A Bridging Visa is a very useful safety net for those who apply for onshore visas (ie. Australian visas applied for inside Australia, and definitely not visas applied for in Manila).
What are bridging visas for? They keep the applicant lawful in Australia. They stop the applicant from becoming that most undesirable state of being an “unlawful non-citizen”, which is the cool modern term for being illegal.
Being unlawful means leaving yourself open to forceful deportation, and/or spending time in a detention center. It means being unable to apply easily for further visas. I won’t say it’s impossible, but it’s not so easy. It means needing compelling and compassionate circumstances, and needing to meet some strict conditions. In short, you must do whatever you can to avoid becoming unlawful.
How do you apply for a bridging visa?
Trick question! And one to make an important point.
Most of the time you do NOT “apply” for a bridging visa! Most of the time it’s granted automatically to prevent the applicant being unlawful in Australia, ie. to be in Australia without a visa because
- one visa has run out, and
- another visa is still being processed.
You do NOT say “I’d like one of those bridging visas, please!” and expect to get one.
And you cannot apply for a bridging visa because you don’t know what other visa to apply for. It’s a bridge between two visas. It’s not a bridge dangling in mid-air! It’s not a bridge to nowhere!
Please never think the Aussie immigration system is set up to make things really easy for you. It’s not there to provide an easy road to Australia. It’s there to protect the borders, and to make sure that only those who really should enter Australia are able to enter Australia. Bridging visas are there to ensure you remain lawfully in Australia and not roaming around in a state of limbo.
Bridging Visa A
This is the visa they give you when:
- You are lawfully in Australia and hold a substantive visa (ie. one they granted for you when you applied for it, such as a tourist visa), and
- You’ve made a valid application for another substantive visa (eg a partner visa).
When do you get a Bridging Visa A? You get it AUTOMATICALLY when the existing visa runs out, and they haven’t finished processing the second visa application. The tourist visa cuts out at midnight, and the bridging visa cuts in at midnight. And you stay on that bridging visa while they are processing the second visa application.
If the visa is refused? Then you stay on that bridging visa for a further 28 days while you sort yourself out. In some cases you can lodge an appeal at the AAT (Administrative Affairs Tribunal, which took over from the previous MRT), and in other cases you cannot. If you have no appeal rights, you need to ensure you leave while you are still covered by that Bridging Visa A.
Bridging Visa C
This is the bridging visa you go onto when you’ve allowed yourself to slip into that state of being unlawful in Australia, but you then make a valid application for a substantive visa inside Australia and that new visa application has not been finalized. Lodge the visa application, and the Bridging Visa C will kick in at the same time as it’s accepted by the Department. Less desirable, and usually with less rights. However it’s better than the alternative.
We’ll actually cover Bridging Visa B in another article, because it’s a bit different to the first two. There are also Bridging Visa D’s, E’s and a few others. But these are the most important ones which you are most likely to be exposed to.
- Onshore visas only
- You generally don’t make a separate application for them
- And they are there to connect two visas together when you would otherwise be in no-mans-land in between the two, or to keep you lawful while waiting on an appeal, or whilst waiting to pack your bags and organize a flight home.