requirement is all about demonstrating that you have sufficient funds available for your first time in Australia until you have found a job, and that you have additional funds saved to get yourself back home again in case of an emergency. There is no clear definition of what sufficient funds means, and in the end, it will always be up to the judgment of the Australian border security staff to determine whether you should be let into the country. If you are taken aside when arriving in Australia, and you are asked for evidence of having sufficient funds for your stay, you might want to consider having a return ticket already booked, and at least $5,000 available on your bank account or credit card. You do not have to carry all this money in cash, but you might be asked to show that you have debit or credit cards with you that you can use to access these funds.
Some backpackers visiting Australia on a working holiday gap year decide that they want to try to stay in the country for longer. Some end up finding work with a company that sponsors them for a temporary work permit (immi.homeaffairs.gov.au/visas/getting-a-visa/visa-listing/temporary-skill-shortage-482). Others end up in a relationship with an Australian and end up staying on a partner visa (immi.homeaffairs.gov.au/visas/getting-a-visa/visa-listing/partner-onshore). Yet others choose to apply for a second year’s working holiday visa after the first one.
To stay a second year on a Working Holiday visa
The Working Holiday (WH) visa can generally only be granted once in a lifetime, but if you meet certain requirements you may be granted a second visa. In order to get your second year WH visa (and stay in Australia for another year) you must, while you have your first WH visa work for at least 3 calendar months (88 days) with specific tasks (so-called specified work) in the agricultural, construction or mining industry in some regional areas. More specifically, this involves working on a farm, such as harvesting or maintenance. Fishing and forestry are also on the list, just as construction work, mining and gas and oil extraction. For more information, see either (immi.homeaffairs.gov.au/visas/getting-a-visa/visa-listing/work-holiday-417/specified-work) or (immi.homeaffairs.gov.au/what-we-do/whm-program/specified-work-conditions/specified-work-462) depending on which visa you are on.
You must be able to present a certificate from your former employer who says that the work was done in the right area (this is determined from a list of postcodes), that you worked long enough (this can be strengthened by means of pay slips, for example) and that you worked with the right things. You can apply for a second WH visa without leaving Australia. Besides this, your second WH application is done in the same way as your first one. You can find more information on how to extend your journey with a second year at the following links (immi.homeaffairs.gov.au/visas/getting-a-visa/visa-listing/work-holiday-417/second-working-holiday-417) and (immi.homeaffairs.gov.au/visas/getting-a-visa/visa-listing/work-holiday-462/second-work-holiday-462).
Apply for your first or second Working Holiday visa
As with the previously mentioned visitor visas, you apply for a Working Holiday visa yourself via an online form (online.immi.gov.au) and the cost for this at the time of writing (March 2019) is $450 AUD which you pay by credit/debit card. A complete application is usually processed within a couple of weeks.
From the 1st of July 2019, second WH visa holders (subclass 417 and 462) can carry out another 6 months of specified work in regional areas to be eligible to apply for a third WH visa. Note: this work can be carried out on or after the 1st of July 2019, so a successful application cannot be lodged before January 2020.
If you want to study a course or a longer program, you need a student visa (Visa class 500) (immi.homeaffairs.gov.au/visas/getting-a-visa/visa-listing/student-500), and you apply for the student visa after you have received your letter of offer from your school. The student visa allows you unlimited travel to and from Australia during its validity period, and as a student you are in most cases allowed to work part time (up to 40 hours per fortnight) to support you as a student. After graduation, you can (depending on what you have studied) apply to stay to search for a job, using a so-called Temporary Graduate visa (Visas class 485) (immi.homeaffairs.gov.au/visas/getting-a-visa/visa-listing/temporary-graduate-485).
The processing time for these visa applications depends on what and where you are going to study and varies between 3 weeks and 3 months. Since the processing time can be very long, it is smart to be out in good time if you want to study abroad. Do not travel to Australia before your visa has been granted.
