Renewing Permanent Residency – 155 & 157 Resident Return Visas
Is your Australian permanent residency visa about to expire? Or has it expired already? Do you need to apply for a visa in order to travel overseas and return to Australia? You may be able to apply for a Subclass 155 Resident Return visa.
International travel with permanent residency visas
Generally speaking, once you are granted an Australian permanent residency visa, this visa will allow you to travel in and out of Australia for a period of 5 years from the date of grant. This is referred to as your ‘international travel facility’. This does not mean that you are only allowed to lawfully remain in Australia for 5 years. As a permanent resident, you are allowed to lawfully remain in Australia indefinitely.
However, the travel facility on your permanent residency visa does expire after 5 years from when you are granted permanent residency. If you want to travel overseas after your travel facility has expired, then you will need obtain a Subclass 155 Resident Return Visa (“RRV”) (assuming that you have not obtained Australian citizenship in the meantime).
Depending on your situation, if you are granted a RRV, it will either be valid for 5 years or 1 year (although there is also a Subclass 157 Resident Return Visa which is valid for 3 months – see explanation below).
Mandatory requirement for all Resident Return visa applicants
In order to apply for a RRV, you must be either:
- An Australian permanent resident (i.e. hold a permanent residency visa)
- A former Australian citizen who has lost or renounced Australian citizenship
- A former Australian permanent resident, other than a former Australian permanent resident whose most recent permanent visa was cancelled
Resident Return visa – valid for 5 years
You must satisfy this requirement to obtain a Subclass 155 Resident Return visa that is valid for 5 years - in the last 5 years that precedes the lodgement of your RRV application, you have been in Australia as a permanent resident for at least 2 years out of the 5.
Two years is defined as 730 days in total. You do not have to complete two consecutive years of residence in Australia. You can accumulate the required two years over the 5 year period that precedes the lodgement of your application.
You can only count the time that you have spent in Australia as a permanent resident or Australian citizen (i.e. you cannot count any time that you held a temporary visa or a bridging visa towards the 2 years). You can count both your date of arrival and departure from Australia, assuming that these dates are different days.
You must satisfy the above requirement in order to obtain a Subclass 155 Resident Return visa that is valid for 5 years. There are no exemptions that will get you around satisfying this requirement. You may be able to obtain a RRV with 1 year of international travel facility if you cannot satisfy this requirement.
Perhaps it is easier to explain this requirement with an example: the international travel facility of your current permanent residency visa is about to expire on 30 January 2014. You decide to be safe and apply for an RRV on 1 January 2014. The relevant five year period that precedes the lodgement of the application is from 1 January 2009 to 1 January 2014. During that period, have you spent at least 730 days in Australia as the holder of a permanent residency visa? If so, then you can apply for an RRV with 5 years of international travel facility.
If you do satisfy this requirement, then you can apply for your RRV online. You can lodge your application while you are inside of Australia, or outside of Australia. The process should be pretty straight forward, and the Department should be able to grant the visa within days or weeks of lodgement.
Resident Return visa – valid for 1 year
If you have been in Australia for less than 2 years in the 5 year period that precedes the lodgement of your application, then you may be able to obtain a RRV with 1 year of international travel facility if you meet the below eligibility requirements:
- You have been physically present in Australia, however you have been in Australia for less than 2 years during the 5 year period that precedes the lodgement of your application
- You have not been absent from Australia for a continuous period of 5 years or more since the grant of your permanent residency visa
- You currently hold an Australian permanent residency visa or last departed Australia as an Australian permanent resident or last departed Australia as an Australian citizen, but has subsequently lost or renounced Australian citizenship
- You have substantial, business, cultural, employment and/or personal ties to Australia which are of benefit to Australia
If you need to show substantial ties to Australia, then you need to submit evidence to demonstrate this.
If you do not meet the second requirement because you have been absent from Australia for a continuous period of 5 years or more since the grant of your permanent residency visa, then you will need to demonstrate ‘compelling reasons’ for your absence (further explanation below).
Substantial ties requirement
You can show substantial ties by having business, cultural, employment and/or personal ties.
