9.1.2 Visas

Note: The information on visas in the sections below is provided as a guide only. The Department of Home Affairs is responsible for visas. Further information on the specific visa conditions can be found on the Department of Home Affairs website.

Introduction

A visa is permission for a non-citizen to:

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

There are 2 basic kinds of visa:

  • Permanent visas - which allow the holder to remain indefinitely.
  • Temporary visas - which allow the holder to either, stay for a specified period, stay until a specified event happens, or stay while the holder has a specified status.

Whether a person meets the definition of Australian resident or is otherwise residentially qualified for social security payments depends on their visa type. Information regarding particular visa subclasses, including historical visas, and eligibility for payments can be found in 9.2 of the guide.

Note: Since 1 September 1994, Australian citizens are the only people who can be legally present in Australia without holding a valid visa. Before 1 September 1994, the Migration Act 1958 exempted certain categories of non-citizens from requiring visas to enter Australia, such as New Zealanders who intended to stay permanently in Australia and people who, before their arrival in Australia, had permanent residence status in Norfolk Island.

Act reference: SSAct section 7(2) An Australian resident is a person who …

Policy reference: SS Guide 3.1.1.10 Residence requirements, 9.2 Visa subclasses & payment eligibility for visas issued after 1/9/94

Permanent visas

A permanent visa allows the holder to remain in Australia indefinitely.

Permanent visa holders meet the definition of Australian resident and may be eligible for social security payments and concession cards, subject to meeting normal qualification and payability conditions. A NARWP or qualifying residence period may apply depending on the payment/concession card and visa type - refer to the particular visa subclass in Part 9.2 for further information.

Some of the main types of permanent visa include:

  • Family visas - such as partner visas, parent visas, carer visas (e.g. subclass 100, 143, 116, 836).
  • Child visas (e.g. subclass 102).
  • Skilled visas - such as employer sponsored/state territory nominated work visas, regional sponsored visas, skilled independent visas, business visas (e.g. 186, 187, 189, 887, 888).
  • Refugee and humanitarian visas
    • Permanent protection visas for people who enter Australia unlawfully, and are then found to be refugees within the meaning of the United Nations 1951 Convention and 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, or to be at real risk of suffering significant harm in their home country (e.g. subclass 866).
    • Offshore permanent refugee and humanitarian visas for people outside Australia who are subject to persecution or substantial discrimination in their home country (e.g. subclasses 200 to 219).
    • Holders of the above visas are exempt from the NARWP and qualifying residence periods for all payments.
  • Special eligibility visas, such as
    • returning resident visas for people who wish to re-enter Australia (generally not the first permanent visa issued to a person) (e.g. 151, 155)
    • transitional permanent visas for people in various circumstances who were in Australia when new migration regulations came into effect on 1 September 1994 (e.g. 111).

A person may have held more than one permanent visa. Periods of residence in Australia on all permanent visas (and, in some cases, certain temporary visas) may count towards waiting period and qualifying residence requirements.

There are many visas that are no longer issued. Information about specific visas, including historical visas, is in the tables under Part 9.2.

Act reference: SSAct section 7(2) An Australian resident is a person who …

Policy reference: SS Guide 3.1.2.40 Newly arrived resident's waiting period, 1.1.Q.15 Qualifying Australian residence, 9.2 Visa subclasses & payment eligibility for visas issued after 1/9/94

Temporary visas

Temporary visas are generally time limited, or have certain conditions attached to the visa. Most temporary visa holders are not residentially qualified for social security payments as they do not meet the definition of Australian resident for the purpose of SSAct section 7. The exceptions are:

  • SCV holders (subclass 444) who are a 'protected SCV holder' - these visa holders meet the definition of Australian resident and may be eligible for social security payments and concession cards, subject to meeting normal qualification and payability conditions.
  • Holders of temporary/provisional partner visas (subclasses 309 and 820), temporary humanitarian visas (subclasses 785, 785, 790, 449), some bridging visas (subclasses 060, 070) and SCV holders (subclass 444) - these visa holders are residentially qualified for some payments and concession cards, despite not meeting the definition of Australian resident.

Other temporary visas do not qualify the holder for social security payments. This includes temporary work shortage, temporary graduate, student, working holiday, visitor and crew and transit visas and provisional skilled visas.

Some of the main types of temporary visas include:

  • Provisional visas - a provisional visa is a temporary visa that may lead to the grant of a permanent visa if the holder meets certain conditions.
    • Temporary partner/provisional partner visas - for partners of Australian citizens, permanent residents or eligible New Zealand citizens, issued while a permanent partner visa application is being assessed (e.g. subclasses 309, 820). Holders of these visas are residentially qualified for certain payments. A NARWP may apply.
    • Provisional skilled visas - for skilled workers, business owners and investors who wish to apply for permanent residence, where conditions have to be met before they can apply for the permanent visa. These provisional visa holders do not meet the definition of Australian resident and are not residentially qualified to receive social security payments or concession cards.
  • Temporary humanitarian visas
    • Temporary protection visa (subclass 785) - for people who are not able to make a valid application for a permanent protection visa, but defined as a refugee in the Migration Act or meets the complementary protection criteria.
    • Safe haven enterprise visa (subclass 790) - for those who are found to engage Australia's protection obligations, while encouraging earning and learning in regional Australia.
    • Other temporary humanitarian visas (e.g. subclasses 786, 449).
    • Holders of the above temporary humanitarian visas are residentially qualified for certain payments. A NARWP does not apply.
  • Bridging visas - for people whose temporary visa has expired, or is likely to expire, before a decision is made on the person's application for another visa, to prevent the holder from becoming 'unlawful'. The visa allows the holder to remain in Australia, usually under the same conditions as the temporary visa they held immediately before the bridging visa.
    • Bridging visas A to E (e.g. subclasses 010 to 051) - these visas do not residentially qualify the holder for payments.
    • Bridging visas F and Removal Pending (subclasses 060 and 070) - holders of these visas are residentially qualified for certain payments. A NARWP does not apply.
  • SCVs (subclass 444) - for New Zealand citizens. Protected SCV holders are residentially qualified for all payments and concession cards. Non-protected SCV holders are residentially qualified for some payments and concession cards (see 9.1.3 for further information).
  • Other temporary visas - mostly for short to medium term entry into Australia for tourist or specific purposes, such as temporary work, temporary graduate, international student, crew and transit, working holiday and visitor visas.

Note: There are many visas that are no longer issued. Information about specific visas, including historical visas, is in the tables under Part 9.2.

Act reference: SSAct section 7(2) An Australian resident is a person who …, section 729 Qualification for SpB, section 739A Newly arrived resident's waiting period

Policy reference: SS Guide 3.1.1.10 Residence requirements, 3.1.2.40 Newly arrived resident's waiting period (NARWP), 9.2 Visa subclasses & payment eligibility for visas issued after 1/9/94.

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Last reviewed: 4 January 2022