A bridging visa is a temporary visa which allows you to lawfully remain in Australia whilst your immigration status is decided. There are several types of bridging visas available, with each one designed for a particular purpose and based on the visa status of the applicant. The overall aim of the bridging visa programme is to provide lawful status in Australia to applicants who:

  • Have lodged, or intend to lodge, an application for a substantive visa that can be granted whilst they are in Australia;
  • Are unlawful non-citizens (meaning they do not hold a valid visa to remain in Australia) who either do not seek to, or are unable to, apply for a substantive visa in Australia;
  • Have substantial reasons for leaving and entering Australia whilst they await processing of their substantive visa application, appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) or judicial review (i.e. where an appeal is made to a court); and
  • Are arranging to depart Australia.

The most common type of bridging visa is a Bridging A subclass 010 visa (BVA), which is normally granted to visa applicants automatically when they apply for a substantive visa, if they hold a substantive visa at time of lodgement. A substantive visa is any visa excluding a bridging visa, criminal justice or enforcement visa. In such a case, a separate application for a BVA is not required.

In some circumstances, the applicant is required to lodge a separate application for a bridging visa. An example of this is the Bridging B subclass 020 visa (BVB). The BVB is identical to the BVA, but it has the added benefit of travel rights. This means that BVB holders can depart and re-enter Australia for a specified period. The BVB, along with the Bridging F subclass 060 visa (BVF), are the only two bridging visas which have travel rights. 

The provisions governing bridging visas are a complex area of the migration law, especially regarding when a bridging visa comes into effect. By way of example, if you hold a substantive visa at the time of lodgement of your visa application and you are located in Australia at that time, you will normally be granted a BVA. But this does not necessarily mean that the BVA will come into effect at the time when it is granted. But rather, it will remain dormant and be available to be used if, and when, it is needed. In this scenario, the BVA would come into effect when your current substantive visa expires. Or, or if you hold a more beneficial bridging visa at that time, the BVA will come into effect when that bridging visa ceases (the migration provisions stipulate the order in which bridging visas are ranked from most to least beneficial). It is therefore very important that you are aware of which visa applies at each relevant time, to ensure that you abide by the correct visa conditions. Breaching the conditions of your visa can have very serious ramifications, including visa cancellation. We therefore highly recommend that you seek further information and advice if this is relevant to your personal circumstances.

In this article, we provide an overview of the most commonly used bridging visas and the circumstances when each would apply. For further information about bridging visas for partner visa applicants, please refer to the following link.

What are the different types of bridging visas available?

There are 9 bridging visa subclasses, as listed below:

  • Bridging Visa A (BVA) Subclass 010;
  • Bridging Visa B (BVB) Subclass 020;
  • Bridging Visa C (BVC) Subclass 030;
  • Bridging Visa D (BVD) Subclass 040 (Prospective Applicant) and Subclass 041 Bridging (Non-applicant);
  • Bridging Visa E (BVE) Subclass 050 Bridging (General) and Subclass 051 Bridging (Protection Visa Applicant);
  • Bridging Visa F (BVF) Subclass 060; and
  • Bridging Visa R (BVR) Subclass 070 Bridging (Removal Pending).

We now discuss in more detail the most commonly used bridging visas, namely the BVA, BVB, BVC and BVE.

Bridging Visa A (BVA) Subclass 010

If you apply, in Australia, for a substantive visa which can be granted to you if you are in Australia, and at that time you hold a substantive visa, you will be granted a BVA at time of lodgement. The BVA will come into effect after your current substantive visa expires, unless you hold another bridging visa which is more beneficial at that time.

Bridging visas are ranked in the following order, from most to least beneficial:

  1. BVB
  2. BVA
  3. BVC
  4. BVD
  5. BVR
  6. BVE
  7. BVF

Therefore, if you hold a BVB at time of lodgement of your application, the BVB will remain in effect until it expires.

It may be the case that the BVA never comes into effect, which would occur if your immigration matter is resolved before the need for the BVA arises.

For a BVA which does come into effect, it will remain so until the earlier of when:

  • The substantive visa, which you applied for, is granted;
  • You depart Australia when your BVA has already come into effect;
  • Either your BVA or substantive visa which you held when you were granted the BVA are cancelled; or
  • You are granted a BVB (to allow you to travel).

If your application for a substantive visa is refused, your BVA will cease to be in effect 35 calendar days after the refusal decision.

