Bridging visas are some of the most complex visas out there. It is not because they are difficult to apply for, but because of how they operate. Understanding how each one relates to another will depend on your situation.
In most situations you can get a bridging visa if you are applying for a valid substantive visa whilst you are in Australia. This is because the bridging visa is attached to an actual application. The only instance where you can apply directly for a type of bridging visa is if you are the holder of a current bridging visa (that is in effect) or if you do not hold a visa at all (and you are seeking to become lawful).
To help you understand Australian bridging visas, here are the top 3 things to remember:
- Bridging visas are coded alphabetically A,B, C, D, E, etc.
- You can only progress forward along the alphabet, e.g. A to B, or C to E and so on, however once you have passed a lettered bridging visa, you cannot go backwards in the alphabet to a previous lettered bridging visa.
- Bridging visas are not indefinite, as some believe them to be – they have a finite period of validity and they also have visa conditions, just like substantive (normal) visas, so you have to be aware of when they expire and the conditions you must abide by.
Below is a list of the most common bridging visas. See which one best applies to your situation.
BRIDGING VISA A
- Bridging Visa A is the most common bridging visa because this is “automatically” granted when you apply for another substantive visa whilst you are in Australia (onshore).
- Bridging Visa A’s are granted as an operation of law. This means that you cannot apply for it directly. It has to be attached to a valid visa application in Australia. The Bridging Visa A helps to keep you lawful in Australia in case Immigration processes your new visa application beyond the expiration date of your current visa.
- The Bridging Visa A only comes into effect once your current substantive visa expires.
- The Bridging Visa A keeps you lawful for exactly 28 days after a decision has been made on your new application. Should your new application be refused, the Bridging Visa A will still be in effect until 28 days after the refusal of your application.
- Bridging Visa A’s inherits the same visa conditions as your previous visa (with some exceptions, depending on what kind of visa you are applying for), so you have to continue to abide by your visa conditions whilst on your Bridging Visa A.
- Bridging Visa A’s do not come with “permission to travel“. This means that you cannot re-enter Australia on a Bridging Visa A if you happen to leave Australia. If you happen to leave Australia on a Bridging Visa A, it will automatically be voided when you depart and you will not be permitted to return to Australia without holding a new valid substantive visa (which you will need to apply for in order to re-enter Australia). On the same note, if you travel on your currently valid visa, your Bridging Visa A (though granted, but not in effect yet) is also automatically voided without any notification.
- If your current visa is still valid, whilst waiting for your new visa application to be finalized, then you can travel, but you must come back before your valid visa expires. You can then apply for the reinstatement of the Bridging Visa A.
BRIDGING VISA B
- Simply put, this is a “travel” bridging visa. If you are currently on a Bridging Visa A and you wish to travel, you can apply for a Bridging Visa B. This will give you a permit to re-enter Australia after leaving temporarily (usually within 3 months).
- If your previous visa is still valid and your Bridging Visa A has not come into effect yet, then you are not eligible to apply for a Bridging Visa B.
BRIDGING VISA C
- A Bridging Visa C is granted to a person who is applying for a valid substantive visa, but is not a holder of a current substantive visa.
- In situations where you do not have a substantive visa at the time of applying for a new visa, you must seek professional advice to make sure that you can meet any special criteria for the new visa you intend on applying for.
- A Bridging Visa C operates in the same way as a Bridging Visa A, meaning there is no permission to travel. Unlike Bridging Visa A, you cannot apply for a Bridging Visa B once you have a Bridging Visa C (refer to Number 2 of Top 3 Things to Remember above). Technically you can leave the country, but you will not be permitted to return to Australia.
- If you accidentally leave the country on a Bridging Visa C, you may be subject to a 3-Year Exclusion Period where you cannot apply for any temporary visas to return to Australia.
BRIDGING VISA E
- A Bridging Visa E is similar to a Bridging Visa C in the sense that it applies to situations where you are not the holder of a substantive visa (or any visa at all) at the time of applying for a specific visa.
- A Bridging Visa E can be associative, meaning it is attached to specific matter (such as a visa application, or a Migration Review Tribunal application, or a Ministerial application, etc.).
- A Bridging Visa E can also be applied for directly, if you simply want to legalize your status prior to departing Australia or seeking advice towards your next visa application (if possible).
- Bridging Visa E’s come with plethora of visa conditions attached to it that may limit your ability to study, work, and travel. It also comes with stringent procedures in relation to the expiration date of the visa, which enables Immigration to closely monitor how you are going with your arrangements to depart the country, or to lodge a valid application (with Immigration, the MRT, the Minister’s Office, or to the courts).
Every person’s situation is different and your situation may require a more strategic approach, especially if you are unlawful. It is very important to know all your possible options, and make an educated decision about how you wish to resolve your situation. Seek help if you need it. A professional’s advice may be all it takes to secure your future and your family’s future.