The Australian economy is relatively good and there is a shortage of skilled workers, which drives employers to recruit abroad when they cannot find workers and officials within the country. If you have come a fair bit in your career and are thinking of moving to Australia to work, take a look at the various forms of work visas available, both the temporary visas that allow you to work for up to four years for a local employer (immi.homeaffairs.gov.au/visas/getting-a-visa/visa-listing/temporary-skill-shortage-482), or on the work visas that let you spend the rest of your life in Australia (immi.homeaffairs.gov.au/visas/getting-a-visa/visa-listing/skilled-independent-189), and the regional work visas aimed at attracting talented foreigners to Australian sparsely populated areas (immi.homeaffairs.gov.au/visas/getting-a-visa/visa-listing/skilled-regional-provisional-489). Please note that Subclass 489 Skilled Regional Provisional Visa will close, and instead a subclass 491 Skilled Work Regional (Provisional) Visa will be coming in effect in November 2019. Subclass 494 visa will be a points-tested visa for applicants sponsored by State or Territory government agency or sponsored by a family member residing in designated regional areas. Also, a new permanent visa, subclass 191, will be available for those skilled migrants who have already lived and worked in Australia on visa subclass 491 and visa subclass 494 for three years on November 2022.
Australia’s various work visas are only available for those who work in a profession that is listed on one of these different lists (June 2019):
- Medium and Long-term Strategic Skills List (MLTSSL)
- Short-term Skilled Occupation List (STSOL)
- Regional Occupation List (ROL)
- Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (RSMS)
On the website of the Department of Home Affairs you can get an overview of all the professions that allow labour immigration (immi.homeaffairs.gov.au/visas/working-in-australia/skill-occupation-list). Each profession is identified under the Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO) code which provides information about required qualifications for each specific job. Under the list you can also see which work visas to consider and under what specific list each occupation will qualify (e.g. short- to long term and regional) as well as the organisation (Assessing Authority) that you must contact in order to get your qualifications and professional qualifications reviewed and approved for an application. To find out more about each Assessing Authority, there is a search tool to use (immi.homeaffairs.gov.au/visas/working-in-australia/skills-assessment/assessing-authorities).
Some common work visas for foreigners in Australia are:
- Temporary Skill Shortage Visa
- Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme Visa
(homeaffairs.gov.au/visas/getting-a-visa/visa-listing/regional-sponsor-migration-scheme-187) NB. the permanent subclass 187 Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme Visa will close and be replaced by a new provisional subclass 494 Skilled Employer Sponsored Regional visa, which will come in effect in November 2019. Subclass 494 visa will be a points-tested visa for applicants sponsored by State or Territory government agency or sponsored by a family member residing in designated regional areas. Also, a new permanent visa, subclass 191, will be available for those skilled migrants who have already lived and worked in Australia on visa subclass 494 and visa subclass 491 for three years on November 2022.
- Skilled Independent Visa
- Employer Nomination Scheme Visa
For several types of work visas, your employer must first apply to be entitled to become a “sponsor”, which gives the employer the opportunity to invite a certain number of foreign employees to work in Australia. The sponsor must clearly identify what the job is about, show that they have not found any Australian applicants for the service, and name you as a candidate to fill the service.
You can include family members (spouse/partner and any underage children) as a candidate on your work visa application, thus allowing the whole family to move to Australia if one of the parents receive a job in the country. If you come to Australia on a temporary sponsored work visa (for example, a TSS visa – visa class 482) then you will be bound to your sponsoring employer, and you cannot use your visa to freely work in the country for any other company elsewhere. However, your accompanying partner will not share these conditions, and he or she is free to apply for a job as long as you are employed by your sponsor. Just remember, if you move to Australia on a time-limited work visa and lose the job without finding a new sponsor, you may have to leave the country and move back to your home country prematurely. You should therefore think twice before you sell your accommodation in your home country or make arrangements resulting in you not having anything to come back to.
If your boyfriend or girlfriend is an Australian citizen or a permanent resident, you can apply for a partner visa to be able to stay for a longer time in Australia. There are different kinds of partner visas, but for all, (if approved) you are first granted a temporary residency visa and after a couple of years in the country you will be granted a permanent residency visa to live with your partner.
The word partner mentioned in following text refers to the spouse/registered partner, fiancée/fiancé or so-called de facto partner, which corresponds to co-living (also for homosexual couples). In order to substantiate your relationship, you will need to show different kinds of documents depending on what kind of relationship you have, such as marriage certificates if you are married, or joint bills, photos, and rental contracts to prove that you are truly living together.
If you are in a de facto relationship, you generally must have been a couple for at least a year. You will prove that your relationship is real, that you both want to share your lives with each other and that you live together (for example, through rental contracts or bills with both names on). You must also be able to show that you are in a genuine, long-term relationship with the intention of sharing your lives, that you live together and, if you have been apart in recent times, all such separations have been only temporary. You will also need to show that you are in good health and have good character (that is, you meet the “health and character requirements”, as described earlier).
