What is the change? Australia has moved to require foreign nationals to provide evidence of exceptional circumstances when seeking to extend their period of stay on a visitor visa beyond a period of 12 consecutive months.

What does the change mean? Unless they can demonstrate exceptional circumstances, foreign nationals holding a visitor visa, working holiday visa (subclass 417), work and holiday visa (subclass 462) and/or bridging visa will be refused a visitor visa if it would result in authorisation to stay in Australia for more than 12 consecutive months.

  • Implementation timeframe: The regulation came into effect on 17 November.
  • Visas/permits affected: Visitor visas (subclass 600).
  • Who is affected: Foreign nationals intending to stay in Australia for more than 12 consecutive months by applying for a visitor visa.
  • Business impact: No significant impact. Although business activities are permitted on visitor visas, the new regulation only applies to very specific circumstances.

Background: Visitor visas are valid for three, six or 12 months.

The new regulation was adopted after the Migration Review Tribunal (now called the Migration and Refugee Division of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal) ruled that applicants holding a bridging visa – a type of visa that is issued to a foreign national while his or her application for a substantive visa is pending – were eligible for visitor visas even if they had been in Australia for more than 12 consecutive months. The new regulation closes this loophole, and foreign nationals affected by the new rule will only be eligible for visitor visas if they can demonstrate exceptional circumstances.

Those circumstances may include death or serious illness of a close family member in Australia or situations where an applicant is dealing with changed circumstances that could not have been anticipated, are beyond his or her control and where failing to grant the visa would cause significant hardship to an Australian citizen or resident.

BAL Analysis: The changes will affect a small number of visa applicants in their ability to remain in Australia on visitor visas beyond the 12-month period that is typically allowed. Officials said the change was necessary to “maintain both the intent and integrity” of the visitor visa programme, which is designed to allow temporary, short-term visits to Australia.

This alert has been provided by BAL Australia. For additional information, please contact

MARN: 9683856

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