The Department’s policy does recognise that the longer that you have been away from Australia, the more difficult it may be for you to establish ‘substantial ties’.
Extract from the Department’s policy: In general, it becomes increasingly difficult to demonstrate substantial ties of benefit over extended periods of absence. This is in part because the longer the period of absence the more difficult it is to continue to maintain ties of sufficient import to be considered ‘substantial’.
In part 2, we explain the substantial business, cultural, employment and/or personal ties that you can potentially rely on for the purposes of your application.
Are my ties sufficient to satisfy this requirement?
We often have people leaving comments in which they list out all their ties and ask whether we think their application will satisfy this requirement. In some cases, it is obvious. For example, if your partner is an Australian citizen and you have a few kids that are also Australian citizens, then we think that you will satisfy this requirement.
But if your connections to Australia are not as strong, then we will need to complete an eligibility assessment before we can provide you with advice. We need to have a thorough understanding of all your connections with Australia before we can provide you with definite and useful advice.
Compelling reasons for absence from Australia
If you have been absent from Australia for a continuous period of 5 years or more since the grant of your permanent residency visa, then you will need to demonstrate ‘compelling reasons’ for your absence.
The Department’s policy guidelines do provide examples in relation to what may constitute ’compelling reasons’. Examples include severe illness or death of an overseas family member or been caught up in a natural disaster, political uprising or other similar event. It is not always easy to demonstrate compelling reasons. And generally speaking, ‘every day’ reason for not being in Australia such as work or study commitments are not considered to be ‘compelling’.
Satisfying your case officer that there are ‘compelling reasons’ for your absence can be difficult, and whether your case officer accepts your reasons is discretionary. So if you want to retain the right to travel in and out of Australia as a permanent resident, then we would strongly suggest that you try and avoid this situation where you are absent from Australia for a continuous period of 5 years or more since the grant of your permanent residency visa.
Subclass 157 – 3 month Resident Return visa
If you cannot obtain a 155 visa, you may be able to apply for the Subclass 157 Resident Return visa. Specifically, if you do not have any substantial ties with Australia, you may still be able to apply for the 157 visa because you do not need to demonstrate substantial ties with Australia for this visa.
If you are granted this visa, then it is valid for a period of 3 months. This is a permanent residency visa, and you will be allowed to remain in Australia indefinitely if you return to Australia as the holder of this visa.
In order to obtain this visa, you need to demonstrate that:
- In the 5 year period that precedes the lodgement of the application, you have been lawfully present in Australia for at least 1 day as an Australian permanent resident or citizen (you cannot rely on time spent in Australia under a temporary or bridging visa in order to satisfy this requirement)
- There are ‘compelling and compassionate reasons’ that caused your last departure from Australia OR if you are in Australia and need to travel, you can show a compelling and compassionate reason for having to leave Australia
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Frequently asked questions
- Q: Can I apply for the RRV even though my permanent residency visa has expired?
A: As explained above, you can still meet the eligibility requirements for a RRV even if your permanent residency visa has expired
- Q: Do I need to be in Australia at the time of lodgement?
A: Generally speaking, no
- Q: Should I apply for a RRV before my current permanent residency visa expires?
A: You can if you want. If it is granted, then the new RRV will replace whatever substantive visa that you were holding
- Q: Is there any limit on the number of RRV that I can be granted?
- Q: If my application is refused, can I apply again?
A: Yes, but the result may be the same unless you change your application in some way
- Q: If I list out all my ties with Australia, can you confirm whether I will satisfy the ‘substantial ties’ requirement?
A: If you have a strong case and you have numerous significant connections with Australia such as immediate members living in Australia, then we may be able to give you our opinion in relation to your eligibility. But your ties need to be strong, and your application should be one where you clearly satisfy the requirements. In other cases where it is uncertain as to whether you satisfy this subjective requirement, we will need to complete an eligibility assessment before we can give you our advice
- Q: If I outline my reasons for being away from Australia, can you confirm whether these will be sufficient for ‘compelling reasons for absence’?
A: See above response