Resident Return Visas: What You Need to Know

- Posted in Australia by Laurenon 16 May 2013

The process of moving to Australia can be time consuming and incredibly involved, few Visa Bureau clients intend on making the move permanently as soon as their visas are granted. Many of our clients visit Australia to activate their visas or look for their new homes; others simply have a change of circumstances and wish to delay their move for a while.

If this is the case, it’s likely that you will need a Resident Return Visa to ensure your move to Australia is done on your own timetable.

What is a Resident Return Visa?

A Resident Return Visa (RRV) is a permanent Australian visa which allows the holder to leave and re-enter Australia while maintaining their residency status. It is required for all non-citizen permanent residents of Australia who wish to travel after the first five years of their visa’s validity period.

The two main types of RRV are the 155 Resident Return Visa and the 157 Resident Return Visa. Both are essentially the same in all aspects except their validity period; the 155 is valid for a period of up to five years while the 157 is valid for just three months.

I have a permanent residency visa for Australia, why would I need an RRV?

A common misconception regarding permanent residency visas for Australia is their capacity as an entry visa to Australia.

If you hold a permanent residency visa, you are permitted to live and work in Australia permanently. However, your visa is only valid as an entry visa to Australia for the first five years, after which you’ll need a Resident Return Visa to legally re-enter Australia unless you have taken Australian citizenship.

The conditions of most categories of permanent resident visas for Australia require the holder to activate their visa within 12 months of their police or medical checks (whichever is earliest). As this can feasibly be far in advance of when a visa holder plans to make the move permanently, they will need a Resident Return Visa in addition to their permanent residence visa.

I don’t plan to leave Australia again once I’ve moved, I don’t need an RRV

In order to be eligible for a five-year RRV (subclass 155), the applicant must have remained in Australia for two years within the last five – you can read about other eligibility requirements here.

While you might not intend on leaving Australia once you have made the move, unforeseen circumstances can always arise, inconveniently changing plans. Having a Resident Return Visa as a safeguard against such unforeseen events can offer great peace of mind, even if you don’t intend to use it.


Few instances in the migration process are particularly simple and given the lengthy time frames and the myriad of circumstances involved, when a Resident Return Visa is required can be difficult to be sure.

Here are a couple of examples of people who would require an RRV and when they should get one:

Example 1

Richard and June were granted a Skilled Independent 175 visa in August, 2008, meaning it is valid until August, 2013. The couple took a trip to Australia to activate their visa in May, 2009, two months before their Intial Entry Date. After a four week holiday spent looking for new homes, the couple returned to the UK with the intention of moving to Australia shortly after.

However, when Richard was offered a new position in London, they postponed their move to Australia until May, 2013 before their visa runs out in August, 2013.

It is now May of 2013 and Richard and June have just 3 months of their 175 visa left. They are booked to go to Australia in 3 weeks. However when there they will not be able to leave the country after August (e.g. for a visit home) and then return on their 175 visa, as it will have expired.

Richard and June will need to remain in Australia until at least May, 2015, after which time they will be able to apply for a five-year Resident Return Visa which will allow them to leave and re-enter Australia freely.

Should the couple leave Australia before May, 2015, there would need to exceptional circumstances - most likely of a compassionate nature, such as the funeral of a close relative - for them to qualify for a short-term Resident Return Visa and be allowed to legally re-enter Australia.

Example 2

Steven had a Subclass 100 Partner Visa granted in June, 2006. He travelled to Australia to activate his visa in September of that year and stayed until December, 2007. He then returned to the UK to spend more time with his daughter from a previous relationship who had not migrated with him.

During his time back in the UK, Steven enrolled in a part-time university course which took him six years to complete, during which time he did not visit Australia again. Steven intended to return to Australia in April, 2013 but his 100 Visa expired in June, 2012.

In order to re-enter Australia, Steven needed to apply for a Resident Return Visa as his 100 Visa is no longer functional as an entry visa; he was required to explain to the Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) that his daughter and academic studies were compelling enough reasons for his absence over the last five years.

He was granted a Resident Return Visa valid for one year which allowed him to complete his move to Australia in May, 2013.

As we appreciate that the circumstances outlined above are only two individual cases, if they do not apply to you and you would to leave Australia and are unsure of how that might affect your residency status, please do not hesitate to get in touch, either on our contact us form or complete the Resident Return Visa online assessment for a free consultation.

- Lauren Mennie is a migration consultant at the Australian Visa Bureau.