Our Experience in Applying for a Resident Return Visa(Subclass 155)

My wife Jacqui is a New Zealand citizen who arrived in Australia on a Special Category Visa. Because she was not living in Australia prior to 26th of February 2001, she did not fall into the “Protected” category, which allows for Social Security Act payment eligibility. Also being a temporary resident she had no path to citizenship.

She had however visited Australia for a period of 3 months in 1984 as a baby along with her family. Under the legislation that applied at the time, this made her a permanent resident of Australia for the time that she was here.

On advice from the OzKiwi group campaign group on Facebook, we found out that this might give her eligibility to apply for a Resident Return Visa(Subclass 155). This is a permanent resident Visa. After becoming a permanent resident, she would become eligible for some payments under the Social Security Act and have the ability to apply for citizenship after a year.

We used a guide provided through OzKiwi on how to apply.

Firstly we needed to have proof of her residence back in 1984. She and her family didn’t have any travel records back that far so had no idea of the exact dates. Just that it was the early half of 1984.

Because the travel was more than 30 years ago, the Department of Immigration no longer had the records. They had been transferred to the National Archive of Australia. We made an application for the records via the NAA, based on what little information we had. The application form was online and easy to fill out. It did indicate that we were applying for a quote for a copy, but in the end we didn’t have to pay. We asked for a certified copy and it was provided to us within a couple of weeks.

Once we had those dates we started the application process for the Resident Return Visa(RRV). As Jacqui was a Special Category Visa holder, she didn’t have a Visa Issue number so couldn’t do an online application via the Department of Immigration website. Instead we had to download the Form 1085, print it and fill it out on paper.

When filling out the application you need to advise why you left your permanent residence here. For Jacqui this was because as a baby she had to leave with her family.

You’re also asked to provide evidence of your ongoing ties to Australia. For Jacqui this was that she was married to an Australian Citizen, had a child who was an Australian Citizen, had been employed in Australia and was a partner in a small business in Australia. We provided certified copies of our marriage certificate, child’s birth certificate, proof of employment and business registration. Basically, what you’re being asked to do is to prove that you really want to live in Australia for the long term.

We posted the application to our local Department of Immigration office on a Monday morning. The application payment of $363.89 was taken from our account on Tuesday. On Friday Jacqui received an email advising her that the Resident Return Visa(Subclass 155) had been issued to her. I was surprised how quick the processing was. The website had indicated possibly a processing time of 1 business day, and I’d say that’s accurate. As long as you provide the information required and meet the requirements you’ll get it quick.

Now that she has this Visa, she is eligible for basically any payment under the Social Security Act. Normally there is a Newly Arrived Resident Waiting Period that starts from the date you’re issued a permanent residence visa and lasts 104 weeks. However as she has an immediate family member who is a citizen, this is waived. We’re not intending for her to claim Australian welfare payments, but it is good to have a safety net.

In a year’s time from the date she was issued the visa, we’ll apply for her to get Australian citizenship. She’ll become a dual national, keeping both New Zealand citizenship and Australian citizenship. That will give her the additional benefits of being an Australian, such as access to student loans through the HECS-HELP or FEE-HELP system.

If you are a New Zealand Special Category Visa holder living in Australia who had visited Australia at some point prior to 1 September 1994,  you may want to your eligibility for a Resident Return Visa(Subclass 155). See this resource on the OzKiwi website for more information.

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