Skip to main content
CitizenshipImmigrationPermanent ResidenceResident Return Visa

A welcome guide: permanent residence in Australia

By 8 May, 2020June 14th, 20232 Comments10 min read

permanent residence in Australia

First of all, congratulations on your Australian permanent residence. In some cases, this could be the culmination of years of effort and dedication. Whatever your journey, welcome to Australia. Now that you are here, this guide provides a few pointers on what it means to be a permanent resident in Australia, and if you choose to, take the next steps towards Australian citizenship.

Permanent residence

As a permanent resident of Australia, you generally can:

  • remain in Australia indefinitely
  • work and study in Australia
  • enrol in Australia’s national health scheme, Medicare (see below)
  • apply for bank loans to buy property
  • sponsor eligible relatives for permanent residence
  • apply for Australian citizenship, if eligible (see below)
  • travel to and from Australia for as long as your travel facility permits
  • attend free English language classes provided by the Adult Migrant English Program
  • work in New Zealand

However, being a permanent residence does not give you many rights associated with citizenship (for example a passport, access to FEE-HELP / HECS-HELP or voting rights).

Right of entry / travel

Permanent residents do not have an automatic right of entry to Australia. They must have a permanent visa with a valid travel authority to return to Australia as a permanent resident. Generally, this means applying for a Resident Return Visa (or obtaining Citizenship) prior to your travel facility expiry.

Usually your permanent residence visa will have been granted with a 5 year travel facility.

If you need to apply for a Resident Return Visa, you can read more about this here.

If you want to apply for Australian Citizenship, you can read about it here.


The ATO doesn’t use the same rules as the Department of Home Affairs to determine your tax residency. This means

  1. you can be an Australian resident for tax purposes without being an Australian citizen or permanent resident
  2. may have a visa to enter Australia, but are not an Australian resident for tax purposes

Taxation can be complicated so we recommend you speak to a tax adviser to see how your visa status impacts your tax responsibilities.

You can read further information from the ATO here.

Social Security

The Australian income support system differs from those of most other developed countries in that it is funded from general revenue, rather than from direct contributions by individuals and employers. Instead of reflecting the level and duration of contributions into a social insurance fund, Australian income support is based on residence and need.

What is an Australian resident?

In general, a person must be an “Australian resident”, as defined in the Social Security Act 1991, in order to qualify for Australian social security payments. An Australian resident is a person who resides in Australia and has permission to remain permanently—either because they are: an Australian citizen; the holder of a permanent visa; or a protected Special Category Visa holder. In deciding whether a person is residing in Australia, factors such as the person’s domestic, financial and family ties to Australia are taken into account, as well as the frequency and duration of any absences from Australia and the reasons for such absences.

Is there a waiting period?

While most income support payments have up to a four year waiting period, Age Pension and DSP have a 10-year qualifying residence requirement. This 10-year qualifying residence requirement aims to ensure that only those people who have established a long term connection with Australia are able to access Age Pension and DSP. The 10-year qualifying residence period must include a period of five years continuous residence in Australia. The qualifying residence period begins from the date the person starts residing in Australia as a permanent visa holder. Time spent in Australia on a temporary visa is not counted towards the qualifying residence period.

Read more from the Department of Social Services here.


Commonwealth supported places

A Commonwealth supported place (CSP) is a place at a university or higher education provider where the government pays part of your fees. This part is a subsidy, not a loan, and you don’t have to pay it back.

This subsidy does not cover the entire cost of your study. Students must pay the rest, called the ‘student contribution amount’.

Most CSPs are for undergraduate study. Only some providers offer CSPs at the postgraduate level.

Who is eligible for a CSP?

Being eligible for a CSP does not mean that a student will be offered a CSP as each provider and each course can have its own extra entry requirements. Generally speaking, to get a CSP, you must be one of the following:

  1. an Australian citizen, who will live and study in Australia for some of the course; or
  2. a New Zealand citizen, who will live and study in Australia for the whole course; or
  3. a permanent visa holder, who will live and study in Australia for the whole course.

