Current processing times (updated 22 April 2019)
The Department’s processing time for the 155/157 Resident Return visa increased significantly in around early 2018. The Department’s current processing times are approximately:
5 years 155 visa: 3-10 days from the date of lodgement
1 year 155 visa: 2-4 months or potentially longer depending on the complexity of your application
3 month 157 visa: 2-4 months or potentially longer depending on the complexity of your application
Please note that the above information is only providing estimated processing time information based on our recent experience, and actual processing times will vary for each individual application. Generally speaking, more complicated applications which may have issues satisfying the relevant legal requirements may take the Department longer to assess and decide.
However, we have also had a few instances where the Department has taken 4-5 months or longer to decide and approve straight forward 1 year 155 visa applications. Hence, the Department’s long processing time for your application does not necessarily mean that the Department has any issues with your application.
Please also see the Department’s website in relation to current processing time information:
|Stream||75 per cent of applications processed||90 per cent of applications processed|
|155||2 days||67 days|
|157||Unavailable due to low volume of applications.||Unavailable due to low volume of applications.|
Following-up after lodgement
You can follow-up with the Department if you want an update in relation to your application. We generally suggest that after you have lodged your visa application, you should wait at least 2 months before following up with the Department for an update if you are applying for either the 1 year or 3 month visas.
You can send a follow-up email to the Department (email@example.com), or you can call the Department.
In relation to email follow-ups, unfortunately the Department will generally only send generic responses in reply:
Unfortunately, the Department is unlikely to provide a detailed update in relation to the processing and assessment of your application.
You can ask for priority processing if you can provide supporting evidence to show an urgent need for the visa. The following are examples where you may be able to request priority processing:
- Medical records to show that you need to provide urgent care to a family member.
- Death certificate which demonstrates that you need to travel to attend a funeral.
Inside of Australia when you lodged and need to leave
If you were in Australia when you lodged your Resident return visa application, then you can be in or outside of Australia at the time that the Department decides your application. You can travel overseas while your application is being decided, and your visa application can be decided after you leave and while you are outside of Australia.
You can apply for Bridging visa A and Bridging visa B while you are in Australia, which are linked to your pending Resident return visa application. If you are granted a Bridging visa B, then this Bridging visa B allows you to leave Australia and return as a Bridging visa B, and wait in Australia until your Resident return visa application. To apply for a Bridging visa B, you must firstly be granted a Bridging visa A, which is why you are lodging applications for both bridging visas. You can lodge your Bridging visa A and Bridging visa B applications at the same time (please see forms for application instructions). The Department’s processing time for these applications is generally around 2-3 weeks.
Please note that while you are in Australia as a Bridging visa B, you would be a temporarily visa holder in Australia while you are granted your permanent residency Resident return visa application.
Outside of Australia when you lodged and need to entry
A visitor visa holder needs to have the genuine intention to only be in Australia on a temporary basis. Your currently pending permanent residency application indicates that you may want to live in Australia permanently. If you are granted a visitor visa and travel to Australia on this, then the Department’s airport staff may question your travel intentions.
If you were outside of Australia when you lodged your 155 visa application, then you also need to be outside of Australia at the time of decision. You may need to re-lodge your application if you enter Australia. You may want to follow-up with the Department instead.
If you accidentally return to Australia without a visa after your permanent residency visa has expired (after a brief trip overseas for example), then you will need to speak with the Department’s staff at the airport. They will likely grant you a “entry permit” (Border Visa), which would only be a temporary visa. You can enter Australia and lodge a Resident visa application, and then a Bridging visa A application to allow you to stay in Australia until the Department decides your Resident return visa application.
Department’s assessment & decision
The Department may decide your application based on the information and documents that you have provided, in which case you would just receive either an approval or refusal decision. Hence, it is important to upload all your relevant documents which demonstrate that you satisfy the relevant requirements for the Resident Return visa.
The Department may also contact you and inform you that further information and/or documents are required before a decision can be made. The Department’s correspondence will confirm the deadline by which you need to respond. If you are in Australia, then generally speaking, you are given 28 days to provide the requested information and/or documents.
Please have particular attention to the date by which you need to respond to any Department request. If you need more time to collect the requested information and/or documents, then you should send a request asking for this extension at least 3-4 working days before the deadline by which you need to respond. Your case officer should grant this extension, which will generally give you another 2-4 weeks to provide the requested information and/or documents. However, whether you are granted an extension is still at the discretion of your case officer, who can deny your request.
Once you have collected all the relevant information and documents required in response to the Department’s request checklist, you can upload your new information and documents to your application via your Immiaccount. You can then use the ‘I confirm I have provided information as requested’ link to inform the Department that you have responded to their request. Once you have used this link in your Immiaccount, you do not need to take any further action, send emails or call to inform the Department.
If required, we generally suggest preparing your own statement to accompany the information and documents that you upload, in which you should explain to your case officer the ties and/or compelling reasons that you are demonstrating with the information and documents that you are uploading. This should help your case officer understand how and why you satisfy the relevant legal requirements, rather than just leaving it to the case officer to assess and interpret your documents and information.
Once the Department has received your response to an earlier Department request, you should receive a decision in around 2-6 weeks (or potentially longer depending on the complexity of your application). However, there is no set timeframe by which the Department needs to make a decision. The Department can certainly take more than 2-6 weeks to make a decision, especially if it is a complicated application.
