Last updated 2 July 2016
Visitor visas are available to applicants seeking to visit Australia for a short period for holidays, tourism, recreation, business activities or to see family and friends (e.g. conferences and negotiations). Visitor visas do not allow work in Australia.
There are four subclasses of visitor visas:
- eVisitor (subclass 651)
- Visitor visa (subclass 600)
- Electronic Travel Authority (visitor) (subclass 601)
- Medical Treatment visa (subclass 602).
Common criteria for visitor visas
All visitor visas share the criterion that the applicant genuinely intends to stay temporarily in Australia for the purpose for which the visa is granted. This is often referred to as the ‘genuine visitor’ requirement. The DIBP considers a number of issues which relate to whether the applicant is at risk of overstaying when assessing if this criterion is met.
Visitor visas are refused where applicants clearly do not intend bona fide (i.e. in good faith) visits in accordance with their type of visa. Sometimes a special condition is put on a visitor visa (e.g. condition 8503—no further stay). This condition (which is mandatory for sponsored visitor visas) means it is very difficult but not impossible to apply for, and be granted, permanent residence after entry for a temporary stay.
Possession of a visitor visa generally ensures that immigration clearance is granted on arrival. However, a significant number of people per year are turned around at Australian airports, because they are not considered to be genuine visitors.
Where a person wishes to visit a close relative in Australia but has difficulty satisfying the genuine visitor requirements, it is often better to apply for a Sponsored Family Stream or Tourist Stream visa. This is more likely to be granted given that the Australian relative/sponsor usually has to pay a bond to ensure that the visa holder leaves the country.
Extending a visit
Once a visa is granted and a visitor enters Australia, they may want to apply for extensions of stay. This may be possible where the applicant meets the criteria for a further visitor visa. It is important to note where the applicant needs to be at the time of the application. Of the visas described here, only the Tourist Stream visa and the Medical Treatment visa allow for applications to be made while the applicant remains in Australia. In addition, those visas require that exceptional circumstances exist in order for an extension of stay of 12 consecutive months or more within Australia to be authorised.
It is not possible to apply for a further visitor visa in Australia if the former visitor visa had a ‘no further stay’ (8503) condition attached, unless that condition is waived (s 41(2)(a) Migration Act 1958 (Cth)). This condition can only be waived if events of a compassionate and compelling nature have occurred since the former visa was granted that are beyond the control of the visa holder and that necessitate a further stay in Australia (reg 2.05(4) Migration Regulations 1994 (Cth)). A waiver request should be lodged on a Form 1447.