Anyone applying for a partner visa must have a sponsor, and this is usually the Australian partner in the relationship. When your partner applies to sponsor you, the validity and seriousness of your relationship will be evaluated. This means that you and your partner will be asked to share personal and private information about your relationship, and you may also have to answer questions about your relationship in a personal interview with an official.
Proving that you are in a serious relationship
When Australian Immigration evaluates your relationship, they will, for example, look at things like sharing money and spending, that you live together, maybe booked tickets together and celebrate festivals together or with each other’s families. You are likely to be able to submit a letter of your relationship, with information on:
- How, when and where you met.
- How your relationship evolved into what it is now.
- When you decided to marry or become de facto.
- How you have set up your shared home and your everyday economy. How you support each other financially, physically and emotionally and how your relationship became serious.
- Whether you have ever been apart for a long time and if so, why. Why you chose to live apart or travel separately, how long this lasted and how you got your relationship to work even though you were not with each other every day.
- Your shared plans (where your relationship will take you in the future).
Specifically, four components of your relationship are looked at: shared finances, a shared home, shared social relations (friends and families) and proof that you have chosen to share your lives with each other.
Below I have listed some examples of different documents that you can use to as convincingly as possible prove that you are a genuine couple and that you need a partner visa.
- Evidence of a shared economy, such as:
- Leases in your two names, or joint ownership of your home and other major purchases.
- Shared household finance, such as shared bank cards and accounts.
- Examples of how you share everyday costs, such as food and different subscriptions.
- Proof of a shared home, for example:
- Information on how you live together (shared bedroom).
- How you share the responsibility for the home (cooking, cleaning, purchasing).
- How you share the costs and have electricity, water and gas bills in the same name.
- Mail sent to you together at the same address, such as postcards and invitations from mutual friends.
- Proof that you are in a relationship with family and friends, for example:
- How you spend a lot of time together and with mutual friends, for example through joint invitations to feasts and celebrations.
- That mutual friends certify that their view is that you are in a genuine and permanent relationship and that everyone around you knows that you are a couple.
- Proof of how you (if possible) told the authorities that you are in a relationship, for example, by entering into a registered partnership.
- Shared membership in associations and organizations.
- Proof of how you together attended different kinds of events as a couple.
- Evidence from journeys you made together
- Proof that you have plans for each other and the future, for example:
- In the event of an interview, you can get detailed questions about your partner’s life, family and background to prove that you really know each other closely.
- Proof that you intend to be a close couple, for example, by choosing to have a shared economy in large parts of your lives.
- Any testaments you have established for each other.
- Call logs, email history and the like that proves that you have had close and regular contact with each other when you have been apart.
Partner visa application process
There are different kinds of partner visas for applicants who are either in Australia (onshore) or outside Australia (offshore) when applying for the visa.
- Partner Visa – apply overseas (visa class 309 and 100)
- You must be offshore (outside of Australia) to apply for this visa. This visa (subclass 309) allows you to stay with your partner in Australia as a temporary resident. If you and your partner’s relationship is ongoing after two years, your visa may be converted into a permanent residency visa (subclass 100). The visa gives you the right to work and study
- Partner Visa – apply in Australia (visa class 820 and 801)
- You must be onshore (in Australia) to apply for this visa (subclass 820), otherwise it works the same way as the offshore visa above. If you are still a couple two years later, you can apply for a permanent residency visa (subclass 801).
Applying for a partner visa is a two-part process – you apply for both a temporary and a permanent residency visa all at the same time. If your application is granted, you will first receive a temporary partner visa (subclass 309 or 820) that gives you the right to live and work in the country for two years. In the meantime, your application for a permanent residency visa lies dormant for two years.
If your first visa (subclass 309 or 820) is still valid after these two years and you still meet all the requirements, you (probably) will be granted your permanent residency visa. However, if you and your partner have been a couple for at least 3 years before the application, or if you have a joint child together and have been together for at least 2 years, the requirement to first hold a temporary visa for two years might be exempt. If this is the case, you may be able to apply for a permanent partner visa directly.
The application process is quite simple but requires a lot of witnessed documentation, paperwork and references (e.g. from friends to support your relationship). You and your Australian partner fill out a form that he or she sponsors you as his or her partner. With it, you send with various documents which, in addition to showing who you are also proves that you are a real couple (see the sections above), and that you meet the health and character requirements.
