Many people do not realise that when they are granted their permanent residence they receive a travel facility which is only valid for 5 years.
To maintain your Australian permanent resident status, you must either meet a residence requirement in Australia or show that you have close ties to Australia.
This article goes through the requirements to extend your permanent resident status.
Travel Facility on a Permanent Visa
Whilst your permanent visa will allow you to remain in Australia indefinitely, the travel facility is only valid for a period of 5 years.
If you wish to continue traveling to and from Australia after the initial 5-year facility, you must either:
Obtain a Resident Return Visa (RRV); or
Apply for Australian Citizenship
Australian citizenship is the preferred option as it will entitle you to always re-enter Australia. As an Australian citizen, you could also obtain an Australian passport.
To qualify for Australian Citizenship, you must meet strict residence requirements. If you don’t meet these, then the Resident Return Visa (RRV) would be the next best option.
5-Year Resident Return Visa (RRV)
This option would require you to show that you have spent at least 2 of the last 5 years physically present in Australia.
Ensuring that you spend at least 2 years in Australia out of each 5 year period is the best way to maintain your permanent residence in Australia. This way, you will obtain a 5-year travel facility and are not subject to any discretionary requirements (eg close ties to Australia or compelling reasons for absence).
12-Month Resident Return Visa (RRV)
If you cannot meet the 2 of the last 5 year residence requirement, the best option would be a 12-month Resident Return Visa.
Close Ties of Benefit to Australia
For the 12-month RRV, you will need to demonstrate substantial business, cultural, employment or personal ties of benefit to Australia. This would typically be:
Close family members in Australia
A job offer or ownership of a business in Australia
Evidence that you have established residence here – for instance leased accommodation, enrolled children in school or moved the bulk of your assets to Australia
Absence from Australia – Compelling Reasons
If you have been absent from Australia for more than 5 years, you will need to show that you have compelling reasons for this absence. The case of Lorenzo Paduano v Minister for Immigration & Multicultural & Indigenous Affairs & Migration Review Tribunal  FCA 211 (10 March 2005) turned on the matter of “compelling reasons for absence from Australia”. The correct question to ask when looking at this issue is: ‘Were the reasons for the absence compelling in that they were forceful?’
The applicant is the one who must have been ‘compelled’ by the reasons for absence
Applicants do not need to demonstrate an involuntary element, involving circumstances beyond a person’s control or involving physical or legal necessity
Compelling is to be interpreted broadly – forceful reasons for an absence may involve moral necessity or other circumstances which are convincing by reason of their forcefulness
Examples of Compelling Reasons for Absence
Seven examples of “compelling reasons for absence” are given in the Department of Immigration Procedures Advice Manual. These are:
Severe illness or death of an overseas family member
Work or study commitments
Living overseas with an Australian citizen partner
Complex or lengthy medical treatment preventing travel
Legal proceedings such as sale of property, custody, or contractual obligations
Natural disasters or political uprising preventing travel
Significant personal events for example waiting up to 12 months for a child to complete their education
Whilst the Procedures Advice Manual acknowledges that the applicant does not need to show that the circumstances were beyond their control, more weight would be placed on situations where this is the case.
RRVs for Members of the Family Unit
If you are eligible for an RRV, members of your family unit can also apply for RRVs. This would include your spouse and any dependent children.
The duration of the family unit members’ RRVs would generally be 12 months even if you have a 5-year RRV. If your RRV is expiring sooner than this, then your family unit members’ RRVs will expire on the same date as yours.