Maintaining your permanent residency in Australia and COVID-19

Many permanent residents may not realise, but as a permanent resident, you do not always have the automatic right to return to Australia when you travel overseas. Your right to travel is usually granted for 5 years. After 5 years, you would need to renew your travel facility. That is, while you can stay indefinitely in Australia without having to renew the visa, but when you want to travel, be sure to check that your travel facility has not yet expired.

Travel Facility

Your right to re-enter Australia will depend on the how long you have left on your travel facility. The travel facility can be found on your visa grant notification. The travel facility is usually 5 years, but in some cases, it may be shorter.

So, what happens if your travel validity has expired? If you wish to travel, you will need to apply for a new visa. The resident return visa (subclass 155 or subclass 157) would allow you to return to Australia from an overseas trip as a permanent resident.

You can also choose to apply for citizenship. Once you are an Australian citizen, you would not need to apply to have a travel facility.

5-year resident return visa

If you have lived in Australia for 2 years in the last 5 years as a permanent resident, then it is likely that you will be given a 5-year travel facility on your visa.

12 months resident return visa

In the below situation, you would not be able to receive a 5-year travel facility, but you may still be eligible for a 12-month travel facility:

  • You have not lived in Australia for 2 years in the last 5 years as a permanent resident, but you can demonstrate substantial ties that benefit Australia.
  • You do not meet the requirement, but you are a member of the family unit of a person who holds a resident return visa.
  • You do not meet the requirement, but you have compelling and compassionate reasons for departure. (In this case, you may only have a 3-month travel validity on your visa).
RRV for family unit

If you are eligible for a resident return visa, and your spouse or dependent does not meet the residency requirement (i.e. 2 out of 5 years), they can still apply for the resident return visa.

Substantial ties

Substantial ties to Australia must be both substantial and beneficial to Australia. There can be different ties to Australia. These include:

  • Business – e.g. owns an Australian company
  • Cultural – e.g. program listing your artistic or cultural performances
  • Employment– e.g. employment contract with an Australian company
  • Personal – e.g. have an Australian partner and child

You would have to provide documents to evidence your ties.

Compelling and Compassionate

The term compelling is not defined in the Migration Act. However, it implies that the reason for departing Australia is outside the control of the applicant. Some examples of compelling and compassionate reasons include:

  • Severe illness or death of an overseas family member
  • Involve in legal proceedings, and the timing is beyond the applicant’s control
  • A Natural disaster or a political dispute preventing travel
  • Work or study commitments
  • Significant personal events
  • Living overseas with an Australian partner
  • Medical condition preventing travel
  • COVID-19 pandemic has prevented people from travelling and is beyond the applicant’s control therefore could be a compelling and compassionate reason (discretionary) for not being able to return to Australia on time.
  • Permanent skilled visas-GSM (SC189, SC190): If you were granted a permanent visa but are unable to travel to Australia to make your first entry within the specified date on your visa (condition 8504), the department will not seek to cancel your visa.
  • A waiver of the 8504 condition is automatic for GSM visas however for other permanent resident subclasses it is advised to keep your processing office informed of your status and that you seek to make first entry as soon as it is practicable to do so.
  • Permanent parent visas (SC103 and SC804): If your visa was granted with the condition that you make your first entry to Australia before a specified date and you may not be able to enter Australia by that date due to current travel restrictions imposed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, DHA are unable to change the date. The first entry date condition is a legislative requirement and is attached to permanent and provisional visas granted offshore. It is not possible to waive the condition or vary the date, and visa holders who breach the first entry date condition may be subject to visa cancellation. DHA are not legally able to amend visa conditions and existing notifications to visa holders. However, in the majority of cases, visa holders who are unable to make their first entry by the required date may be allowed to enter Australia at a later date, provided their visa is still valid and there is no other reason to consider cancellation of the visa. This consideration cannot occur until travel plans have been made. When you are able to travel to Australia, you should contact the Department of Home Affairs’ office which granted your visa and you will be assisted with additional advice at that time. Refer to the Home Affairs website for up-to-date contact details for the relevant office responsible for each country.

Be sure to check your visa grant letter for your travel validity before you travel!

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