20th April 2018
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Migration to Australia

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) manages the arrival and settlement of migrants to Australia. Australian immigration is controlled by the Migration Act 1958 and associated Regulations.

Most Australian citizens have the right to enter or leave Australia at will. For citizens of other countries wishing to visit, work or remain permanently in Australia, a visa is required.

This guide explains, the different visa types, how to choose the most appropriate option and then apply for an Australian visa.

The many varieties of Australian visas fall into two broad categories: temporary and permanent.

There six main categories of permanent visas:

Temporary visas allow people to visit Australia for a limited time for the purposes of tourism, study, work, business, medical treatment or to visit relatives.

Beyond these major categories of permanent and temporary visas there are approximately 140 Australian visa subclasses with their own sets of eligibility criteria.

Consequently, the task of deciding which visa to apply for can be quite demanding. Furthermore, these criteria intersect with the extensive and complex structures of Australian immigration law.

Australia had a largely discretionary migration system until 1994, when new regulations were introduced. The legal framework establishes definitions of key criteria, processing priority guidelines, policy guidelines used by immigration to interpret and apply the criteria, when an application is validly made, what family members may be included in an application, the conditions applicable to visas, the powers of the Minister for Immigration including important powers to determine and cap annual visa numbers and appeal options available if a visa is refused.

This overview offers a guide to the Australian immigration system and the legal processes that govern it.

Australian Immigration System

The Australian system of government

In order to properly understand how Australia’s immigration laws work, it is important firstly to have an understanding of Australia’s system of government.

Australia has operated as a ‘federation’ since 1901. This means that powers are divided between the central government (the Commonwealth) and several regional governments (the states and territories).

All Australian laws relating to immigration and citizenship are determined at the national level by the Australian Commonwealth – that is, the federal Parliament of Australia.

The divisions of responsibility between the levels of government, as well as the powers of the Commonwealth Parliament, are set out in section 51 of the Australian Constitution. Specifically relating to immigration, section 51 of the Constitution grants the Australian Commonwealth Parliament the power to legislate (make laws) concerning naturalisation, aliens, immigration and emigration. Thus it is the Commonwealth Government, and not the states, territories or local councils, that is responsible for making any laws regarding Australian immigration and citizenship.

The Constitution also sets out a doctrine of governance that divides the functions of each level of government into three distinct branches known as the legislature, the executive and the judiciary. This is referred to as a ‘separation of powers’ and is designed to ensure that Australian governments and laws retain their integrity and remain fair and impartial. Put simply, the legislature makes the law, the executive applies the law and the judiciary interprets the law.

In Australia, the legislature is the Australian Parliament, the executive consists of the portfolio-holding ministers of parliament responsible for the different government departments (for example, the Minister of Immigration and Citizenship is responsible for the Department of Immigration and Citizenship) and the judiciary is the Australian courts.

Minister for Immigration and Citizenship and the Department

The Australian Minister for Immigration and Border Protection is Mr Scott Morrison. Mr Morrison replaced Mr Tony Burke on 18 September 2013.  As the Minister for Immigration, Mr Morrison has been assigned the responsibility of administering Australian law and policy relating to Australian immigration and border protection, as well as considering and developing any new laws and policies on matters of Australian immigration and citizenship.

The Migration Act 1958 and the Migration Regulations 1994 grant the Minister the power to make decisions on Australian immigration. However, in practice the Minister does not always make these decisions personally but ‘delegates’ that power to officers of the Department. The Minister and his Departmental officers carry out these responsibilities through the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (the Department). It is the Minister’s responsibility to ensure the Department is operating effectively and successfully.

There are many Department offices throughout Australia, as well as overseas ‘posts’ situated in Australian Embassies, High Commissions and Consulates.

The Migration Act and the Migration Regulations set out all laws and policies relevant to matters of Australian immigration. Departmental officers must follow Australian immigration law when making any decisions relating to matters of Australian immigration.