If you are married, you will of course send a witnessed copy of your marriage certificate. The document requirements may differ on a case-by-case basis, but as a minimum you probably need to send the following:
- Various completed application forms for you and your partner.
- 2-4 passport photos of you and your partner.
- Certified copy of your overseas passport.
- Relevant attachments which prove that you are in a genuine relationship (see above).
- Proof that your sponsor has an Australian citizenship or permanent visa or is New Zealander with the right to sponsor a partner for an Australian partner visa.
- Certificates (statutory declarations) from two people who are Australian or have an Australian permanent residency, who can attest that they are convinced that your relationship is genuine and long lasting.
- Any attachments to prove that you meet the health and character requirements.
- If any of you have previously been married; Proof that you are now divorced from the previous spouse.
- If you have children to be included in your visa application, additional documents must be added, including documents proving that you are their guardian.
The last time-limited visa type I am going to mention is one that you hopefully will not need to use, namely Bridging Visas (transitional visa) (archive.homeaffairs.gov.au/trav/visi/visi/bridging-visas). These are temporary short-term visas that you may be granted in exceptional cases to ensure that you are not in Australia without any visa at all. Some examples:
- You are in Australia, your previous visa is about to expire, and you have applied for a new visa, but your application has not yet been processed. During the transition period, you may under certain circumstances be granted a Bridging Visa to be able to stay in the country while your application is being reviewed.
- You are in Australia; the Australian Immigration has withdrawn your visa or dismissed your visa application and you have submitted an appeal to have the decision changed.
- You are about to leave the country but will not make it in time before your visa expires. With the help of a transition visa you can be allowed to stay a few weeks to take care of the last of your moving preparations.
- You have been arrested by the police and your regular visa has either been revoked or expired, but you still must stay for a trial or for serving time in jail.
The most common cases for foreigners to be granted a transition visa are in connection with converting between different visa classes. One examples of this may be that you have arrived in the country on a student visa and are offered a job. While you are waiting for your visa application to be processed, your first visa will expire, and you apply for a bridging visa, so you don’t have to leave the country.
Names with non-standard characters in visa applications
For all visa applications it is very important that you enter your name correctly. Since the English language does not use any accented characters, some names must be written differently on the visa applications. Especially for online applications, it is important that you write the name exactly as it appears on the machine-readable strip at the bottom of your passport’s ID-page. For example, if your surname is Hägglund, the machine-readable version of your name will be “Haegglund”. As your first name, you should always write the name that comes first in your passport, no matter what your chosen name is. You can find conversion rules for non-standard characters on Australian Immigration’s webpage (immi.homeaffairs.gov.au/help-text/eplus/Pages/elp-h0015.aspx).
Passport and its validity
Before your journey, make sure the validity of your passport is covering your entire stay in Australia, plus at least six months from your last day in Australia (order a new passport if your current one is about to expire). If you travel home via Asia, there is the risk that the countries on your stopover won’t let you in if you have less than 6 months of validity remaining. This happened to me in Singapore a few years ago when during a stopover I had a passport that would expire within 3 months. I showed that I had a ticket to Sweden a day later. I was admitted into the country but had to promise to get a new passport once back home in Sweden.
If you renew your passport but already have been granted a visa, you must inform the Australian Immigration about your new passport number using your online Immi account (online.immi.gov.au) so that they can update the visa from your old passport details to your new one.
Online visas are saved without a stamp/label in the passport
For all electronic visas (the ones where you register your visa with your passport number without placing a label in your passport) you will receive a confirmation via e-mail that your visa has been granted. Even though these visas are recorded electronically, it is good to carry a printed copy of this email in your hand luggage in case you get any questions in the passport control after landing in Australia.
It is important to understand that just because you have been granted a visa, it is not certain that you will be allowed into Australia. You must also be approved by the border control after landing. If it is discovered that you have lied in your visa application, they have the right to refuse you entry into Australia and they will send you back home with first available flight.
To prove your visa status
The Department of Immigration and Citizenship provides an online service where you as a visa holder can check your visa status. The online service is named Visa Entitlement Verification Online (VEVO) for Visa Holders (immi.homeaffairs.gov.au/visas/already-have-a-visa/check-visa-details-and-conditions/check-conditions-online). You can use it to make sure that your visa is still valid or to see what conditions the visa comes with. The same database is used by employers and other organisations to, for example, verify that a jobseeker is entitled to reside and work in Australia.
