Visa options for illegal arrivals seeking protection

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If you:

  • arrived in Australia illegally without a visa in effect (whether by sea or by air)
  • you were not immigration cleared on your last entry into Australia, or
  • you hold, or have ever held, a Temporary Protection visa (TPV), a Temporary Safe Haven visa, or a Temporary (Humanitarian Concern) visa

you can only apply for a protection visa of a temporary kind. You will need to be found to engage Australia's protection obligations and meet other visa requirements to be granted a visa.

For more information on what it means to engage Australia's protection obligations, read Protection application information and guides (PAIG): The meaning of 'protection obligations'.

You are only able to apply for a TPV or a Safe Haven Enterprise visa (SHEV). You will have to choose between the two visas; you cannot apply for both visas at the same time.

Temporary Protection visas

A TPV allows you to stay in Australia for up to three years. You can be granted a TPV if you have been found to engage Australia's protection obligations and meet all other visa requirements, such as health, security and character.

A TPV will allow you to work and have access to Medicare, social security benefits (contact Centrelink for more information), job matching and short-term counselling for torture or trauma where required or other support services offered by the Department of Social Services. Adult TPV holders also have access to full 510 hours of the Adult Migrant English Programme (AMEP).

 Minors will have access to education.

Conditions on a TPV

If you are granted a TPV, you will not be eligible to apply for another visa, other than a TPV or a SHEV, while you remain in Australia. You will also have to tell us if you change your residential address within 28 days of moving.

If you are granted a TPV, you can apply for approval to travel outside of Australia. Travel will only be approved if there are compassionate or compelling circumstances that justify the travel and we approve it in writing. You cannot travel to the country from which you, or the primary applicant on your TPV application, were found to engage Australia's protection obligations.

As the holder of a TPV, you will not be able to sponsor family members for a visa through the Australian Humanitarian or Family Migration Programmes.

Who can be granted a TPV?

TPVs can be granted to people who arrived in Australia illegally, have been assessed as engaging Australia's protection obligations and meet other visa requirements.

How can I apply for a TPV?

You are now expected to lodge an application for a TPV or a SHEV even if you have not received an invitation to apply letter.

Failure to lodge an application will be taken as an indication that you no longer intend to seek protection in Australia. This might affect your support services, including income support, and possibly impact your bridging visa.

If you are unable to lodge an application, you must immediately email the Department at tpv.lodgements@border.gov.au. Provide the reasons, your client and boat identification numbers along with your name.

You should ensure that you have provided your most recent address and other contact details to the Department. You can do this by calling 1300 728 662.

What happens when my TPV expires?

When your TPV expires, you will need to apply for another TPV or a SHEV and have your protection claims assessed again.

If you are assessed as still engaging Australia's protection obligations and you meet all other relevant requirements, you will be granted either a TPV or SHEV, depending on what you applied for. If you no longer engage Australia's protection obligations, your TPV or SHEV application will be refused and you will be expected to return home.

Safe Haven Enterprise visas

A SHEV is a new visa that allows you to stay in Australia for five years because you have been found to engage Australia's protection obligations.

SHEV holders will need to indicate an intention (this means a willingness or commitment) to work and/or study in regional Australia.

If you apply for and are granted a SHEV and then, for three and a half years of the five years of the SHEV, you have been:

  • employed in 'regional Australia' and not receiving Special Benefit payments, or
  • enrolled in full time study in regional Australia, or
  • a combination of the above

you will meet the 'SHEV pathway requirements'.

If you meet the SHEV pathway requirements, you can apply for certain other visas in Australia such as skilled or family visas (but not a permanent Protection visa), provided that you meet the application requirements for those visas.

You could also be eligible to apply for a substantive visa if a member of your family unit that was included on your SHEV application meets the above requirements and that family member is included, or has included you, in any subsequent visa application.

Information about postcodes which are considered part of 'regional Australia’ for SHEV arrangements is available on the regional Australia page. While holding a SHEV you can work, access Medicare, receive social security benefits (Centrelink) if needed and get assistance with finding a job. You can also access short-term counselling for torture and trauma if you want, or other support services offered by the Department of Social Services.

