9.1 What Is a Visa?


A visa is permission for a non-citizen to:

  • travel to and enter Australia,
  • remain in Australia, or
  • both of the above.

The definition of visa is at Migration Act 1958 section 29. Visas, and the regulations governing their grant, are administered by the Department of Home Affairs. Since 1 September 1994, Australian citizens are the only people who can be legally present in Australia without holding a valid visa.

There are many types of visas available to foreigners, each designed to suit a specific purpose, the length of the proposed stay in Australia and the type of activities people want to do when they get here.

Visas can be divided into 2 broad groups:

  • PERMANENT OR MIGRANT VISAS, which allow permanent residence in Australia, and
  • TEMPORARY VISAS, which generally have a time limit on the period of stay in Australia.

The Department of Home Affairs will provide a visa grant notification letter to each person granted a visa.This letter explains visa conditions, including the visa period and travel entitlements.

Example of visa notification letter issued by Department of Immigration and Border Protection

In this chapter

This chapter contains the following sections:
Last reviewed: 20 March 2019