Migration law is part of Australian ‘administrative law’. This is the body of law regulating decision-making by government departments. Again, officers of the Department are required to follow the general principles of Australian administrative law in their decision-making regarding immigration matters, although in some circumstances provisions of the Migration Act 1958 override general administrative law principles.

A failure by Departmental officers to follow the principles of Australian administrative law in the context of migration law does not automatically mean that the final decision arrived at by the officer is wrong or that the decision will be changed. However, in such circumstances an applicant may usually appeal a decision of the Department by way of judicial review. If the appeal process finds that the decision of the Departmental officer contains a legal error known as a ‘jurisdictional error’, then an Australian court can direct the Department to reassess the application following the correct principles of law.

Note that Australian courts cannot grant an Australian visa, they can only direct that the Department reconsider an application for an Australian visa according to law.

Australian migration intake

The government determines the number of migrants Australia will accept per year. At the beginning of each financial year, the Minister for Immigration announces the intended ‘planning levels’ (number of applications which will be accepted) for the following year of Australia’s migration program. These planning levels include the number of applications Australia will accept from applicants applying from overseas as well as applicants applying from within Australia.

Australian law allows the Minister to set ‘caps’ (or limits) on the number of visas which may be granted within a visa class for any particular financial year. Where a cap has been instituted, the Department is not legally allowed to grant any further visas once the cap has been reached for that financial year. Visa applications still pending once the cap has been reached will be placed in a queue for the following financial year and will be considered by the Department at that time. This procedure is referred to as ‘cap and queue.’

Temporary Australian visas may be granted to any person who meets all the requirements for that particular visa class. Most commonly, Australia grants temporary visas to eligible persons wishing to work, visit or study in Australia.

Australian immigration law

The two main pieces of legislation that shape Australian immigration law are the Migration Act 1958 and the Migration Regulations 1994. Essentially, it can be considered that all non-citizens of Australia must hold a valid visa to enter into or remain in Australia, no matter how long they intend to stay in Australia. The criteria and requirements of all Australian visas are set out in the Act and the Regulations.

An Australian visa can only be issued if the applicant has made a complete and valid application, and if they meet all the eligibility requirements for that particular visa class. It is the job of the Department to assess whether or not an applicant meets the requirements for the visa class they have applied for. The Department is not legally allowed to grant any visa application that does not meet the criteria for that visa class, although the Minister does have the power to do so in some circumstances.

The legal provisions that applied at the time the applicant lodged their application will generally apply to the processing of that application, even if the legal provisions have changed since the date of lodgement. This may not be the case with policy changes such as priority processing guidelines that may be issued by the Minister for Immigration from time to time.

Australian Migration Act

The Migration Act was enacted in 1958 with the purpose of regulating in the national interest the travel to, entry and stay in Australia of non-citizens of Australia. The Act provides a broad, structured framework for controlling and regulating Australian immigration. It establishes a system of visa classes as well as conditions for the removal and deportation of persons from Australia.

However, the Act does not always offer precise rules on specific aspects of Australian immigration. Thus, in areas where it is recognised that government may need to alter rules often or quickly, the Act may state that these particular rules are ‘prescribed by’ the Migration Regulations.

Australian Migration Regulations

The current Regulations were enacted on 1 September 1994 and consist of more specific rules relating to Australian immigration law. For example, the Regulations set out the requirements that must be met in order for an applicant to be eligible for an Australian visa.

The Regulations work in conjunction with the Act, and both the Act and the Regulations must be read and understood together. Changes can be made to the Regulations at any time (and often are), so it is important to keep abreast of such changes.

