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Special Purpose Visa


In order to establish residency, it must first be decided if a person is an Australian resident. One definition of an Australian resident is a person who resides in Australia, is the holder of a special purpose visa and is likely to remain permanently in Australia. Below are details of what constitutes a special purpose visa.     

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Who's Eligible

A special purpose visa is a temporary visa issued to a non-citizen:

  • with a prescribed status; or
  • who is declared, in writing, by the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship to be deemed to have a prescribed status.
Who's Not Eligible

The Minister for Immigration and  Citizenship may make a written declaration, that it is undesirable that a person or class of persons be issued with a special purpose visa.

Example: - Persons not Considered to have Prescribed Status

The following are examples of persons that do not have a prescribed status and therefore have no legal right to stay in Australia:

  • people who enter Australia without a current visa, (eg  stowaways or seamen who have deserted their ships without leave);
  • people whose temporary visa expires or is cancelled by the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship; or
  • people who become absent without leave or cease to be members of the forces of another Commonwealth country.

An Australian resident is a person who:

  • resides in Australia; and
  • is one of the following:
  • an Australian citizen;
  • the holder of a permanent visa;
  • the holder of a special category visa who is likely to remain permanently in Australia;
  • the holder of a special purpose visa who is likely to remain permanently in Australia.

Australia is defined in the Acts Interpretations Act 1901 and includes the following territories and Islands:

  • Christmas Island
  • Cocos (Keeling) Islands

Subsection 5Q(1) of the VEA provides specifically that the definition of Australia includes the external territories for many VEA purposes including Part III, IIIAB, some parts of Part IIIB, Parts IIID, VIIA, VIIC and sections 52ZO, 58A, and 132.  Norfolk Island is currently the only external territory of Australia. For the above VEA sections, which cover service pension, [glossary:income support supplement:118], pension bonus, pension loans scheme, Veterans supplement, pension supplement and Commonwealth Seniors Health Card purposes it is considered to be part of Australia. The test of residing in Australia does not by itself satisfy the full definition of Australian Resident, as residency also requires Australian citizenship or the holding of a specified visa.

Papua New Guinea and Nauru have both previously been external territories of Australia.  Lord Howe Island and Macquarie Island, formerly regarded as separate islands, are now part of mainland NSW and Tasmania respectively.



The following persons are considered to have a prescribed status for the purpose of receiving a special purpose visa:

  • members of the Royal Family and Royal Party;
  • guests of the government;
  • SOFA forces members and SOFA forces civilian component members;
  • Asia-Pacific forces members;
  • Commonwealth forces members;
  • foreign armed forces dependants;
  • foreign naval forces members;
  • members and family of the crew of non-military ships (other than ships being imported into Australia);
  • members of the crew of ships being imported into Australia;
  • airline crew members and airline positioning crew members;
  • persons visiting or in transit to or from Macquarie Island
  • children born in Australia:
  • of a mother who at the time of the birth holds a special purpose visa, if only the mother is in Australia at that time; or

  • to parents both of whom, at the time of birth, hold special purpose visas, if at that time both parents are in Australia;

  • Indonesian citizens, or persons having a right to return to Indonesia, visiting the casino on Christmas Island;
  • Singaporean citizens visiting the casino on Christmas Island.