Permanent Resident (Australia)

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An Australian permanent resident is a non-Australian citizen resident in Australia who has been given permission under the Migration Act 1958 to remain indefinitely in Australia


The definition of "permanent resident" is different for immigration and citizenship purposes.

  • For the purpose of the Migration Act, an Australian permanent resident is defined as:
    • a person who is the holder of a permanent visa; and
    • is usually resident in Australia. (This normally means living in Australia).
  • The "usually resident" requirement does not apply to applicants for a Resident Return Visa (since 1996) or those sponsoring for a Child Migration Visa (since 2003).
  • For citizenship purposes, the Australian Citizenship Act defines "permanent residence" as any period physically in Australia as the holder of a permanent visa.

Application process

Permanent visas may be granted onshore or offshore, depending on the visa type.

  • Onshore visas require all family members to be in Australia at time of grant.
  • Offshore visas normally require all family members to be outside Australia at time of grant.
    • Applicants can be anywhere outside Australia. New Zealand is often a popular choice.
    • A visa granted offshore is in effect immediately, but normally requires "first entry" to Australia by a specific date.
    • Making "first entry" to Australia is known as "validating" the visa.
    • In itself, "validation" does does not make you a "permanent resident" for most purposes if you do not move to Australia at the same time, but it does mean that changes in family circumstances (eg health) no longer need to be advised to the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC).

Advantages of permanent residence

There are numerous advantages of permanent residence:

Freedom to work

  • freedom to work for any employer in Australia, or take time out from the workforce
    • those granted permanent residence through employer sponsorship or business skill migration may have specific obligations to adhere to, otherwise visas may be cancelled.
    • most jobs for the Federal Government require Australian citizenship.
    • losing one's existing job does not mean having to leave Australia.
    • children can work without jeopardising their "dependent" status.
  • some professions which are closed to temporary residents become open (eg. migration agent).
  • family members, especially spouses, will find employers more willing to hire them if they are permanent residents.

Security of family status

  • sickness of a member of the family does not risk the family's right to remain in Australia
  • spouses and children of the main applicant can still remain in Australia if the main applicant is deceased, or there is a family breakdown
  • older children who become "independent" of the main applicant do not have to qualify for new visas on their own merits.

Health and social benefits

  • permanent residents are entitled to claim assistance from Centrelink
    • many (not all) benefits have a two year waiting period for new permanent residents.
  • full eligibility for Medicare and for health insurance at the same rates as provided to Australians.
    • there is a time limit to take out health insurance without paying an age loading (Lifetime Health Cover).


  • eligibility to apply for Australian citizenship after meeting normal residence requirements.
  • children born in Australia are Australian citizens by birth
    • note that children born before permanent status is obtained do not automatically get "upgraded" to Australian citizenship
    • children born in Australia who live in Australia until age 10 automatically become Australian citizens on their 10th birthday, if not citizens already.


  • education at the same rates applicable to Australians
    • in some states, notably, New South Wales, it means not having to pay fees to send children to government schools
    • across Australia, it means domestic fees for tertiary education, although eligibility for fee discount/deferral is normally restricted to Australian citizens.

Real Estate

  • eligibility for First Home Owner's Grant
  • in general, no longer subject to Foreign Investment Review Board restrictions on purchasing residential real estate.

Sponsorship of relatives for immigration

  • eligibility to sponsor relatives to migrate to Australia
    • for some visa categories, such as parent migration, there is a "settlement" period that is required.
    • new permanent residents sponsoring spouses or children will be scrutinised to ensure that the family relationship did not exist when permanent residence was obtained, or if it did exist, was properly declared.


  • it will be easier to obtain credit as a permanent resident, all things equal.
  • you may visit New Zealand without needing a tourist visa (even if you would usually need one), provided you have a valid permanent visa that allows you to re-enter Australia.
  • in some states, such as New South Wales, permanent resident status is required to obtain a driving licence that is not linked to one's temporary stay.

Overall, the key advantage of permanent resident status in Australia is security. You no longer have to concern yourself with future changes to the immigration laws, whether your employer will be willing and able to sponsor, or about the visa consequences of a family member becoming sick.

Disadvantages of permanent residence

There are a few disadvantages of permanent resident status.

  • As a permanent resident, you are fully part of the Australian income and capital gains tax system and no longer eligible to claim certain exemptions offered to some temporary residents.
    • eligibility for Medicare carries with it a liability to pay the 1.5% Medicare levy, plus 1% surcharge if applicable.
  • As soon as you are fully eligible for Medicare you normally have only 1 year to take out private health insurance without paying an age loading (if aged 31 or over, or born on or after 1 July 1934).
  • Upon departing Australia, you will not be able to access your superannuation (pension) contributions and you must leave them in place until normal retirement age.
  • If you have maintained an overseas driving licence (instead of an Australian licence, which is allowed in some states for temporary residents), you must obtain an Australian driving licence within 3 months. This is the case in all states and territories.
  • If you are working as a doctor on a temporary medical visa and your medical qualifications are not fully recognised in Australia, becoming a permanent resident (or citizen) may mean you lose your eligibility to work as a doctor.
  • In general, as a permanent resident (or citizen), you are not usually eligible for any kind of diplomatic accreditation in Australia. This can affect you if you want to work for your native country's embassy in a non-locally engaged post.

These obligations only apply to those living in Australia. Being the holder of a permanent visa does not in itself make you resident in Australia for taxation or driving purposes. However, once you take up residence, you will be subject to these obligations.

Keeping permanent resident status

In order to keep permanent resident status, there are two broad principles:

  • Remain living in Australia.
    • Absences for more than a few years usually lead to loss of resident status.
    • There are exemptions for those with special ties to Australia
    • Even if you retain resident status, absences may break continuity of residence for citizenship purposes.
    • If you want to travel and re-enter Australia as a resident, you need a re-entry facility on your visa or a Resident Return Visa. Details are on Form 968i
  • Do not commit crimes.
    • Criminal convictions may lead to deportation from Australia.
    • It depends on a number of factors, including the nature of the offence and the sentence laid down (including suspended sentences).
    • If you, or a member of your family, are charged with a crime, do not make any admission or guilty plea until you have obtained some specialist immigration assistance (as well as assistance from a lawyer dealing in criminal issues).
      • many criminal law practitioners may not be aware of the special immigration consequences of a criminal record, as these are usually not applicable to Australian citizens.

Evidence of permanent resident status

  • As a permanent resident, you do not have to carry evidence of your status on your person at all times (unlike in some countries).
    • But it may be required by employers, banks, educational institutions and others who may have a right to see it.
  • The normal form of evidence is a visa stamp in your foreign passport.
    • If passport expires, DIAC staff can re-stamp a visa in a replacement passport.
  • There is the alternative option of a Certificate of Evidence of Resident Status document from DIAC.