As a starting point, it is safe to say that being in Australia, or indeed in any country, without a valid visa is not a good idea.
If your visa has expired, whichever visa you held, your legal right to be inside the country has expired with it and you could be arrested and detained until you are placed on a departing flight from Australia.
And if you are removed from Australia as a result of your visa expiring, you will likely be barred from returning to Australia for 3 years and find any future visa applications treated much more strictly.
So what should I do?
If you do find yourself in this situation, all is not lost. You do have options – and the Immigration Department certainly looks favourably upon those who make an effort to resolve their situation.
Indeed, the Department has established a service, the Community Status Resolution Service (CSRS), with the specific task of assisting visa overstayers to resolve their immigration status without having to be detained or removed from Australia.
There are two very important things to know about the CSRS:
1. It is much better to approach the Department within 28 days of your visa expiring than after 28 days have elapsed; the Department has more leeway to grant you another visa within the first 28 days. And if you do wish to depart, by arranging your departure within 28 days of your visa expiring, you are far less likely to be affected if you wish to visit again in the future.
2. In any case, it is essential to contact the CSRS before Department compliance officers find you. If you voluntarily work with the Department to normalise your visa status, the CSRS will generally allow you to remain in the community by granting you a Bridging Visa (E). If you are not up-front about your circumstances and are caught, you are far more likely to be considered a risk and detained.
If you have overstayed, you may still have a pathway to apply for another visa while in Australia – which visas you may apply for will depend upon your circumstances, including the length of your overstay.
What do CSRS officers do?
The Department provides the following overview:
The benefits of working with a CSRS officer include:
– having a central person who can answer your questions and provide correct information
– regularly reviewing the progress of your case
– referring you to other services as necessary
– if required, helping you plan your departure from Australia, including organising travel documents and flights.
Note that the option to leave Australia is not first – you will, if you approach the Department proactively, be given every opportunity to put your case and explain why you are in your current position.
Whatever you do, do not make the mistake of thinking you can evade or outrun Immigration compliance officers; it is simply not worth it.