Visas and migration

People who want to move to live in Australia must apply to migrate and obtain the necessary visa. A visa is a document that allows a person to enter Australia. Visas are issued in different categories and there are strict rules about who is eligible for that type of visa. An application must meet all the criteria before it may be granted.

The three main ways of applying to migrate to Australia are through family migration, economic migration, or as refugees through the Refugee and humanitarian programme.

Find out:

  • about the three main immigration streams
  • what you can do if your application for a visa has been refused, and
  • what can happen if you provide false or misleading information with a visa application.

What are the three main ways of migrating to Australia?

People who want to move to live in Australia must apply to migrate and obtain the necessary visa.

  • Family migration is where the applicant is a family member or relative of a person who has already settled in Australia as a permanent resident or citizen.

  • Economic migration is for professional and other skilled workers who are looking for work or business, or have been sponsored by an Australian employer to come to Australia for work.

    There are a number of different skilled worker visas and different ways that people can apply for work visas. These visa applications are expensive and complicated. You may need help from a registered migration agent or a lawyer specialising in this area.

  • The Refugee and humanitarian programme is designed to ensure that Australia can respond effectively to global humanitarian situations and that support services are available to meet the specific needs of these entrants. It is also used to address Australia's obligations as a signatory to the United Nations' 1951 Geneva Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol Relating to Refugees. This means that Australia is required to give protection to people who arrive at Australia's borders (or are already in the country), if they fit the definition of a refugee under those agreements or under Australian migration laws.

    Even if you are recognised as a refugee by the UN High Commission for Refugees or any other official body, this doesn't mean you will automatically be allowed to migrate to Australia. You must also meet all the criteria set down by Australia for the relevant humanitarian visa category.

Can decisions to refuse a visa be reviewed or appealed?

If your application for a visa to visit or stay in Australia is refused, you may be able to seek a review of the decision through the Migration and Refugee Division of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

There are strict time limits for making an appeal. Time limits depend on the type of decision and whether you are in immigration detention. The time limit cannot be extended.

You should get legal advice as soon as you receive a decision to refuse your visa.

Applying for review of a decision to refuse a protection (refugee) visa

There is a different appeal process for refusing to issue a protection (refugee) visa. If you are in immigration detention you have seven working days to make an appeal to the Tribunal. If you are not in detention, you have 28 days.

In general, the time period for lodging an application for review of a protection (refugee) visa decision includes the day on which you received notice of the decision. However, if you are in immigration detention and you received notice of the decision on a Saturday, Sunday or public holiday, the first day of the time period for lodging an application for review is the next working day.

You will have to pay costs if your application for review is not successful.

What are the consequences of putting false or misleading information in a visa application?

A visa based on incorrect information may be cancelled and the visa holder deported.

You can also be charged with a criminal offence if you have put false or misleading information in visa application documents given to Department of Home Affairs.

For example, if a marriage or de facto relationship was faked in order to get a visa, and the visa applicant did not intend to live permanently with the other person in a married relationship or de facto relationship at the time they submitted their application.

This applies to both visa applicants, as well as people who have sponsored a visa applicant (such as a spouse or employer).


Get help

You should legal advice if you have questions about the criteria for a particular visa, or in relation to appeals to the AAT. The Law Society of WA can refer you to lawyers who specialise in immigration law.

More information

Department of Home Affairs
Administrative Appeals Tribunal


Reviewed: 2 July 2018


The information displayed on this page is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. If you have a legal problem, you should see a lawyer. Legal Aid Western Australia aims to provide information that is accurate, however does not accept responsibility for any errors or omissions in the information provided on this page or incorporated into it by reference.