Adult SHEV holders can access the Adult Migrant English Programme and children can attend and complete primary and secondary schooling.

What type of work and study can I do to meet the SHEV pathway requirements?

To meet the SHEV pathway requirements, work must be:

  • legal
  • paid
  • in a regional area that is included in the SHEV arrangements
  • full time, part time, temporary, casual or seasonal.

The work does not have to be continuous. If you have breaks between periods of work (such as doing seasonal work), each calendar month that you work will count towards the SHEV pathway requirements. It is your responsibility as a SHEV holder to find employment in a 'regional area'.

To meet the SHEV pathway requirement, study must be:

  • physically attending a course of study accredited by the Australian Qualifications Framework, including a maximum of one course leading to a Certificate I and any courses leading to a Certificate II or above
  • full time, either:
    • at the campus of an education provider located in regional Australia (as defined for the purpose of SHEVs), or
    • attending primary, high school or college in regional Australia (as defined for the purpose of SHEVs).

Conditions on a SHEV

You will not be eligible for another visa, other than a TPV or a SHEV, while you remain in Australia, unless you meet the SHEV pathway requirements.

You will also have to tell us if you change your residential address within 28 days of moving.

If you are granted a SHEV, you can apply for approval to travel outside of Australia. Travel will only be approved if there are compassionate or compelling circumstances that justify the travel and we approve it in writing. You cannot travel to the country from which you, or the primary applicant on your SHEV application, were found to engage Australia's protection obligations.

As the holder of a SHEV, you will not be able to sponsor family members for a visa through the Australian Humanitarian or Family Migration Programmes.

Who can be granted a SHEV?

Similar to TPVs, SHEVs can be granted to people who arrived in Australia illegally, have been assessed as engaging Australia's protection obligations and meet other visa requirements, such as health, security and character checks. In addition, the applicant must indicate, in writing, an intention to work and/or study in regional Australia.

What happens when my SHEV expires?

If you have met the SHEV pathway requirements, you might be eligible to apply for a different temporary or permanent onshore visa, provided that you meet the application requirements for those visas.

If you apply for a skilled or family visa after you meet the SHEV pathway requirements, you will not need to be found to engage Australia's protection obligation as part of that visa application.

If you do not meet the SHEV pathway requirements, you will only be able to apply for either another SHEV or a TPV. You will not be eligible to apply for other onshore visas. If you no longer engage Australia's protection obligations, your application will be refused and you will be expected to return home.

TPV and SHEV comparison table

Feature TPV SHEV
Duration Up to three yearsFive years
Intention to work and/or study in Regional Australia
Permanent visa pathway after meeting certain work and study requirements in regional Australia
Permission to work
Access to Medicare
Access to social security benefits
Travel outside of Australia where it is approved in compassionate or compelling circumstances (except to the country from which you sought protection).

When will I be able to apply for a protection visa?

If you are an illegal maritime arrival you are now expected to lodge your application for a TPV or a SHEV, even if you have not received an invitation to apply letter. 

Failure to lodge an application will be taken as an indication that you no longer intend to seek protection in Australia. This might affect your support services, including income support, and possibly impact your bridging visa.

If you are unable to lodge an application, you must immediately email the Department at tpv.lodgements@border.gov.au. Provide the reasons, your client and boat identification numbers along with your name.

You should ensure that you have provided your most recent address and other contact details to the Department. You can do this by calling 1300 728 662.

Can I still apply for a permanent Protection visa?

No. The Government is committed to not granting permanent Protection visas to people who engage Australia's protection obligations  but who have the characteristics described at the beginning of this information sheet, in particular those who arrived in Australia illegally without a visa in effect. If you arrived in Australia illegally, you are only eligible to apply for and be granted a TPV, or a SHEV.

I have already applied for a protection visa. Will I get a permanent visa?

No. Under current legislation, any valid application you made for a permanent Protection visa before 16 December 2014, that was not finalised by that date, will be taken to be an application for a TPV instead. This means that, if we find that you do engage Australia's protection obligations and you meet all other requirements, you will be granted a TPV.

If a decision was already made on your application before 16 December 2014 but it is sent back to us by a relevant tribunal or the court, your permanent Protection visa application can also be taken to be an application for a TPV at that point.

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