In addition to the Migration Act and Migration Regulations, Australian migration laws, policy and practice are also informed by:

  • Ministerial Direction. Section 499 of the Migration Act gives the Minister for Immigration the power to make directions about the exercise of any powers under the Act, or any performances of any functions under the Act. Any directions made by the Minister must be consistent with the entirety of the Act and Regulations and are binding on any entity with powers operating under the Act. This includes the Migration Review Tribunal (MRT), the Refugee Review Tribunal (RRT) and the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT).
  • Gazette Notices. Sometimes, parts of the Migration Act or the Migration Regulations may need to be altered quickly in order to reflect Australia’s needs or circumstances. In this instance, the Act or Regulations may contain provisions that allow new information to be listed in a Gazette Notice authorised by the Minister. The Skilled Occupation List, for example, which applies to all skilled migration visas, is specified in a Gazette Notice.
  • Procedures Advice Manual (PAM). The Department has developed policies and procedures to guide governmental Department officers in the administration of migration laws. This manual outlines Departmental policy and procedures and contains practical instruction on all aspects of Australian immigration law, policy and procedure.

Note: policy does not carry the same weight as law, and it cannot be applied contrary to legislation or to the findings of an Australian court. In   circumstances where it does not reflect the law it may be the subject of a judicial review application. A recent example where this had significant effect was in the case of Berenguel v Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, which related to the time at which an applicant must submit their English test results. It was held in that case that the procedure being adopted by the Department of Immigration was contrary to law and has led to a change in policy by the Department.

  • Migration Series Instructions (MSIs). This set of instructions provides relevant comment on specific immigration issues and aspects of immigration legislation and regulations. MSIs are a temporary instruction format only. It is intended that they be eventually incorporated into the PAM.
  • Case law. Case law refers to the body of law or the interpretation of law formulated by cases decided in Australian courts. In Australia, the Federal Magistrates Court, the Federal Court and the High Court all deal with immigration issues.

When these courts hear and determine cases relating to Australian immigration law, they are interpreting the legislation, and thereby shaping an understanding of the meaning of the law and how it should be applied.

Current Australian immigration law, policy and practice is therefore informed by previous court cases which have interpreted and applied Australian immigration law, and in so doing have created a precedent for how the legislation should be applied in future immigration cases.

It is important to note here the key area of distinction between an Australian Immigration Lawyer and a Migration Agent. An Australian Immigration Lawyer is trained and qualified to identify errors made by the Department of Immigration in their interpretation of the law, provide legal advice relating to the interpretation of laws, and is also qualified to represent applicants in judicial review proceedings in the Federal Courts of Australia. Importantly, the Migration Act 1958 expressly reflects the important differences between ‘immigration assistance’ and ‘immigration legal assistance’, the latter of which can only be provided by an Australian lawyer.

  • International instruments. In some cases, international conventions to which Australia is a signatory are incorporated into Australian law. This is usually indicated by Australian legislation referencing the obligations and/or principles of international instruments. Even where international instruments are not directly referred to in Australian legislation, they are still generally influential in how laws are interpreted and applied. 

Australian Immigration | Visa Application Process

If you are considering applying for an Australian visa, it’s important to understand what Australian visas are, how a valid application is made, and how Australian visa applications are processed.

While a general overview of the Australian visa system is helpful, each Australian visa has its own specific set of criteria, guidelines and processes. Prospective migrants to Australia should therefore consult an experienced immigration lawyer to determine the specific requirements of their particular visa class as it relates to their circumstances.

Legal definition of a visa

Section 5 of the Migration Act 1958 (the Act) provides a definition of ‘visa’ as it is used and applied in Australian immigration law. The Act defines a visa as a ‘permission to travel to, enter and/or remain in Australia.’

A valid Australian visa will specify how long the holder is permitted to remain in Australia under the conditions of their particular visa. It may allow the holder to remain in Australia for a specified period of time under the holder’s specified status, or it may allow the holder to remain indefinitely.

Criteria for an Australian visa

The Migration Act and Regulations determine and define the requirements or criteria an applicant must meet in order to qualify for an Australian visa of a particular class.

The Regulations state that the criteria which must be met in order for an applicant to obtain an Australian visa are set out in Schedule 2 of the Regulations. For particular Australian visa classes, Schedule 2 may at times refer to other criteria in other Schedules. For some visa classes, there may also be relevant criteria outside these schedules that must to be met in order to obtain a visa in that class.

