Australian Visitor Visas – “onshore” extension information

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At National Visas we are regularly contacted by clients who are in Australia and enjoying themselves, so naturally they would like to extend their stay as a visitor or tourist, or to spend more time with their Australian relative or partner. Before applying for a visitor visa from inside Australia, there are a number of important things to consider.

I provide below some of the common scenarios our clients have and some of the things that must be considered. I also highlight a few of the problem areas we regularly encounter so that you may benefit from the experiences of other applicants!

Factors to consider:

Whilst every situation is different (some are far more complex than others), there are a number of factors which are common to ‘onshore’ visitor visas of which you should be aware:

Which visa do you currently hold? This is a really important question and can make a huge difference to how you present your visa application to the Department of Immigration. For example:

If you already hold a visitor visa, you need to be aware that in most cases, the maximum time allowed in Australia as a visitor is 12 consecutive months When applicants request more time than this they can be considered ‘non-genuine visitors’ and so have their visa refused. So, if you have been here for 6 months you should only ask for another six months (maximum). There are some limited exceptions to the 12 month rule, but they are quite limited.

This 12 month guideline also applies if you have been in Australia as the holder of a working holiday visa. The working holiday visa is considered for this purpose to be a ‘visitor visa’, so if you have been here for 12 months already, you may not be able to meet the requirements for an onshore visitor visa extension.

However, sometimes it is not as clear cut as that. For example, if you have had a 12 month working holiday visa but you have also been travelling outside Australia during this time, the 12 month guideline is actually measured since your last arrival in Australia, so you may still be able to meet visitor visa requirements. This can get quite tricky and must be carefully managed.

If you hold a student visa, you will generally need to be able to provide adequate evidence that you have completed your course of study.

Another factor to consider is the conditions on your current visa. If you have a ‘no further stay’ condition on your visa you cannot apply for a visitor visa ‘onshore’ (that is – while you are in Australia) unless you first have the no further stay condition waived. Again, this can get quite complex and would need to be carefully assessed and managed.

Likewise, if you have previously been sponsored by your home government or by AusAID, you may have additional criteria to meet (this would normally apply to student visa holders).

There are of course a lot of other different scenarios, but as you can see, when applying for a visitor visa there are a lot of variables to consider beyond the ‘normal’ requirements.

What are the ‘normal’ requirements?

In very basic terms, to be granted a visitor visa you must meet the four main requirements for a visitor visa. These are:

Funds:

You must have the funds to support yourself because the visitor visa does not allow you to work while you are in Australia. There is no specific amount of money you must have as the amount you need depends on your planned activities. For example, if you are planning on staying in 5 star hotels and eating at expensive restaurants you will need quite a lot of money. But if you are staying with your family and eating at home most nights, you will need less money to support yourself.

Genuine Visitor:

To meet the requirements for a visitor visa you must be assessed as being a ‘genuine visitor’. This will include for example consideration of how much time you have been in Australia, what you have been doing so far, what you plan to do, whether you have friends and family here and a variety of other factors which are specific to individual situations.

Incentive to return home:

Another part of being a genuine visitor is being able to prove that you intend to return home at the end of your visa. This is where many applicants fail to evidence properly and therefore have their visas refused. How you evidence this will depend on your exact situation, but common factors to consider are:

  • Do you have a job to return to or schooling to finish in your home country?
  • Do you have employment or other business activities in your home country?
  • Do you own any assets in your home country?
  • Do you have any social/family ties in your home country?
  • Are you considering starting a family when you return home?
  • Are you considering further travel after Australia?

Health and character:

All applicants must meet health and character requirements for visas to Australia. Depending on a number of factors including your age, places you have spent time in the last 5 years and length of intended stay in Australia, you may need to complete health tests and in some cases police clearances.

Visitor visas can be far more complex than you may first think. For example, what happens if you are applying for a visitor visa to gain extra time to meet the “12 month living together requirement” to enable you to apply for a de facto partner visa in Australia? How you present your application can be critical. You need to know what is ok to say and what is not ok to say. This is where using a specialist migration advisor can be critical.

Some helpful hints:

Make life easier for yourself – don’t be greedy! The amount of evidence you are required to provide often depends on the length of time you are asking for. In some circumstances no documents are required at all. So sometimes it pays not to be too greedy with your request!

Prepare early! This is an absolute key. We often encounter people who leave things until the last minute. All this does is harm your chances and close down your options through lack of preparation time. If there is one thing you take away from this article my hope is that you remember to prepare early. Leave yourself some breathing space and time to prepare or work through your options with your migration agent.

Understand your range of options. Sometimes a visitor visa is the right way to go – but sometimes it isn’t, or there may be a better option. Again, one of the keys to getting this right is allowing plenty of time. If you contact us early we can help you plan your immediate, medium and long term visas. If you contact us just before your visa is due to expire we may have far fewer options for you.

Online applications:

One of the great things about applying for a visitor visa in Australia is that in almost all cases you will be able to make your application online. To see if you are able to apply online you can start the process here.

I hope we may be able to help you with your application soon!

John Bell
General Manager and Senior Migration Agent
MARN 0321386

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John Bell

Migration Advisor at National Visas
John Bell has been involved in the immigration industry since 2000 and has practiced in Australia as an Australian Registered Migration Agent since 2003. John also worked in the UK as a UK immigration adviser between 2000 and 2002.

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