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 (link to online 155 visa application form).
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).
Main eligibility requirements for 155 visa
The key eligibility requirements for the Subclass 155 and 157 Resident Return visas are outlined below:
- 155 visa which 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. You must satisfy this requirement to obtain a 155 RRV that is valid for 5 years
- 155 visa which is valid for 1 year – you have been in Australia for at least 1 day in the last 5 years as the holder of a permanent residency visa and you have substantial, business, cultural, employment and/or personal ties to Australia which are of benefit to Australia (explained below)
- 155 visa which is valid for 1 year – since the grant of your permanent residency visa, you have been absent from Australia for a period of 5 years of more, there are compelling reasons for your absence (explained below) and you have substantial, business, cultural, employment and/or personal ties to Australia which are of benefit to Australia
- 157 visa which is valid for 3 months – you have been in Australia for at least 1 day in the last 5 years as the holder of a permanent residency visa and ‘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
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 OR You were an Australian citizen, or an Australian permanent resident, less than 10 years before the application, and you have not been absent from Australia for a period of, or periods that total, more than 5 years in the period from the date that you last departed Australia as an Australian citizen or Australian permanent resident to the date of the application, unless there are compelling reasons for the absence.
- 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’.
If you have an employment opportunity in Australia, then you may be able to establish ‘substantial ties’ on this basis. The nature of the work is a relevant consideration (i.e. is it permanent, temporary or contract? Is it full-time, part-time or casual?). Policy states that ‘casual work would not normally be considered to be a substantial tie unless the applicant had been living in Australia for a significant period in the last 2 years’.
The Department can consider the following in assessing whether your employment ties is of benefit to Australia:
- Whether the role aligns with your qualifications and experience
- Whether the role is due to commence immediately
- Whether you can demonstrate an intention to stay in Australia for the long term by providing evidence such as a lease agreement, or enrolling your children in school
The Department will also need to consider the ‘genuineness’ of your claim of employment ties (to stop people from forming fraudulent employment ties in order to apply for a RRV).
The Department’s policy in relation to substantial personal ties: Substantial personal ties may be of benefit to Australia in the sense that the applicant is, or has been, a participating member of the Australian community and economy, and that their ties enrich the lives of individual Australian residents and citizens.
Policy also states that allowing you to live with your family can be considered to be of benefit to Australia if there is evidence that you and your family have imminent plans to live in Australia permanently. The following examples are given:
- If your partner is an Australian citizen and you’re living with your partner outside of Australia. Policy states that this situation ‘should be given considerable weight’
- If you’re living overseas with your family and your family includes children (or a child) who are under 18 and are Australian citizens, and you provide evidence to show that you have immediate plans to return to Australia. Policy states that ‘this tie should be given considerable weight’
- If you are an Australian citizen and your child is an Australian permanent resident and you need to apply for a RRV for your child. If your child is living outside of Australia with you, policy states this situation ‘should be given considerable weight’ in establishing substantial ties for your child’s RRV application
Other basis for personal ties that are mentioned in The Department’s policy include:
- If you have a history of long term residence in Australia prior to the last 5 years, particularly if you have spent your formative years in Australia or has spent a significant amount of time in Australia since first being granted a permanent visa. The longer that you’ve been in Australia since you were granted permanent residency, the more weight is placed on this factor
- Personal assets in Australia such as a family home or single investment property. However, whether this personal tie is of benefit to Australia is dependent on whether it is occupied, for example, by a close family member or actively being rented
- Having close family members who are Australian citizens or permanent residents and these family members have substantial residence in Australia (I assume that The Department’s policy means that your family members have been living in Australia for a substantial period of time)
With personal ties, if you can show an intention to make Australia your home and you intend to reside here permanently, then you should include evidence that demonstrates this.
Under The Department’s policy, the applicant needs to ‘to have substantial ownership interests in a business and be involved in the management of the business, however they do not need to have physical residence in Australia. This business should be an Australian business or a branch of a business which has connections with Australia’.
When The Department assesses whether your business ties are of benefit to Australia, your case officer can consider the following (and of course, you’ll need to provide supporting evidence):
- Your business has led to the creation of employment opportunities in Australia, or for Australian citizens or permanent residents outside of Australia
- Whether your business generates revenue in or for Australia
- Size of the business
- Whether your business enhances links with other countries
- Whether your business has resulted in the transfer of Australian knowledge and/or technologies offshore and/or evidence of introducing new technologies into Australia.
The above list of considerations is not an exhaustive list. If you have business ties to Australia (i.e. you have substantial ownership interests in a business), then you should have a think about the benefits and relationships that your business is delivering to Australia and Australians, and whether you can evidence these benefits and relationships.
Below is The Department’s policy extract in relation to what constitutes cultural ties:
A substantial cultural tie of benefit to Australia may exist if the applicant’s cultural pursuits are conducted at a professional level or with a degree of public recognition. Some examples of persons who may have substantial cultural ties include, but are not limited to:
- A person who is accepted as a member of a cultural community within Australia who is actively involved in traditional activities
- A person involved in the Arts at a professional level
- Members of religious communities in Australia or
- Sports persons or professional support staff who are members of Australian sporting associations.
Evidence to support a claim of cultural ties of benefit to Australia may include:
- Evidence of membership of cultural associations
- Newspaper articles
- Programs from concerts, etc.
As a general observation it is likely that the reasons claimed as cultural ties would be consistent with the basis for the grant of their original permanent visa.
We are sorry but if you leave a comment listing all our connections and ask whether your connections are sufficient, we will not be able to provide you with an answer. We cannot provide you with definite advice as unless we have completed an assessment. 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 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
* Subject to completion of assessment, and confirmation that we can assist with the application.