Australian Resident Return Visas

Australia coastline

These are of particular importance for those persons who formerly held permanent residency status or citizenship of Australia, but who have subsequently lost that status (other than through visa cancellation). They are also of great importance to persons who hold an Australian permanent residency visa, but do not wish to become Australian citizens.  This is the case for instance, for  permanent residents whose home country does not accept dual citizenship. Such persons may not wish to renounce their home country’s citizenship, in order to become an Australian citizen. In such a case they might wish to renew their permanent residency after the initial 5 year period.

Only Australian citizens have an automatic right of entry to Australia.  A “permanent residency visa” is actually a visa which only grants the holder a right to travel into Australia for up to 5 years from the date of grant.  However, if the holder of that permanent residency visa wishes to remain in Australia without travelling overseas, they may stay here indefinitely.  In other words, if you hold a permanent residency visa and wish to travel outside Australia and then return, at any time greater than 5 years after the date of grant of the visa, you will not have that right, but if you wish to stay and never leave, then that is ok!

Resident Return visas allow such persons to maintain, or regain their status and their rights to re-enter Australia outside the 5 year period.  The sub-class 155 visa is a permanent visa for current or former Australian permanent residents or former Australian citizens.  It allows those persons to leave and enter Australia as often as they want within the validity period of the visa.  Although it is a permanent visa, the Sub-class 155 visa is not always granted for a period of 5 years.  In fact in certain cases, it is only granted for a period of one year.

In order to obtain a sub-class 155 visa, there are detailed eligibility requirements, including that an applicant must have spent a cumulative period of at least 2 out of the last 5 years inside Australia, as a permanent resident, or as a citizen.  Where an applicant cannot meet these eligibility requirements, they will usually be assessed against the criteria for a 3 month Resident Return visa.  This is sub-class 157.  The full eligibility requirements for each of these two visas is too detailed to list within this discussion, but in general terms, an applicant must be either an existing Australian permanent resident, a former Australian permanent resident whose last permanent residency visa was not cancelled, or a former Australian citizen who has either lost or renounced their citizenship.

This visa might also hold great significance for New Zealand citizens who entered Australia prior to 1 September 1994, the departed thereafter and who returned to Australia after 26 February 2001 (and who might now hold a special category visa, subclass 444). For a brief examination of this see our article on “NZ Citizens, Permanency and Citizenship of Australia”.

Applications for Resident Return visas can usually be made on-line, by post, or in person.  Processing times are generally quite short.  Of course, all applicants must have a valid passport and will need to prove by evidence, their current or former permanent residency status.  Evidence which is also of great importance, will be that which proves substantial business ties, substantial cultural ties, evidence of employment ties or evidence of personal ties to Australia.


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