If the Department approves your application, then congratulations! Your new 3 month, 1 year or 5 years visa will replace whatever visa that you were holding (i.e. your new Resident return visa is not added to your current visa).
If the Department refuses your Resident return visa application, then you may still have a few options with getting a Resident return visa, or another future permanent residency visa:
- You can prepare and lodge a new Resident return visa application, with updated and additional documents and information which was previously not provided to the Department. When the Department refuses your Resident return visa application because of insufficient ties with Australia and/or insufficient compelling reasons for your absence from Australia, then this is just the Department’s current assessment of your application and circumstances. The Department’s refusal doesn’t prevent you from re-lodging a new Resident return visa (or apply for a temporary visa to travel to Australia as well). The Department’s refusal letter and correspondence shouldn’t contain any information in relation to future adverse consequences because of the Department’s refusal, if the Department just refused your visa application because of insufficient ties with Australia and/or insufficient compelling reasons. This means that you can re-lodge in the future once you have formed stronger ties with Australia, such as by travelling to Australia as a visitor visa holder, forming ties with Australia after your arrival (e.g. lease for residence, apply for jobs in your profession, sign up for utility services etc.), and then lodging your Resident return visa on the basis of your current settlement in Australia, and intention to live in Australia on a long term and permanent basis as your tie with Australia. This is assuming that you hold a visitor visa that does not have a no further stay condition. You can also collect new and additional evidence of your compelling reasons for absence from Australia, or perhaps prepare a better and more convincing supporting statement and explanation for your application, and then re-lodge a new Resident return visa if this was the issue that caused your visa refusal.
- You can potentially appeal the refusal decision to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, if the Department’s refusal is a Tribunal review-able decision as explained below. The AAT will re-assess your application and decide if you satisfy the relevant requirements for either a 155 or 157 visa. While you are allowed to organise and provide the AAT with new additional documents and information which was not provided to the Department, you should note that in terms of the substantial ties with Australia requirement, you can only rely on your ties with Australia as they existed when you lodged your visa application. This is because having sufficient ties with Australia is a ‘Criteria to be satisfied at time of application’, which technically means that you can’t rely on further ties that you form after the lodgement of your visa application (which would include the Department and Tribunal’s processing times). One advantage with re-lodging a new 155/157 visa application with the Department, as an alternative to appealing to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, are avoiding the Tribunal’s long wait times for a hearing, and also the high cost of appealing to the Tribunal (although this cost may be inevitable if the Department again refuses your application).
- If you are not eligible for the Resident return visa, then you can consider lodging a whole new permanent residency visa application like the initial permanent residency visa that you received. Your prior permanent residency status and refusal of Resident return visa shouldn’t affect your visa eligibility if you decide to apply for another general skilled migration visa or employer sponsored permanent residency visa. The Department won’t question you in relation to why you didn’t previously settle in Australia.
In Australia at the time of visa application
You are eligible for review of your refusal decision by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal if you were in Australia at the time that you lodged the visa application.
It is important to note that there is a strict time limit by which you need to submit your Administrative Appeals Tribunal application. It is important that you carefully read the Department’s correspondence which will state the date by which you need to submit your application for review. The Tribunal cannot accept an application for review that is submitted outside of the allowed time frame. This is very strictly enforced.
After you have lodged your Tribunal appeal application, you can apply for a Bridging visa A if needed in order to remain in Australia while you wait for a tribunal hearing (this is not needed if you are in Australia as a permanent resident. You may need to apply for a Bridging visa if you are in Australia as a temporary visa holder which is going to expire):
If needed, then this bridging visa will allow you to lawfully remain in Australia until the Tribunal makes a decision in relation to your appeal.
Outside of Australia at the time of visa application
If you were outside of Australia at the time that you lodged the visa application, and the Department refuses your Resident return visa application, then you can appeal this decision to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal if you have a parent, spouse or de facto partner, child or sibling who is an Australian citizen or holds a current Australian permanent residency visa. This family member does not need to be living in Australia, but this person must be an Australian citizen or holds a current Australian permanent residency visa.
If the above does not apply to you, then unfortunately you cannot apply for review with the tribunal or with any court. The Department also cannot review this decision. The Department should send you email correspondence which contains the following documents:
- Letter confirming that your visa application has been refused. This letter will also confirm that this decision cannot be reviewed.
- Decision record which explains why your case officer refused your visa application.
After such a refusal, your options would be to either:
- Prepare another Resident return visa application, providing further reasons and supporting evidence to explain your absence from Australia if such reasons and supporting evidence were not provided in your prior application;
- Apply for a different type of Australian permanent residency visa (like your first initial permanent residency visa).
We have had success helping numerous clients prepare and lodge new 155/157 visa applications after a Department refusal decision. We can assess the Department’s reasons for refusing your application, and let you know if the following or other steps can help with and whether we can proceed with lodging a new 155/157 visa application:
- Collect additional documents which were not previously provided to the Department
- Form more ties with Australia before re-applying
- Prepare statement which properly explains your ties with Australia and/or compelling reasons for being absent from Australia, which the Department may not have understood just from assessing your prior application and documents