To use the help of a migration agent
Tourist, working holiday, and student visas are easy enough to apply for on your own, so for these you hardly need to ask anyone about helping you fill out the application form. However, for more complex applications (for different forms of permanent residency), many choose to use migration agents who can advise you with your application and who can represent you in immigration matters (immi.homeaffairs.gov.au/help-support/who-can-help-with-your-application/using-a-migration-agent).
Frequently asked questions about visas
Question: When asked to submit a certified copy of a document, what does this mean?
Answer: A Certified Copy or witnessed copy is a copy that has a stamp indicating that you have displayed both the copy and the original document before a trustworthy person. In Australia, this group of professionals (used to witness copies) are called Justice of the Peace (JPs).
Question: I am going to Australia to take part in a sport competition. Which visa do you think would suit me?
Answer: Look at the Temporary Activity Visa, which has several variants for athletes, volunteers, artists, or other forms of professional visitors (homeaffairs.gov.au/visas/getting-a-visa/visa-listing/temporary-activity-408).
Question: I want to go to Australia and study for 2-3 months, and then travel as a tourist for 2-3 months (and possibly work in the meantime). Which visa might suit me best?
Answer: If you are under 31 years of age, a Working Holiday / Work and Holiday visa might suit you since it lets you both study, travel around, and work. If you are over 31, look at either a student visa or getting a 6-month tourist visa (immi.homeaffairs.gov.au/visas/getting-a-visa/visa-listing/visitor-600) that allows you to study for up to 3 months (but on this you will unfortunately not be able to work).
Question: I want to go to Australia but do not have a Swedish citizenship. What visa can I apply for?
Answer: Use the Visa Finder tool (homeaffairs.gov.au/visas/getting-a-visa/visa-finder) to get an overview of the visas that you can apply for with your particular citizenship.
Question: Do I need a visa for going to New Zealand, and if so, can I use my Australian visa?
Answer: In most cases, yes, you do need a visa to go to New Zealand. But if you are a New Zealand or Australian citizen or resident, or a UK citizen and/or passport holder (which then allows you to stay up to six months) you do not need a visa for a visit. For more information, visit New Zealand Immigration’s website (immigration.govt.nz/new-zealand-visas). Since New Zealand and Australia are two separate countries you cannot use your Australian visa. If you are travelling to New Zealand for a short holiday visit, you can apply for an Electronic Travel Authority (NzeTA), and you might have to pay an International Visitor Conservation and Tourism Levy (IVL) (immigration.govt.nz/about-us/what-we-do/our-strategies-and-projects/eta-new-requirements). For longer adventures, just like in Australia, you can apply for different types of visas (study, work, visit etc.) (immigration.govt.nz/new-zealand-visas).
Question: Do you know how long it will take to get a visa granted?
Answer: It varies from case to case, and on the Department of Home Affairs ‘website is an article on average processing times for different visas (homeaffairs.gov.au/visas/getting-a-visa/visa-processing-times/overview).
Question: I have applied for a visa, but since then, my contact details have changed. I have also received a new passport. How do I update my details at Australian Immigration?
Answer: On the Australian Immigration’s webpage there is a section called “Changes in your situation” (homeaffairs.gov.au/change-in-situation) where can read about how to change the passport number, a misspelled name, or contact details. In most cases, the answer is that you log in to your Immi account and make your changes there.
Question: Do I need to carry a copy of my visa, or is it linked to my passport number?
Answer: I am not aware of any visa that is not electronically linked to your passport number. In the past, some visas came with a label in the passport, but nowadays everything is done electronically. If you are not sure if your visa is linked to your passport number, you can use the Visa Entitlement Verification Online (VEVO) service (homeaffairs.gov.au/visas/already-have-a-visa/check-visa-details-and-conditions/check-conditions-online) where you enter your passport number and your personal information.
Question: I want to travel to Australia to work there. My problem, however, is that I am over 31 years of age, so I cannot apply for a Working Holiday visa. What should I do?
Answer: Use the online service Visa Finder (homeaffairs.gov.au/visas/getting-a-visa/visa-finder/work) to see what sort of work visa you can apply for with your qualifications at your age.
Question: I have applied for a visa and one minute later I received an email where it said; “Notification of Grant…” in the title and with the text; “a decision has been made on this application and visas have been granted on 23 April”. Does this mean that I have a valid visa and that everything is in order for my trip?
