What do you need to enter and live in Australia?

Before you plan for a new life to the land down under make sure that you know your legal situation. Unless you’re from New Zealand you will need a VISA or a work permit or residence permit to enter the country legally.

The word VISA comes from Latin and means ‘paper that has been seen’. They are documents showing that a person is authorised to enter a country or territory for which it was issued. The document is subject to permission of an immigration official at the time of entering the country in question. The country issuing the visa typically attaches various conditions of stay, such as the territory covered by the VISA, dates of validity, period of stay, whether the visa is valid for more than one visit, etc.

A VISA gives non native citizens clearance to enter the country and to remain there as long as they stick to pre arranged constraints, such as length of time in the country, whether they can be employed or if they can apply for full citizenship. The possession of a VISA is not in itself a guarantee of entry into the country that issued it, and a VISA can be revoked at any time.

The four main types of VISA are: student, visitor, migration, temporary and residence. People in professions that require regular visits to the country such as international businessmen, entertainers and family visiting relatives are able to obtain multiple entry visas.

You should be aware that you will have to pay a fee to apply for a VISA and the application process can take a long time to be finalised. In countries such as Australia the wait for a residence visa can be excruciatingly long due to high demand; the waiting time can be from weeks to years.

For further information on Visas, their charges and the application process take a look at the Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous affairs (DIMIA) in Australia (

How to apply for a Visa

Before applying for a VISA make sure you know which type you are going for. For most VISA’s you must be outside the country when a decision is made, if you arrive in the country before a decision has been made, chances are you will be arrested or deported straight away.

To get a VISA you have to apply for one through your chosen countries embassy, consulate or for an alternative easier option is to go through a private visa service. These private companies specialise in issuing international travel documents and are authorised by the foreign authorities and embassies. This is often the best option for people who live miles away from an embassy or those not wanting to apply in person. Private visa and passport services collect an additional fee for verifying customer applications, supporting documents, and submitting them to the appropriate authority.

For a residence VISA many nations employ a points based system which is basically a questionnaire that evaluates you on your answers. A skilled graduate will create more points than a non-skilled person.

The best place to find many nations individual VISA providers is online as thanks to the internet most countries have streamlined the process.

If you need to stay in Australia longer than your VISA allows you should apply for a new one. If your visa expires whilst in the country then you are breaking the law and could be fined or imprisoned. If deported you will be banned from entering the country for up to three years, if deported for a criminal offence then you will be banned for life.

If your VISA outlines conditions e.g. a student, then you must abide by them. If you break any of the conditions then your VISA may be cancelled.

Visitors VISA

To apply for a long-stay visitor’s VISA you must prove to the Australian authorities that you have enough funds to survive on. The amount needed is less if you’re staying with friends or family in Australia.

Nationals from countries signed up to the Electronic Travel Authority can obtain a VISA direct from a travel agent or Australian embassy. The ETA is an efficient processing system that enables visitors to clear the airport in 20 seconds. Citizens from the following nations are eligible for ETA VISA’s, Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Malta, Monaco, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, UK, USA and Vatican City.

It isn’t necessary to make a separate application for a child who’s included on a parent’s passport. Your passport must be valid for the period of your proposed stay in Australia.

The cost for a visitor’s VISA for stays of up to three months is normally in the region of $65 to $170, whereas a yearlong VISA could cost up to $200. Visitors to Australia have to sign a declaration stating that they have never had tuberculosis or any condition that could endanger or be costly to Australia. Visitors aren’t permitted to engage in any type of employment or formal study.

Student VISA

To be granted a student VISA you must show that you enough financial resources to afford tuition fees return fares to Australia and day-to-day living costs for the length of time the course lasts. Students must usually be attending full-time courses, but are permitted to take part-time jobs of up to 20 hours a week to help cover their living costs, plus a full-time job during the summer break. The spouse of a postgraduate student may be permitted to work full time and other dependants up to 20 hours a week. However, if you wish to work you should apply for a visa that includes ‘permission to work’. To retain a student VISA you must have a good attendance and academic record. Upon completion of your studies you must leave Australia or apply for a new VISA.

Migrant and skilled migrant VISA’s

The rules for obtaining a migrant VISA change constantly so it pays to do your research to ensure you’re up to date with the latest rule changes. Be aware that when new rules are introduced they may not be implemented for months or possibly years. To be accepted for migration into Oz you must the personal and occupation criteria of the category you’re applying for and provide a personal reference proving you are of good health and character.

Migration is split as follows:

  • Family migration, where people can be sponsored by a relative who’s an Australian citizen or a permanent resident. There is a strict quota on the number of families allowed entry into the country.
  • Skilled migration, with categories for people with particular business or work skills or ‘outstanding talents’ and a separate quota for states or territories with particular skill shortages.
  • Special eligibility migration, covering former citizens or residents wanting to return to Australia, and also certain New Zealanders.

Application fees for migrant visas are high and aren’t refundable, so you should ensure that you have a very good chance of being accepted before making an application.

The Points Test

A points test applies to certain categories of skilled migrant. The points test aims to ensure that the principal applicant has the skills and other attributes necessary to allow him quickly to enter the Australian workforce, and support himself and his family without relying on the Australian government. Only one spouse is assessed and either partner can be considered a principal applicant for the point’s test, so couples should choose the partner with the better prospects of scoring sufficient points.

To pass the test you must achieve a high enough score to reach the pass mark for your chosen category. If your score is just under the pass rate your application will be held in reserve for up to two years.

Documents needed

To be eligible to apply for an Australian VISA you will need to provide the immigration service’s several certified documents. These include birth certificates, marriage certificates, trade and educational qualifications and passport. All of the provided documents need to be certified by a legal professional.

If your documentation is accepted and you pass the initial phase of the migration process then you and your family members will be invited to attend an interview with an officer from the Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs. If you’re lucky enough to be invited to an interview, take care on how you answer seemingly innocuous questions such as ‘Why do you wish to emigrate to Australia?’ It’s recommended always to answer positively and rehearse your answers to potential tricky questions.

If your application is accepted then you must send your passport to your nearest Australian embassy so that a VISA can be stamped into it, this is your ticket to a new life in Australia! Once your passport is returned you will have six months to make the move, any later and the VISA expires and you will have to go through the whole process again.

Becoming an Australian Citizen

For an Expat the ultimate goal is normally to be accepted as a permanent citizen in their country of choice.

To qualify to be a citizen of Australia the candidate must be a permanent resident, be over 18, have a basic grasp of the English language, be capable of understanding the nature of their citizen application and understand the responsibilities of becoming an Australian citizen.

Exceptions are applied for the following, permanent residents not present in Australia but engaged in activities beneficial to Australia, spouses, widows, widowers of Australian citizens (who normally need to have been resident only for the 12 months prior to their application) and various others. In certain cases, such as that of spouses/widows/widowers of Australian citizens, applicants must show that they would suffer significant hardship or disadvantage if they weren’t granted citizenship.