General requirements for an Australian visa

Section 65 of the Act sets out the general requirements to be met for any Australian visa to be granted. These requirements specify that any applicant for an Australian visa must:

  • meet any ‘other criteria’ indicated by either the Act or the Regulations. This includes meeting any relevant criteria set out in Schedule 2 of the Regulations. Other criteria might include a requirement that the application does not exceed any ‘caps’ placed on that visa class by the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship.
  • pay any relevant visa application charge (VAC). This includes any second installment VAC that is payable in relation to a visa application.
  • meet the health criteria. These are set out in Schedule 2 of the Regulations and indicate which of the criteria must be satisfied for each particular visa class.
  • meet the requirements of section 500A (refusal or cancellation of temporary safe-haven visas) and 501 (general powers to refuse on the basis of character).
  • meet the requirements outlined in section 40 of the Act relating to the location of the applicant at the time the visa application is granted (for example, whether an applicant must be inside or outside Australia at the time of grant of the visa).
  • ensure that no other Australian Commonwealth law prevents the visa being applied for from being legally granted.

Valid Australian visa applications

The Migration Act states that in order for the Department of Immigration to consider an application for an Australian visa, it must be a valid application. The Department is unable to consider any invalid applications. Any visa application that is valid must be considered by the Department even where it is obvious the applicant does not meet the eligibility requirements of that particular visa class. Consideration of the application must continue until either the application is withdrawn, the Act or Regulations suspend further consideration (for example, if caps placed on that visa class have been reached) or until a lawful decision is made either to grant or refuse the application.

A decision that an application for an Australian visa is invalid is not a decision to refuse that application. Thus, a decision by the Department that an application is invalid can only be appealed in an Australian court by way of judicial review, not in a merits review tribunal.

An application for an Australian visa is considered ‘valid’ if:

  • the visa class being applied for is clearly specified
  • the application has been lodged in the appropriate place or office indicated by Schedule 1 of the Regulations (some Australian visa classes require applications to be lodged at a specific place or by particular means such as pre-paid post or online)
  • the visa application is filed on the approved form, and that form has been completed according to the instructions supplied on it including providing the applicant’s current residential address
  • the relevant Visa Application Charge has been paid in full
  • any other eligibility requirements for an application for that visa class set out in Schedule 1 of the Regulations have been met
  • the application meets any specific criteria or circumstances detailed in the Regulations for that particular visa class
  • the applicant for an Australian visa has provided one (or more) ‘personal identifiers’ if they are required to do so
  • if an applicant is in Australia at the time of application, all other criteria specified in the Regulations have been satisfied.

Australian Visa application charges

All applications for an Australian visa must pay a Visa Application Charge (VAC).

The amount will vary according to the different Australian visa classes, and all fees are set out in Schedule 1 of the Regulations. The amount payable for each visa class is reviewed annually, usually at the beginning of each new financial year. 

If the charge or the exchange rate changes in the time it takes for the Department to receive your application, you may have to pay the difference.

Note: If paying by credit card, make sure there is enough money in your account to pay the total VAC amount.

First and second installments of VAC

Some Australian visa classes divide the VAC into first and second instalments, where the first instalment is paid upon lodging a visa application and the second instalment is paid upon request by the Department of Immigration, usually just prior to the visa being granted. The second instalment must be paid before a visa can be granted.

Charges in the first instalment

Since 1 July 2013, the charges that are part of the first instalment of a relevant visa application are:

  1. Base application charge – payable by the main applicant only (i.e. if it is a combined application, only the main applicant pays the base application charge), and for some visas there is no base application charge at all.

  2. Additional applicant charge – there is a charge for each additional applicant in a combined application. It applies to applicants who are coming to Australia with the main applicant, and the amount varies depending on the applicant’s age and the type of visa.

  3. Non-internet application charge – if you should have been able to lodge your application online but lodge a hard copy (paper) application instead, you will pay a charge (or if you make a Resident Return visa application by phone or in person). 

  4. Subsequent temporary application charge – this applies to certain visas that can be applied for while you are already in Australia. It must be paid by everyone on the application and is based on each individual’s temporary visa history. (Does not apply to bridging visas, criminal justice visas, enforcement visas or for permanent visa applications).