Answer: Congratulations! Yes, if it says that your visa has been “granted” it means that the visa is approved.
Question: I graduate as a dietician this summer and are now looking for information about working within this occupation in Australia, as well as what training they require for me to be able to work in Australia.
Answer: At Home Affairs, you can find the organization that manages the merit rating in your profession. Regarding dietician, the organisation DAA is the one (homeaffairs.gov.au/trav/work/work/skills-assessment-and-assessing-authorities/skilled-occupations-lists/combined-stsol-mltssl), and you can find their contact information here (immi.homeaffairs.gov.au/visas/working-in-australia/skills-assessment/assessing-authorities).
Question: I currently have a tourist visa since I just was on vacation in Australia for a few months. I am back home but are go back to Australia soon to work and intend to apply for a Working Holiday visa. Can I have two visas at the same time?
Answer: No, only one visa is active at a time. When you receive a new visa, the old one will be terminated.
Question: How far in advance before my trip should I apply for an eVisitor or ETA visa? How long does it take to get a visitor visa granted?
Answer: In most cases, this visa will be granted automatically within 24 hours. I would apply for one maybe 2-4 weeks before departure.
Question: Do I need to get a visa for just one day when I do a stopover in Sydney? I plan to fly from New Zealand to Sweden via Sydney.
Answer: You only need a visa if you plan to cross the border and go through the passport control when you land in Sydney. If you land in Sydney but just go from one gate to another at the airport, you don’t need a visa for a stopover in Australia. If you instead plan go out of the airport and go into the city for the day, you will need a visitor visa that allows you to be a tourist for a day.
Question: I’ve been to Australia for one year with a working holiday visa. But I did not do three months of regional work to be able to apply for a second year (as I have understood it), but is there any other visa I can apply for or is it totally out of the question to work and live in Australia as a 29 year old? They are happy to welcome me back at my old work in Melbourne in the restaurant industry, but as a bartender it seems hard to be sponsored.
Answer: Many people in your situation study a part-time course, which gives them the opportunity to get a student visa. This visa allows you to work part-time. Maybe you want to study something sought after (which makes it easier for you to be sponsored later) while working part time for your old employer?
Question: I have been accepted into Sydney University. My partner of four years has just finished his master’s in marketing and management. And of course, he would like to join me to Australia! I have heard that he can join in on my student visa, is this true? Or does he need to apply for his own visa? He wants to work, preferably within management, full time. We have plans to stay for at least 3-5 years. What I understand is that you can only work 6 out of 12 months if you have a Working Holiday visa. Would it be wise to first apply for a WH visa, and then apply for something different later (i.e. on my partners behalf)?
Answer: If you are studying, your partner may be the accompanying family member/partner on your student visa, but depending on which visa you receive, it is possible that he can only work part time. Look into this option first. Otherwise, if this doesn’t work out and he wants to work full time, he could get his own Working Holiday visa that allows him to work with a single employer for 6 months (but he gets to work all year if he wants, but not with the same employer), and then hope to find a job that might land him a work visa (e.g. a TSS visa). But there is a possible risk that he cannot stay after his first WH visa has expired.
Question: I am currently in Australia studying. My visa expires on December 19th, but I have a ticket home on December the 23rd. I will travel outside Australia from 25th of November to 9th of December and then back to Australia. Do you think it is possible that I can apply for a tourist visa when I am outside Australia, for those days I will exceed my student visa? Or did I totally mess up?
Answer: Just to be safe, I think you should go to the immigration office in the city where you live and explain the situation. Hopefully they can advise you to get a visitor’s visa for the extra week or give you an extension on your current visa just to stay the extra few days. Some student visas have a condition called “No Further Stay”, and if it says this in your visa you will not be able to extend your stay, best to talk to Immigration. The Department of Home Affairs has offices in all major cities so I recommend going there to ask for help (homeaffairs.gov.au/help-support/contact-us/offices-and-locations/list).
Question: I’m going to Australia soon but am concerned about one thing. I was caught vandalising a bus stop in my first year of high school, which is three years ago. It all resulted in a non-dramatic follow-up where my friend and I were completely cooperative, confessed everything and showed full remorse. We got the mildest penalty, and payed a fine and for the glass panel we ruined. Can I somehow make sure that I will be let into Australia before I book my flight?