If you apply to the AAT to have the refusal decision reviewed, the BVA will continue to remain in effect until 35 calendar days after the AAT has decided your case.

If you appeal the decision to a judicial court (after an unsuccessful AAT review), and the refusal decision is upheld, the BVA will remain in effect until after 28 calendar days of the decision.

Be aware that the above applies to a BVA which has been granted since 19th November 2016. For a BVA granted before this date, it will remain in effect until after 28 calendar days of the relevant event in all cases.

In certain circumstances, you will need to apply separately for a BVA, such as if you are applying for judicial review of a refusal decision. There is no cost to apply for a BVA.

You can apply for, and be granted, a BVA, only whilst you are in Australia. Eligible family members who have been included in your substantive visa application may also be granted a BVA.

A BVA may be granted with work rights. Applicants who apply for a Business visa or Skilled visa will be subject to nil visa conditions on the BVA and are therefore able to work. Applicants who have lodged an application for one of the following visas are also subject to nil visa conditions on a BVA:

  • Partner subclass 820/801 visa;
  • Aged Parent subclass 804 visa;
  • Contributory Aged Parent subclass 864 visa; and
  • Contributory Aged Parent subclass 884 visa.

If you have been granted a BVA which is subject to a work restriction, you can apply for a new BVA without this restriction if you can demonstrate that you have a compelling need to work. You will need to provide evidence to show that you are experiencing financial hardship. The Department will consider your financial circumstances (savings, income, expenses and support available from other persons) and the evidence provided. In assessing financial hardship, Immigration will have regard to the following:

  • Whether your claimed expenses are reasonable (for example, are they within the range considered acceptable based on your circumstances);
  • How you have supported yourself up until this point and whether that support will continue;
  • Whether you have other potential means of support (for example, your sponsor or nominator, relatives or friends in Australia, or relatives overseas);
  • Whether you would become an unreasonable charge on public funds or charities; and
  • When your substantive visa application is expected to be decided.

Bridging Visa B (BVB) Subclass 020

You can apply separately to the Department to add travel rights to your BVA. You will need to demonstrate that your reasons for seeking to travel are substantial and the need to travel is genuine.

‘Substantial’ is not defined in the migration provisions, but Immigration policy provides guidance as to what the Department considers to be substantial reasons for seeking to travel for this purpose. This includes travel associated with:

  • Employment, business or education (e.g. to attend a work or study conference, participate in business negotiations or meetings, or to undertake academic research or to present papers);
  • Family, other relatives or people important to you (e.g. to visit a seriously ill family member, relative or close friend; to attend a wedding or other culturally important event, or a funeral of one of these relations); and
  • Visa application (e.g. to undergo treatment for a medical condition, to obtain documents, or for personal reasons due to the delay in processing of your visa application).

The above are examples of the types of reasons which Immigration could consider to be ‘substantial,’ however it is not an exhaustive list and other reasons may be accepted.

You must provide supporting documents to evidence that your need to travel is ‘genuine.’ Examples include:

  • A letter from your employer to verify that the travel is for work-related purposes;
  • A letter from your education institution to verify that the travel is for study or research purposes;
  • If travel is for personal reasons, evidence could include an invitation to a wedding or other significant celebration of a relative or close friend; and
  • Where you are seeking to depart Australia to undergo medical treatment, a letter from your doctor or specialist confirming the need for medical treatment outside Australia.

You need to specify the period when you wish to travel in the BVB application. You should also provide a copy of your travel itinerary.

When deciding whether to grant a BVB, the Department will also consider when a decision on your substantive visa application is likely to be made, so that you are present in Australia for the visa to be granted.

You can apply for, and be granted, a BVB, only when you are in Australia. You should apply for a BVB between 2 weeks and 3 months before your proposed travel.

You can apply for, and be granted, a BVB whilst you still hold a valid substantive visa. This might apply where, for example, you are planning to travel outside Australia on your substantive visa but expect it to expire whilst you are offshore. In this case, you can apply for a BVB so that it is ready to come into effect when you are outside Australia, thereby allowing you to re-enter Australia.

Once you return to Australia, the BVB will remain in effect in the same way as the BVA (see discussion above). The BVA and BVB are identical in all respects but for the travel facility on the BVB.

You must return to Australia by the BVB expiry date. Otherwise, you will need to apply for another visa to allow you to return to Australia (you can only apply for and be granted a BVB whilst you are in Australia).

