The two Resident Return Visas are probably the most misunderstood visas in Australian immigration legislation. However, every permanent resident must know about them. Understanding what a RRV is and what it does, means understanding the circumstances in which you can lose your permanent residency status.
So let me try and shed some light on this topic...
If you're granted a permanent visa, you'll notice that it will allow you to remain in Australia indefinitely, and leave and re-enter as many times as you like until a certain date, which is usually 5 years after the issue date.
So, a lot of people think their visa carries an expiry date, which is incorrect. The actual visa is valid indefinitely, but it has attached a travel facility (RRV) which does expire. So given you never leave the country, you needn't worry about the expiry date at all. You could stay in Australia for as long as you like with your permanent visa. But that's not very realistic, right?
If you hold a PR visa and plan on going overseas you need to know about the status of your RRV.
There are two Resident Return Visas available to permanent residents: subclass 155, which is valid for 5 years and 157, which is only valid for 3 months.
When your permanent visa is granted, it automatically comes with a 5 year, s/c 155 RRV attached to it. If you want to leave Australia past the specified expiry date, you need to reapply for another RRV. Which RRV you can apply for, will depend on which requirements you can meet.
- RRV subclass 155:
A RRV 155 is usually (not always – see below) valid for five years. The requirement is that you must have spent two years within the past five years in Australia. The two years can be accumulative – as long as your time in Australia adds up to 24 months within the past five years.
If you are unable to meet the required two years residency, you may still be able to apply for the 155. However, in this case, you'd need to show that you have compelling reasons why you can't meet the residency requirement and that you have substantial ties to Australia.
Substantial ties can be business, cultural, employment or personal ties. If a 155 RRV is granted on compelling grounds, the travel facility will only be one year, though, instead of five years.
- RRV subclass 157
If you can't meet the 2-year residency requirement and don't have substantial ties to Australia, you may still be able to apply for a s/c 157. This RRV has only a 3-month travel facility, so it's not a long-term solution but rather a fix for those who have been absent from Australia for an extended period of time and are now ready so settle in Australia before losing their permanent residency for good.
For the 157 you need to show that you have been in Australia one day within the past five years and that you have compelling and compassionate reasons for your absence.
You can apply for the 157 onshore as well as offshore. If you apply onshore you need to explain why you need to leave Australia (and your reason should be better than wanting to go on a holiday!). If you apply offshore you need to explain and provide evidence as to why you had to leave.
If you can meet the 2-year residency requirement, applying for a new RRV is easy. You just submit the form, pay the fee and you should be fine. However, if you haven't been in Australia 2 years and need to apply on compelling and compassionate grounds things can get tricky. If in doubt it's better to seek professional advice. You most likely spent a lot of time, effort, and money on gaining permanent residency, so better not jeopardize it.