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by Dr Etienne Hugo

Many Sabona readers either live in Australia already, or have family or friends living in ‘the land down under'. It is natural for migrant families to bring their extended family members across to join them in Australia.

One aspect of moving to a new country that has (also for me personally) been an issue, is the guilty conscience that results from separating one's children from their grandparents, uncles or aunts and cousins. It is therefore appropriate, I reckon, to look at a number of visa options for family reunions.

Visitor Visas

The tourist visa remains an obvious solution for short-term travel for South Africans to visit family members settled in Australia. One key aspect when applying for a tourist visa is to ensure that the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) has sufficient evidence of the fact that the applicant is a genuine visitor. The intention must be to only travel to Australia for a temporary period of time and for a specific purpose, such as tourism, visiting family or friends, and so on. There is a mandatory ‘no work' condition on all tourist visas and often the tourist visas issued by the Australian High Commission in Pretoria also have Condition 8503 imposed. This restricts the lodgement of further visa applications from within Australia.

Applicants who have access to ETA passports (such as citizens of the United Kingdom, United States and Canada) will have access to an electronic travel authority whereby one can visit Australia either as a tourist or business visitor for up to three months per visit with no restriction placed on the lodgement of future eligible visas.

Temporary Business Visitors (Subclass 456)

Applicants who primarily have a business reason for a visit of up to three months and who do not hold an ETA eligible passport, will most likely apply for a Subclass 456 visa. This is suitable to attend a seminar, conduct business research, and so on.

Such a business purpose visit may also be linked with family or tourist purposes.

Parent Visas

Applicants who have 50% or more of their children living in Australia, as citizens, permanent residents or eligible New Zealand citizens, may qualify for parent visas.

These can be divided into two main categories: The very expensive, but fairly short wait option, and the ridiculously long, but relatively affordable option. Parents who meet the ‘balance of family test' and other key criteria, such as being sponsored by one of their children, may further consider whether to apply for a parent visa from within Australia as an aged parent. Such applicants must be 65 if men and 63˝ if women. Alternatively applicants may apply for a parent visa from outside Australia in either of the above categories.

The standard parent visa has a first instalment of $1,705 and a second instalment of $1,480 (per applicant), which will result in a permanent visa for Australia, but with a ridiculously long wait of more than 10 years. The reason for this massive queue is the fact that a very limited number of parent visas are granted per year, and applicants consistently exceed this number.

For parents who don't have a decade or more to wait, the offshore contributory parent visa also has a first instalment filing fee of $1,705, but a hefty second instalment of $34,330 (per applicant). In addition, applicants must obtain or secure an assurance of support, which requires a security deposit of $14,000 per couple to be lodged with the Commonwealth for a period of 10 years. In comparison, the assurance of support for the standard parent visa is $5,000 per couple held for two years.

There is a middle ground option of a contributory (temporary) parent visa, where applicants firstly apply for a two year provisional visa, paying a $20,595 second instalment fee (per applicant) and then have two years to pay the balance of $13,730 (per applicant). This option is to allow for a staggered payment of the exorbitant contributory parent filing fees, as mentioned above.

Parent visa applicants should weigh up the costs associated with their application with the fact that they may no longer meet the public interest criteria (health requirements) as ‘a time of decision' criteria if they were to apply for the standard parent visa. Applicants that are granted parent visas have full access to Medicare as well as other permanent resident benefits, such as the first homeowner grant. Australian pension is only accessible after 10 years.

Last Remaining Relative Visas

This permanent visa may be available for applicants who have a brother, sister or parent (or step equivalents) who are settled and usually resident in Australia as a citizen, permanent resident or eligible New Zealand citizen. You may qualify for this permanent visa for Australia if you have no other close family members aside from those living in Australia. In the past applicants could be successful having three or less close relatives, but current legislation requires that you and your partner (if applicable) do not have any other siblings, parents or non-dependant children other than those who usually reside in Australia as citizens or permanent residents. Although the application for this visa is very restrictive, there are applicants who qualify for this option, allowing them to be permanently reunited with their Australian family.

Resident Return Visas

This visa is a good option for people who previously held a permanent visa for Australia, but who for whatever reason were unable to reside in Australia subsequent to visa grant and who now wish to have their permanent visa reinstated or its re-entry right extended with a further five years. One key eligibility ground could be strong family ties to Australia.


As Australian immigration law is complex and ever changing, it is advisable that you obtain professional advice to ensure your eligibility is established and the correct visa is applied for. Be sure to use only a registered migration agent.

Dr Etienne Hugo is a South African born lawyer based in Australia. He is the legal practitioner director of Teleo Immigration, a leading Sydney-based law firm specialising in Australian immigration law.

See www.sabona.com.au/etiennehugo

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Posted by Dr Etienne Hugo
10 Dec 2009

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