Australian visa holders overstay their visas for a wide range of reasons, mostly innocent.
Reasons we’ve seen range from the mundane – misreading the visa, failure of phone notifications, trusting a friend to keep track – to the elaborate – serious accidents, stolen documents or getting lost in the bush(!)
The key thing to note, no matter what the situation you’re in, is this: If you have overstayed your visa, you need to sort it out as soon as possible.
What ‘sort it out’ means will depend on your individual situation. If you are too unwell to travel, you might need a medical treatment visa. If you have lost your documents, you might need a bridging visa to allow you to stay long enough to get new documents sorted out. If you have simply stayed too long by accident; you need a bridging visa in order to be ‘legal’ when you leave the country, or otherwise you face a long ban on re-entry if you are caught with unlawful status in the airport departure line.
Simply leaving the country while unlawful is not a good idea.
And this is not to mention the possibility that, if you are found in the community with no visa, you can be placed in detention and removed from the country at your own cost.
The 28-day rule:
The 28 day rule is quite straightforward; put simply, the Department allows you a 28 day ‘grace’ period after the expiration of your visa before it imposes serious sanctions on you (including a bar on future travel to Australia).
If you find your visa has expired, whether or not you have a good reason, you need to sort your visa status out within 28 days. If you don’t, your options narrow significantly. In either case, it’s likely the only viable option for you is leaving the country, but your ability to return in the future will be severely hampered if you’ve been in Australia unlawfully more than 28 days.
So don’t, if you can avoid it.
Similarly, if you depart Australia without first ‘normalising’ your visa status (usually by obtaining a Bridging Visa), you can be barred from re-entry for a number of years. So be smart, fess up (get professional advice if you can – this stuff is serious!) and make sure you get your status fixed.
The Department has set up a special team for just this situation (the Community Status Resolution Service – CSRS). For those of you who can’t afford professional help, contacting this team will be the best first step, as they will generally grant you a bridging visa to prevent the risk of detention while you get ready to leave.
Make no mistake – while overstaying a visa is serious and it is treated as such by the Department, there is nothing to be gained by sticking your head in the sand as the situation can only get worse – not better.
How do I Check My Visa Status?
The Visa Entitlement Verification Online (VEVO) system, maintained by the Government, is the best way to find out your current visa status, including the visa you hold, its expiry and conditions. If you’re in any doubt at all, you should definitely plug your passport details in and take a look! There’s also an app, so you can take a little bit of the Department with you wherever you go….