A person can apply for a temporary stay in Australia, by means of applying for a visitors visa. Typically a person may be granted a 12 month visa, but with the requirement to leave Australia after a 3 month stay at a time.

There are two main ways of doing this. Citizens of some countries can apply for an electronic visitors visa. The Department of Home Affairs provides a list of eligible passport holders, who can apply for this visa. It is preferable to apply for one of the two electronic forms of visa – the Electronic Travel Authority (subclass 601) or the eVisitor visa (subclass 651).

An electronic visitor visa application is made through ImmiAccount, the Department of Home Affairs online lodgement system.

If a person is not eligible (on the basis of what passport is held) to apply for one of the electronic visas, an application for a subclass 600 visitor visa needs to be made. This can also be lodged through ImmiAccount, but can also be lodged directly with the Department overseas (through an Embassy or lodgement centre).

A person can also apply for a visitor’s visa onshore, while in Australia. In this circumstance a paper application needs to be lodged. Before doing this, a client should check whether Condition 8503 is on the her or his visa. This condition prohibits a person from lodging a valid visa application in Australia. Condition 8503 is not found on an electronic visitor’s visa, but may be found on a visitor’s visa granted the 600 visa.

Visa holders of the non-electronic variety should of course check whether Condition 8503 is on a visa, if the person wishes to apply for a Partner or Student visa onshore. Condition 8503 does not apply to Protection (refugee) visa applicants in Australia.

Why the Department may reject a visitor’s visa application

The Department of Home Affairs may reject a visitor visa application where it thinks the person will not return to their home country. For instance if a relative has applied onshore in Australia for a visa and the Department thinks the applicant might do this, or the person is coming from a conflict zone and may apply for a Protection (refugee) visa in Australia, or where there are family in Australia but none in their home country, or where the person is unemployed in their home country, the Department may reject an application.

The Department examines the amount of money the person has, or has access to, to cover their stay in Australia (a Departmental officer may conclude that a person having a very small amount of money may work to sustain their stay (work is prohibited on a visitor’s visa)).

In spite of being able to show evidence of an intention to return, the Department regularly rejects visitor visa applications from non-electronic visa countries. It is important that a visitor visa application is prepared as well as possible. Even in this case an application may be rejected, but the prospects are less where an application is thoroughly prepared.

Some people who apply for a visitor visa, where there are close relatives in Australia, can apply to the MR Division of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal for merits review in the event of a rejection. However the Tribunal is very slow in responding to cases, and regularly takes at least 12 months and more, to provide a Hearing. Given the delays in the Tribunal process, it is generally advisable to lodge a further visitor visa application if the Department has already rejected one. New evidence and submissions should be made to the decision maker, in the making of a subsequent visitor visa.

A longer term visitor visa for parents – to operate from 1 July 2019

The Department of Home Affairs has announced that a parent visa which effectively serves as a long term visitor visa (for parents), will operate from 1 July 2019. A separate sponsorship will be involved for the visa. The Department expenses involved however are relatively high – there is a $5,000 Departmental fee for a 3 year visa, or a $10,000 fee for a 5 year visa (together with a $420 application fee for the sponsorship). The advantage of this visa is that the holder does not need to so regularly leave Australia, as required by the usual form of visitor visa granted (a three month stay at a time limitation, over a 12 month total visa life). The usual no work requirement will apply to this visa.