Holders of permanent residency visas may remain in Australia indefinitely. A 5-year initial visa, which corresponds to the underlying migration scheme, is granted alongside the permanent residency. Until the initial visa expires, the visa holder may leave and re-enter Australia freely. A notable feature of the permanent residency visa is that, even after the initial visa expires, the holder is entitled to stay in Australia indefinitely without breaching immigration regulations.
After the initial visa expires, if the holder wishes to continue to travel to and from Australia as a permanent resident, they must obtain a Resident Return Visa (RRV). However those who live for too long outside Australia may lose their permanent resident status.
Permanent residency may be revoked at the discretion of the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship. However this does not normally happen other than in cases of criminal misconduct.
At present, there are two programs to grant permanent residency. “Migration Program” is mainly for skilled migrants, and “Humanitarian Program” is mainly for refugees seeking permanent residency.
Most permanent residents are eligible to become citizens after a waiting period. When the waiting period is complete, the process of sitting the citizenship test and attending the ceremony will add an additional three to twelve months.
Permanent residents enjoy many of the rights and privileges of citizens, including access to free or subsidised legal and health services and education. They do not have the right to vote in federal elections, but some states allow permanent residents from Commonwealth of Nations countries to vote in State and local government elections.
Citizens of New Zealand are allowed to enter and remain in Australia indefinitely under the Trans-Tasman Travel Arrangement, being granted a Special Category Visa on arrival, but must obtain a proper permanent residency permit if they arrived after 26 February 2001 and wish to enjoy the privileges of permanent residents.
Benefits of permanent resident status include:
* Few limitations on employment in Australia. Some job opportunities, largely state or federal governmental work, require citizenship as opposed to permanent residence.
* The right to apply for Australian citizenship after fulfilling some criteria.
* The right to apply for a Commonwealth supported place at approved higher education institutions.
* For permanent residents accepted under the humanitarian program and enrolled in a Commonwealth supported place, the right to defer payment of their student contribution under the HECS-HELP scheme.
* The right to sponsor relatives for permanent residence, subject to fulfilling residence criteria and assurance of support requirements.
* Children born inside Australia will be Australian citizens by birth.
* The right to access medical and social security benefits, though there is a a 2-year waiting period for some benefits.
* The right to travel to New Zealand without applying for a New Zealand visa. (This right is granted by the New Zealand government.)
* Unrestricted rights to live, work and study in New Zealand. (This right is granted by the New Zealand government.)