If, once you have returned to Australia on your BVB, you are required to travel again, you will need to apply for a new BVB with new travel dates. You cannot apply to extend a BVB which has already been granted.

The current BVB application fee is $145. Eligible family members who have been included in your substantive visa application may apply for and be granted a BVB. You can apply for a BVB on a single application form and pay one lodgement fee. Each family member included in the BVB application must satisfy the requirements for grant of the BVB (i.e. they must each have substantial reasons for seeking to travel offshore and provide evidence in support of their claims).

Bridging Visa C (BVC) Subclass 030

If you apply for a substantive visa in Australia and you do not hold a substantive visa at that time (meaning you either hold a bridging visa or no valid visa), you will be granted a BVC at time of application. If you hold a Bridging Visa E (BVE) Subclass 050 Bridging (General) or Subclass 051 Bridging (Protection Visa Applicant), or you held a BVE since you last held a substantive visa, you will not be eligible for grant of a BVC.

A BVC operates in a similar way to the BVA and is applied for automatically at time of lodgement of your substantive visa application. There is no cost to apply.

The BVC will normally come into effect immediately upon grant, and will remain so until the earlier of the following events:

  • The substantive visa, which you applied for, is granted;
  • You depart Australia when your BVC has already come into effect;
  • Either your BVC or substantive visa which you held when you were granted the BVC are cancelled; or
  • You are granted a BVB (to allow you to travel)

As is the case with a BVA, if your application for a substantive visa is refused, the BVC will cease to be in effect 35 calendar days after the refusal decision.

If you apply to the AAT to have the refusal decision reviewed, the BVC will continue to remain in effect until 35 calendar days after the AAT has decided your case.

If you appeal the decision to a judicial court (after an unsuccessful AAT review), and the refusal decision is upheld, the BVC will remain in effect until after 28 calendar days of the decision.

The above applies to a BVC which has been granted since 19th November 2016. For a BVC granted before this date, it will remain in effect until after 28 calendar days of the relevant event in all cases.

You can apply for, and be granted, a BVC, only whilst you are in Australia.

Eligible family members who have been included in your substantive visa application may also be granted a BVC.

In most cases, a BVC is granted with no right to work in Australia. An exception applies where applicants have applied for a Business visa or a Skilled visa, who are subject to nil visa conditions. As with the BVA, you can apply to the Department to have the work restriction removed. As discussed above in relation to the BVA, you will need to demonstrate that you are experiencing financial hardship.

As a BVC holder, you cannot be granted a BVB to allow you to travel. If you depart Australia on a BVC, you will not be able to re-enter Australia on your BVC and will need to apply for and be granted another substantive visa to allow you to return (if you are eligible). If you have an urgent need to travel, you should contact your Immigration case officer to discuss your situation.

Bridging Visa E (BVE) Subclass 050 Bridging (General)

A BVE may be granted to an applicant who does not hold a valid visa (and therefore is an unlawful non-citizen) or holds a BVE or Subclass 041 Bridging (Non-applicant) (BVD). A BVE may be granted to allow the applicant to:

  • Make arrangements to leave Australia;
  • Await the outcome of a substantive visa application;
  • Await the outcome of an application for judicial review for a refused substantive visa application;
  • Apply for, or await an outcome from, an AAT review of a decision to cancel their visa;
  • Await the outcome of an AAT or judicial review of a Citizenship decision; or
  • Await the outcome of a Ministerial Review decision.

There is no cost to apply for a BVE. The BVE must be applied for and granted in Australia. If you depart Australia as the holder of a BVE, it will cease, and you will be unable to re-enter Australia on the BVE. In this circumstance, you would be required to apply for and be granted a substantive visa to allow you to return to Australia (if you are eligible).

In conclusion, we note that the above discussion provides an overview of the most commonly used bridging visas and the circumstances when each would apply

Australia’s migrations laws are complex, and each case is different. We have also referred to several terms which are defined in the migration provisions (and whose meanings may differ from their ordinary usage). We recommend that you seek professional advice before you proceed with applying for any visa class, as being fully informed about the process and requirements that apply will give you the best chance of achieving a successful outcome on your application, and thus lessen the chance that it will be refused. A migration professional can help you to do this.

For up to date advice on bridging visas, book your confidential consultation with a migration agent in Adelaide. PAX Migration Australia is a leading immigration advice service based in Adelaide.