Second instalment

The Department will generally not request the second instalment of the VAC until all other grant criteria for that visa class have been assessed as having been met by the applicant. The amount payable for the second instalment of the VAC is always the amount set by the Regulations at the time the visa application was lodged, not at the time the decision is made, even if the amount has changed in the interim.

If the visa application is withdrawn or refused, the second instalment of the VAC does not need to be paid by the applicant.

Preparing a valid application for an Australian visa


Schedule 1 of the Regulations indicate which completed forms must be lodged by the applicant in order to make a valid application for each particular visa class. If the application does not include these forms, then the application is invalid and will not be processed by the Department.

Accuracy of information

All application forms for an Australian visa must be completed in English, and English translations of any supporting documentation submitted along with the application must be provided. Where a visa application form has been completed on behalf of the applicant by another person, the content of the application should be carefully explained to the applicant before they sign it.

All of the information supplied on any application form for an Australian visa will become part of the applicant and the sponsor’s official immigration record, so it is very important that all answers are correct and accurate. If the Department determines that the answers on a visa application are misleading or false, it may refuse or cancel the visa. Providing false or misleading information on a visa application form may also result in the applicant encountering difficulties if they try to sponsor family members to Australian in the future. 

It is the applicant’s responsibility to ensure that all the information supplied is true and correct, even where they have an immigration lawyer or migration agent assisting them. Therefore, visa applicants should always obtain a complete copy of the final version of an application form submitted on their behalf. Applicants should immediately correct any errors by advising the Department of Immigration in writing prior to the grant of the visa.

Eligible family members

For Australian visa classes that allow eligible family members to apply to travel to Australia along with the primary applicant, the application form details will cover both the applicant and their eligible family members.

As part of the new visa application charges introduced on 1 July 2013, every Australian visa application will include a base application charge that will apply to the main applicant. There is also an additional applicant charge that applies to each applicant coming to Australia with the main applicant. The amount varies depending on the applicant’s age and the type of visa.  


If the Australian visa class being applied for requires an overseas applicant to be sponsored to Australia then the sponsorship form should be completed by the Australian sponsor and sent back to the overseas applicant to be lodged along with the visa application.

Other forms

For some Australian visas, certain other forms apart from the approved application form specified by Schedule 1 of the Regulations may need to be completed in order for the visa application to be valid. These may be required at the time of lodging the visa application form or at some stage during the processing of that visa application. The most common of these ‘other forms’ required by the Department are a sponsorship or proposal form, a statutory declaration form, a character assessment form, a health check form, and an Australian Federal Police check form.

Supporting evidence

In many cases an application for an Australian visa must be accompanied by evidence that supports the claim that the applicant meets all the criteria of that particular visa class. The Regulations require that any documents accompanying an Australian visa application or any communication with the Department must be either an original or a certified copy.

Completing, signing and lodging Australian visa application forms

While the Regulations require that an applicant for an Australian visa must complete the entire form ‘in accordance with any directions on it’, the Department acts under a policy which allows that a partly completed visa application form can be accepted as a valid visa application, unless: (a) it is seriously lacking in information; (b) it provides no residential address; or (c) it provides no personal identifier where one is required.

When lodging an application for an Australian visa with the Department, it is recommended that applicants always keep a copy of any documents which have been lodged, including the application form, any supporting documentation and any correspondence between the applicant and the Department. It is also recommended that applicants keep the receipt of lodgement for their application, as this provides proof that the application was lodged and the date on which it was lodged.

Combined applications

Schedule 1 of the Regulations indicates where it is appropriate for members of the main applicant’s family to apply for an Australian visa on the same form as the main or primary applicant. This is known as a ‘combined application.’ When the Regulations permit a combined application to be made, only one installment of the VAC is payable upon lodgement of that application.

