The Australian Migration Regulations 1994, Schedule 1 divides all visas into 4 categories:
- Permanent Visas
- Temporary Visas
- Bridging Visas
- Protection Visas
These categories are further sub-divided into the categories.
Holders of permanent visas are granted almost the same rights as an Australian citizen. They are allowed to settle in Australia permanently and to depart and return to Australia without restriction within a period of 5 years from the date of the visa grant.
Offshore applicants for permanent visas generally apply under the Skilled Category. Other popular permanent visas are Spouse, Family and Employer Nominated visas.
A temporary visa is usually the route to Australia for people that do not meet the criteria for a permanent visa, or who do not want to remain in Australia permanently. Holders of temporary visas may have various restrictions attaching to their stay in Australia - for example, no permission to work or the visa holder must leave Australia before a date specified.
A bridging visa is an interim holding visa that is granted to certain non-citizens who are in Australia, whose visa has generally expired, and who are awaiting the outcome of an application for another category of visa, the intention being to give lawful status to that person whilst their application is being processed.
(also referred to as the Refugee and Humanitarian Program)
Australia provides humanitarian assistance to people in need overseas for whom resettlement in another country is the only option available if they are to avoid human rights abuse. Assistance is provided under Australia's commitment to the UN Refugee Convention, and in particular the 1951 Refugee Convention and the 1967 Refugee Protocol.
The Convention defines a refugee as someone who:
- Is outside his or her country of nationality or their usual country of residence, and
- Is unable or unwilling to return or to see the protection of that country due to a well founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion.
Protection visas may give a refugee permanent residency status or temporary residence for 3 years if the refugee has entered Australia illegally or on fraudulent documents, during which time he or she may apply for a permanent Protection Visa.