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Australian Resident Return Visas

The Resident Return Visa is for current or former Australian Permanent Residents and former Australian citizens who wish to travel overseas after their travel facility has expired or return to Australia as a Permanent Resident.

Every Permanent Residency visa has a travel facility valid for five years which allows Permanent Residents to travel to and from Australia freely. Once this travel facility expires or if it is about to expire, you must obtain a ‘return visa’ to allow you to re-enter Australia.

Former Permanent Residents whose last Permanent Residency visa was cancelled are not eligible to apply for a Resident Return Visa.

Who can apply?

You can apply for this visa if you fall into one of the following circumstances:

  • You have resided in Australia as a Permanent Resident;
  • You were previously an Australian Permanent Resident but no longer reside in Australia; or
  • You have renounced, given up, or lost your Australian citizenship in certain circumstances.
Resident Return Visa

If you can provide an evidence that you have substantial cultural, employment, business, or personal ties with Australia, you are eligible to apply.

For non-citizens who are residing in Australia as Permanent Residents, you can be granted the maximum travel facility of five years. This is provided if you have resided in Australia for at least two years in the last five years as a Permanent Resident.

Otherwise, if you do not meet this residence requirement you will be granted a travel facility for up to 12 months only.

If you have resided in Australia as a permanent resident for at least one day but less than two years in the last five 5 years before making the application, you may be granted a Resident Return Visa. However, you are required to provide evidence that there are compelling and compassionate reasons for not having resided in Australia for at least two years.

You can find out if you meet the residence requirements by obtaining an international movement record.

Can Family Members apply for a Resident Return Visa?

A family member can make an application for Resident Return Visa but must make a separate application. This means they need to satisfy the primary criteria and they cannot be added as a ‘secondary applicant’ to your visa application.

You can only make a combined application if you are included in the passport of another applicant.

What If I Have Been Absent for More Than 5 Years?

If you have been absent for more than five years, you may still be eligible to apply for a Resident Return Visa provided you can prove that you have substantial ties with Australia. You must also demonstrate that there was a compelling and compassionate reason for your absence in Australia. You do not need to demonstrate compelling and compassionate reasons for being absent the entire time. Instead, you can be granted a Resident Return Visa on the basis that you have been absent because of one or more particular events that are compelling and compassionate.

For example, a visa applicant’s mother had become ill and therefore the visa applicant had been absent for a substantial period of time. The visa applicant’s mother is well again but during the visa applicant’s absence, they had met their spouse, married and had children. Now, because of close ties to Australia and because their absence was initially because of a compassionate and compelling reason, they may be eligible for grant of a Resident Return Visa.

Where and How to apply?

This visa can be lodged either in or outside Australia. You can lodged online if you already hold a Resident Return Visa, or you may lodge a paper application form if you cannot complete the online form or if circumstances exists that prevents you lodging online.

If you lodged outside of Australia you are required to be outside Australia when the Department of Home Affairs decides your application.

If you lodged inside Australia, you can be inside or outside Australia when the decision is made.

Do I Have to Pass the Health And Character Test?

You do not have to pass a health test.

In accordance with section 501 of the Migration Act 1958, you will need to pass a Character Test. Section 501 also does give the Immigration Minister power to refuse or cancel a Resident Return Visa on character grounds.

What is the Processing Time?

If lodged in Australia, the processing time for a decision for Resident Return Visa is one working day.

If lodged outside Australia, the standard processing time for a decision is 2 weeks.

It is recommended you begin your application at least 3 months before you intend to travel to avoid delay in case of unforeseen difficulties in processing your application.

What is the Validity of the Visa?

Resident Return Visa grants Permanent Residence which allows you to remain lawfully in Australia indefinitely.

Most Resident Return Visas are usually granted with a travel facility that is valid for Five years. You can travel in and out of Australia as frequently as you wish during the travel facility period.

Is There Review Rights for Refusal?

If you applied while you are in Australia and the visa application was refused, you have the right to have the decision reviewed by Migrant and Refugee Division of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

If you applied outside Australia you do not generally have a right of appeal unless if you have a parent, spouse, brother, sister or child who is an Australian citizen or permanent resident who can appeal on your behalf.

Your relative can apply to the Tribunal for review of the visa refusal.

Note, there are strict time limits for appealing visa refusals to the Tribunal.


Michelle Makela

Michelle Makela is one of our Legal Practice Directors and the National Practice Manager. She holds a Bachelor of Laws, a Bachelor of Science (Psychology) and a Master’s in Criminology. Michelle has had a varied career, working in commercial litigation, criminal law, family law and estate planning. Michelle joined Go To Court Lawyers in 2011. She now supervises a team of over 80 solicitors across Australia.

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