Answer: If you haven’t spent several months in jail, I wouldn’t worry. I’ve heard from readers who were granted visas despite having spent time in jail for far worse offenses than yours. Unfortunately, I do not know in any way that you can make sure that you will be allowed into the country. Even if you have an approved visa, the border security staff can choose not to let you in at the border control, but it would be an unusual circumstance in your case based on what you told me. If you have done your best to comply with all the rules and follow my tips on how to avoid trouble at the airport, I would not worry in your situation.
Question: I’m in Australia right now on a tourist visa but want to switch to a Working Holiday visa. Can I apply for it when being in Australia or do I have to go to another country in order to do so? If it works, is it the usual Working Holiday visa I should apply for?
Answer: I am not aware of anyone who has managed to upgrade to the WH visa while being in Australia as a tourist. I would go to New Zealand or Bali for a week, and from there apply for a Working Holiday if I were you.
Question: I am going to Australia on a working holiday visa to work as an au pair. Is it possible to work longer than 6 months with the same employer?
Answer: In some cases, yes. You can apply for an exemption from the 6-months rule, read more about it and how to do this here (homeaffairs.gov.au/visas/already-have-a-visa/check-visa-details-and-conditions/waivers-and-permissions/work-longer-than-6-months).
Question: I am a Swedish citizen but have lived in London for the past five years. I wonder if the rules still are the same even though I no longer live in Sweden? Or does it not matter as long as I am a Swedish citizen?
Answer: It doesn’t matter where you live as far as I know. You will apply in the same way as any other Swede, no matter where you live.
Question: I’m very unsure about when I’m going to go to Australia. If they ask on the application about when I plan to go (or when I have booked flights?) – and I just guess a date – but it turns out that I end up going 6 months later, would this matter and can it vary as much as 6 months from what I’ve estimated on my visa application? And how would this work out once I land in Australia?
Answer: No one can predict the future. You do your best to specify when to enter the country, but I have never heard of any problems because people came on a different date than what they first planned to do.
Question: I have an unused visa from April that I never used and am intending to go to Australia in September again. This is maybe a dumb question, but can I reuse an unused visa?
Answer: In general, a visa is activated only when you land in the country, not when you get it granted. So, if the visa is still valid, I don’t know of any reason why you shouldn’t be able to use your existing visa that is still awaiting activation.
Question: I have been accepted for a semester as an exchange student in Australia via my university. I applied for a visa a month ago without specifying any special circumstances and got it approved. This is even though I have for 8 months been taking a medication for depression. However, I have been feeling stable and good for a long time and thought that I would not need the medicine when it was time to leave for Australia. Since I was afraid that it could affect the application, I chose not to state this at the time. Now, as it turns out, the doctor recommends that I continue for a while, just to be on the safe side. The trip is in six days and I realize that I should announce this as soon as possible to take the medicine abroad.
- Can I go to Australia as an exchange student despite diagnosed with a mild depression? And what would this mean? Extensive medical investigations, etc. or is it perhaps enough to include a written statement from the doctor
- Do I risk being denied because I tell them only now? The alternatives are:
- quickly end the medication
- tell them that I recently started with the medication
Answer: Don’t worry, I’m sure everything will be fine now that you feel better.
- You are not obliged to tell anyone that you are suffering from depression, just as little as you need to announce something like a broken leg.
- You will not be denied anything, neither a visa nor a training place.
- Get a prescription from your doctor and bring this in your hand-luggage. Do not forget to declare at the border that you are bringing in medicine (anti-depressants) for your own use.
Question: Last year I was in Australia on a Working Holiday visa, went home after three months because of personal matters that forced me home and I did not have time to do regional work for a 2nd year visa. I really wish to go back next year to work, but since my first WH-visa is already “consumed” it feels like an impossible dream. I feel devastated. Is there any point at all to apply for a new WH or can I never ever again enter the country on a WH visa? If that is the case, I am considering the possibility of going down on a tourist visa and simply not work, but are there any other ways? It’s only three months. To study is too expensive.
Answer: I think it will be difficult to get another Working Holiday visa.
- Over my 15 + years in Australia I have never heard of any ways of circumventing the requirements of a second year WH visa.
- A student visa is an option as it allows you to work part time, but instead of an expensive university course, perhaps you can look for the cheapest possible course (e.g. a part-time language course)?
Question: How can I see if my visa is approved?
Answer: An easy way is to use the online service VEVO for Visa Holders (immi.gov.au/evo/firstParty?actionType=query).