The requirements for each particular Australian visa class, and whether applications for that visa class can be combined, are stated in the relevant section of Schedule 1 of the Regulations. Family members who wish to combine their applications with that of a primary applicant for an Australian visa will need to meet the criteria set out in Schedule 1 in order to make a valid application. They will also need to meet the ‘secondary criteria’ specified in Schedule 2 of the Regulations, in order to obtain the visa they have applied for.

Providing correct information and the obligation to notify of circumstances

Any applicant for an Australian visa is legally obliged to provide correct information on their visa application form. This legal obligation also extends to sponsors of applicants for an Australian visa. Even where another person has filled out the application form on behalf of the applicant, the applicant is still responsible for any incorrect information.

In the event that an applicant’s circumstances have changed after lodging the visa application, thereby rendering incorrect the information supplied in that application, the applicant must inform the Department of their changed circumstances as soon as possible.

If an applicant for an Australian visa is granted that visa while they are in Australia, they are only obliged to inform the Department of any change in their circumstances which has occurred before their visa was granted. If an applicant for an Australian visa is granted that visa while they are outside Australia, they are obliged to inform the Department of any change in their circumstances which occurs before they enter Australia and are processed through immigration clearance.

If at any time the Department becomes aware that a holder of an Australian visa has supplied incorrect information on their visa application form, or has submitted false documentation along with their application, the Department can legally cancel that visa. Because the information provided in Australian visa applications becomes a part of an applicant or sponsor’s official immigration record, that information can be reviewed and compared by the Department to check for consistency.

Procedures for dealing with applications and communicating with the Department

The Migration Act and the Migration Regulations define and govern the obligations of both the Department and the visa applicant in regard to the processing of Australian visa applications.

An applicant for an Australian visa must:

  • make all reasonable attempts to attend any health examinations requested by the Department.
  • disclose to the Department a valid residential address and any change of that address which extends to 14 days or mo
  • make all reasonable attempts to attend any interview requested by the Department

The Department must:

  • consider all information sought and received by the Department in respect of an application for an Australian visa
  • have regard to all information provided in, or attached to an application, when deciding whether to grant or refuse that visa application
  • appropriately inform the visa applicant of any adverse information it has received concerning the applicant which could result in a refusal of the visa,ensure the applicant understands the relevance of this information, and provide the applicant with an invitation to comment on/respond to the adverse information
  • refrain from making a decision refusing a visa application after inviting an applicant to comment or provide further information until: (a) such comment/information is provided by the applicant; (b) the applicant advises the Department they do not wish to provide such comment/information or cannot do so; or (c) the specified timeframe in which such comment/information was to be provided comes to an end.
  • provide the applicant written notice of the second VAC installment (if the applicant has satisfied health, character and other visa eligibility requirements) and must not decide to refuse the visa until the applicant either pays the VAC, informs the Department they do not intend to pay, or the timeframe in which the VAC may be paid ends.
  • make an official decision on any visa application for a valid protection visa within 90 days of the application being lodged.

Processing of Australian visa applications

Section 51 of the Act prescribes the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship the power to process Australian visa applications in any order deemed appropriate. Therefore, the time an application takes to process largely depends on the type of visa applied for and where the application is lodged. The Department is not legally obliged to make a decision within a certain timeframe, apart from the 90-day limit within which protection visas must be processed.

Ministerial directions set out the priority in which Australian visa applications will be processed according to their types.

In most cases, it is not possible to speed up the processing of an Australian visa application. However, the Department provides for ‘special circumstances of a compelling or compassionate nature’ to be taken into account when processing visa applications. Therefore if an applicant needs to come to Australia quickly due to extenuating circumstances, they can apply to the Department in writing to have their application processed quickly due to these circumstances.


If the applicant is found to have met all the main eligibility criteria for that visa class, then they will usually be asked to undergo a health check and to provide the appropriate police checks. In many cases, providing a health check certificate and a police clearance certificate along with a visa application form when it is first lodged with the Department will help to speed up visa processing times. However, these certificates usually carry a 12-month validity period, so if processing is not completed within this time frame the applicant will need to provide updated copies of these.

