Everyone travelling to Australia needs an approved travel document, visa or authority to enter Australia. For entry to Australia:
- Australian citizens have automatic right of entry to Australia and need only present a current Australian passport on arrival.
- Australian citizens who hold dual or multiple nationalities should hold an Australian passport and use it to enter or leave Australia, even if they use a foreign passport overseas. The only exception is where they have been issued an Australian Declaratory visa.
- Permanent residents (migrants) cannot travel on their migrant visas once they have been granted Australian citizenship. This is because the migrant visa ceases to be in effect when Australian citizenship is acquired, even though it may not yet have reached its expiry date or been physically cancelled.
- New Zealand citizens travelling on New Zealand passports receive electronic visas that entitle them to stay in Australia.
- All other non-citizens, including people who migrated and now live in Australia permanently, must hold valid visas or authorities for re-entry to Australia.
Anyone who arrives without a visa, an authority for re-entry or an Australian or New Zealand passport may be refused entry to Australia or have their entry delayed until their identities and claims to enter Australia have been checked.
All people entering Australia must also fill out an incoming passenger card (IPC). All non-citizens are required to make a health and character declaration on the IPC.
Valid entry documents
A current Australian passport ensures the holder can enter Australia. A current New Zealand passport ensures the holder can enter Australia, subject to health and character requirements.
New migrants are issued with a multiple re-entry visa when their immigration to Australia is approved. These visas allow holders to travel to and from Australia as permanent residents for up to five years from the date of grant.
After this initial visa has expired, if the holder wants to continue to travel to and from Australia as a permanent resident, they must obtain a Resident Return visa (RRV).
Resident Return visas
Resident Return visas allow permanent residents of Australia to re-enter Australia as often as they want during the validity of the visa. RRVs are valid for travel for up to five years or three months from the date of grant.
Permanent residents should obtain an RRV before leaving Australia to avoid travel delays and the need to obtain an RRV through an overseas office of the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (the department).
Australian citizens are not eligible for an RRV.
Authority to Return and Return Endorsement
Permanent residents can also travel with an Authority to Return (ATR) or a Return Endorsement (RE) which were issued to people who migrated to Australia between 1 March 1976 and 31 December 1986. They remain valid as long as the holder has returned to Australia within three years of each departure and has not become an Australian citizen.
These visas were issued manually and are not compatible with the department’s electronic systems. Holders of these visas may experience delays on entry while manual checks are made.
Holders may have their ATRs and REs replaced at any department office with an electronically verifiable label called a BF111. This will not alter the conditions of the original visa in any way. There is no charge for the first label, however any subsequent replacement evidence of a visa label (re-evidencing) will incur a charge.
Note: Holders will lose their ATR or RE if they are granted another substantive visa (other than a Border visa or an Electronic Travel Authority). It will not be possible to reinstate ATRs or REs invalidated by the grant of another visa.
Resident Return visas
The purpose of RRVs is to facilitate the re-entry into Australia of non-citizen permanent residents and to ensure that only those people who have a genuine commitment to residing in Australia, or who are contributing to Australia’s well-being, retain the right to return to Australia and remain permanently.
When applying for an RRV, applicants must be one of the following:
- A permanent resident holding a valid permanent visa
- A former permanent resident whose last permanent visa was not cancelled
- A former Australian citizen who has lost or renounced his or her Australian citizenship.
To apply for a five-year RRV, applicants must have spent two years out of the past five years in Australia as a permanent resident or have substantial and beneficial ties to Australia. Applicants who have been absent from Australia for more than five years must also have compelling reasons for their absence.
A three-month RRV may be granted to people who don’t yet qualify for a five-year RRV but have strong reasons to go overseas, such as the severe illness of a family member. Applicants must have spent at least one day in Australia in the past five years as a permanent resident, and have compelling and compassionate reasons for departing Australia.
Partners and dependent family members of an RRV holder who are or have been permanent residents may be granted RRVs on the basis that their family head holds an RRV. An RRV granted on this basis will have the same validity period as the one held by their family head, whether the partner or dependent family member applies for an RRV at the same time as the family head or later.
If the family member meets one of the other criteria for an RRV in their own right, they will be granted an RRV with the full five-year validity.
Some business skills visa holders are prevented from applying for an RRV. Those people whose last permanent visa was a business skills visa (subclass 127, 128, 129, 130, 131, 132, 840, 841, 842, 843 or 844) can not lodge a valid application for an RRV if any of the following apply:
- that visa is subject to a notice of intention to cancel under section 135 of the Migration Act 1958
- the department has made a decision to cancel that visa under section 134 of the Migration Act 1958 and the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) has not set aside the department’s decision.
Applying for Resident Return visas
Any departmental office will accept an application for an RRV. In Australia, RRV applicants do not need to fill in a form if they do one of the following:
- attend an office in person, present a valid passport and pay the application charge
- post a request for an RRV with their passport and payment of the application charge.
Applicants in Australia who meet the residence requirements for a five year RRV can apply electronically through the department’s website.
See: Five Year Resident Return visa (Subclass 155)
These applications are usually decided within 24 hours. Applicants who are travelling should visit an office of the department to have the visa label placed in their passport.
Overseas applicants can apply at any Australian overseas mission by completing Form 1085 and lodging it with their passport and payment of the application charge (Form 990i refers).
If more than one person is travelling on the same passport, only one application and one charge is required. Family members with separate passports must apply and pay separately.
Former Australian citizens
Former Australian citizens who have lost or renounced their citizenship can apply for an RRV if they want to return to Australia as permanent residents. Alternatively, former citizens may be eligible for resumption of citizenship.
Re-evidence of return visa labels/authorities
If a passport containing a valid RRV, ATR or RE has expired, or been lost, stolen or damaged, the visa label can be re-evidenced with another label in the holder’s new passport. An application charge applies for this service.
If a valid visa is in an expired passport, it is possible to continue to use the visa until it expires, provided both the old and new passports are carried together when travelling to Australia.
Australian Declaratory visa
Australian Declaratory visas (ADV) are issued in limited circumstances to Australian citizens who hold dual nationality. They are administrative documents that resemble a visa.
ADVs are issued only if the applicant is a dual national under the age of 18, or in an emergency or other situation that prevents travel on an Australian passport.
An ADV is valid for five years from the date of issue, unless the holder ceases to be an Australian citizen, in which case the holder will need a visa to travel to Australia.
Charges apply for this service.
Where payment of an application charge is required, applicants can check the amount of the charge with their nearest departmental office or Australian overseas mission. Such charges are also listed in Form 990i.
See: Visa harges
Further information for returning residents is available on the department’s website.
See: Five Year Resident Return visa (Subclass 155)
Further information is available on the department’s website.
The department also operates a national general enquiries line.
Telephone: 131 881
Hours of operation: Monday to Friday from 8.30 am to 4.30 pm. Recorded information is available outside these hours.
Fact Sheet 95. Produced by the National Communications Branch, Department of Immigration and Citizenship, Canberra.
Last reviewed December 2011.
© Commonwealth of Australia 2010.