However, please note that permanent residents will not be eligible for HECS-HELP / FEE-HELP loans.

Who can get HECS-HELP / FEE-HELP

To get a HECS-HELP loan, you must be an Australian citizen and meet the residency requirements (you must study at least part of your course in Australia) or be a New Zealand Special Category Visa (SCV) holder or permanent humanitarian visa holder and meet the residency requirements.

For further information, please refer to here.


You may already have access to Medicare if you were in Australia when you applied for your permanent residence visa (apart from a Parent visa)  and you met one of the following:

  1. you were on a visa allowing you to work
  2. you were able to prove your parent, spouse or child is an Australian citizen
  3. you were able to prove your parent, spouse or child is a permanent resident
  4. you were able to prove your parent, spouse or child is a New Zealand citizen living in Australia.

In other cases, you can enrol in Medicare if you live here on a permanent resident visa.

For further information, please refer to here.


Generally, those over the age of 18 who apply for Australian citizenship must:

  1. have passed a citizenship test (unless over the age of 60)
  2. be a permanent resident at the time of application, and also, at time of decision
  3. satisfy the residence requirement
  4. be likely to reside, or to continue to reside, in Australia or to maintain a close and continuing association with Australia
  5. be of good character.

What is the residence requirement?

To satisfy the residence requirement, an adult who became a permanent resident on or after 1 July 2007 must have been lawfully residing in Australia for four years immediately before applying for Australian citizenship. This includes:

  1. 12 months as a permanent resident in the last 4 years
  2. absences from Australia in the last 4 years of no more than 12 months
  3. absences from Australia of no more than three months in the 12 months before applying

Being an Australian citizen entitles you to the right to:

  1. live in Australia
  2. apply for an Australian passport and to leave and re-enter Australia without applying for a resident return visa
  3. seek assistance from Australian diplomatic representatives while overseas
  4. work in the public service
  5. access HECS-HELP / FEE-HELP
  6. serve in the armed forces
  7. obtain ongoing work in the Australian Government
  8. register as Australian citizens by descent any of your children born overseas after you become an Australian citizen
  9. stand for Parliament
  10. vote to elect members of Parliament.

A brief summary is tabulated below:

Australian citizen
Permanent resident

A citizen has automatic right of entry to Australia.

Only citizens can also obtain an Australian passport, unlocking visa free travel to 183 countries (see here)

If a permanent resident chooses to travel internationally they need to ensure they have a permanent visa with a valid travel authority if they wish to return to Australia as a permanent resident.


A citizen can vote in Australian government elections

In most cases permanent residents can’t vote in Australian government elections. However, if a permanent resident was enrolled to vote (as a British subject) prior to 1984, they may remain eligible to vote.


Can access Commonwealth Funded Places as well as HECS-HELP / FEE-HELP

Can access Commonwealth Funded Places but not HECS-HELP / FEE-HELP

Employment / Join Defence Force / Ongoing work with the government

Unrestricted work rights and can join the defence force or undertake ongoing work with the Australian government

Unrestricted work rights, but cannot join the defence force or undertake ongoing work with the Australian government

Government services and benefits

Eligibility for government services and benefits depends on the rules set by the relevant government agency responsible for the service or benefit.

Eligibility for government services and benefits depends on the rules set by the relevant government agency responsible for the service or benefit.

Any questions?

If you have any questions about your permanent residency or pathways to citizenship, please feel free to reach out to us by email at [email protected] or phone (03) 9016 0484.

To receive further updates, please subscribe to our newsletter.


Mihan Hannan

Author Mihan Hannan

Formerly a Senior Associate in one of Australia’s most reputable immigration litigation and review practices, Mihan is solutions focused and well versed in all aspects of Australian immigration law. Mihan also has a subscription addiction, being obsessed with tools to improve the firms immigration work flow.

More posts by Mihan Hannan

Join the discussion 2 Comments

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.