Once the Department has determined that the applicant and their family members have met all the criteria, the Department will send the applicant a letter advising whether an Assurance of Support is required, and also whether they are required to pay a second installment of the VAC before the visa can be granted.

Withdrawing a visa application

Applicants for an Australian visa are permitted to withdraw their application after it has been lodged but before the Department has made a decision, provided the applicant informs the Department in writing of their withdrawal.

The decision to grant an Australian visa application

If an applicant meets the eligibility criteria, along with the health criteria and any other criteria relevant to that visa class, and they have made any applicable payments, then the Department must grant the visa so long as no other provision of the Act or Regulations prevents it from being lawfully granted (for example, if ‘caps’ on that visa class have already been reached).

Overseas applicants for an Australian visa who are granted that visa must inform the Department of any change in their circumstances up until the point of their entry into Australia. Applicants for an Australian visa who are in Australia need only inform the Department of any change in their circumstances up until the time their visa is granted.

The decision to refuse an Australian visa application

If an applicant fails to meet the eligibility criteria, fails to meet the health criteria or any other relevant criteria, or fails to pay any applicable charges, then the visa application must be refused by the Department.

The Act prescribes that the Department must provide written notification to the applicant advising them of the refusal. This notification of refusal must address the reasons for the refusal of the visa application, including an indication of which criteria were not met or which provisions of the Act or Regulations have prevented the grant of their visa.

If the applicant has a right to appeal the Department’s decision, then the refusal letter must state that there is a right to review, the deadline for which such a review must be initiated, who can make the application for review and where the application for review should be lodged.

Australian Visa

Australian visas are granted across a variety of categories and subcategories featuring many different conditions and requirements.

Permanent Visa Categories

Skilled Immigration

The General Skilled Migration program (GSM) is for those who wish to migrate to Australia but do not have an employer to sponsor their application.
Applicants must:

  • be over 18 and less than 50 years of age
  • have competent level English
  • have recent skilled work experience, and/or a recently completed eligible Australian qualification matching those occupations outlined on the Skilled Occupation List (SOL).

There are a number of visa options under the General Skilled Migration program and prospective applicants should determine which one best suits their particular circumstances.

Family Immigration

A series of choices exist regarding migration visas for family members of Australian citizens, permanent residents or eligible New Zealand citizens, including fiancé(e)s, parents, children, partners and others.

Business Visas

There are various visa options open to business people wanting to migrate to Australia. This visa category allows business people to:

  • apply for visas enabling them to carry out business in Australia for a short period of time,
  • invest in Australian businesses, or
  • create or maintain an existing or new business enterprise in Australia.

Sponsorship is not mandatory for applicants applying for visas in the Business Owner, Investor and Senior Executive categories. State or territory government sponsorship is mandatory for applicants applying in the Business Talent and Regional Established Business in Australia (REBA) categories. State and territory governments have individual criteria outlining whom they will and will not sponsor.

Employer Sponsored

Visas under this category allow for employers who are operating lawfully in Australia and overseas to sponsor workers with recognised skills, experience and qualifications in specific occupations determined to be in demand in Australia.

Employers sponsoring applicants for this type of visa may employ the applicant either permanently or temporarily. People who are unable to secure an Australian business sponsor might consider applying for a visa under the Professional and Other Skilled Migrants category.


The Offshore Humanitarian Program has two categories:

  • The Refugee category for people subject to persecution in their home country.
  • The Special Humanitarian Program (SHP) category for people who, while not being refugees, are subject to substantial discrimination amounting to a gross violation of their human rights in their home country.

People who wish to be considered for an SHP visa must be living outside their home country and be proposed for entry by an Australian citizen, permanent resident, eligible New Zealand citizen, or an organisation operating in Australia.

The number of applications for resettlement received is far greater than the visas available each program year. For instance, in 2007–08 more than 47,000 persons applied and around 10,800 were granted visas.

Temporary Visa Categories

There are a number of temporary visa categories that allow people to visit Australia for a limited time. These visas are usually granted to people visiting Australia for the purposes of tourism, study, workbusinessmedical treatment or to visit relatives.

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