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.

Common ways of applying to migrate to Australia are through family migration, work or business related migration, or as refugees through refugee and humanitarian options.

Find out:

  • about common pathways to becoming a permanent resident
  • 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 common ways of becoming a permanent resident in Australia?

People who want to move to live in Australia must apply and obtain the necessary visa. Some of the ways include:

  • Family migration is where the applicant is the partner or a family member 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 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. 

Some business and investment related visas also allow you to stay in Australia permanently.

  • Refugee and humanitarian visas are 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. They are also used to meet 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. 

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. However, recognition as a refugee by the UN High Commission for Refugees or any other official body, 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 refugee or humanitarian visa category.

  • Retirement visas - for eligible retirees. It provides options to long-term residents who have contributed to, and are well-established in, the community.
  • Former Resident visas - for certain permanent former residents.
  • Global Talent visas - is for people with an internationally-recognised record of special and outstanding achievement.

More information on each of these visas is available on the Department of Home Affairs website.

Can decisions to refuse a visa be reviewed?

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 (AAT).

Reviews of decisions to refuse or cancel any type of visa, including a protection visa, on character grounds or to refuse a protection visa on character grounds  are done in the General Division of the AAT.

There are strict time limits for seeking a review. Time limits depend on the type of decision and whether you are in immigration detention. The time limit cannot be extended by the AAT.

You can check the Department of Home Affairs’ decision letter to find out what your time limit is. You should get legal advice as soon as you receive a decision to refuse your visa.

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, visas may be cancelled and charges laid 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

Legal Aid WA gives limited advice about visas and migration matters. If we are unable to help we will refer you to another organisation who can help.

You should get legal advice if you have questions about the criteria for a particular visa, or about 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: 14 December 2022


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.