Clients often come into my office and make a simple request: “I want to apply for a work visa.” The reality is that strictly speaking a substantial number of visas are not granted because of work reasons. Instead, they may have a right to work attached. What do I mean?

First, there are over 100 different visas types. The Department of Immigration has recently tried to reduce that number with changes relevant to skilled visas. Second, popular permanent visas include these two categories:

–   partner visas, this is a relationship-based visas; and
–   points tested skilled visas.

These categories are “popular” in terms of the proportion of the immigration programme they take up. I discussed the numbers in Australian migration numbers, visas and leadership.

Although partner visas are not obtained because of work or English language skills, can the person who applies obtain work rights?

This brings us to the topic of bridging visas. Most bridging visas are granted to visa applicants, and come into effect when any other visa the person may have held runs out (such as a three or six month visitors visa).The person must have applied for a visa, with that visa application not being yet determined by the Department.

Commonly someone can apply for work rights, or otherwise obtains them, while on a bridging visa. For instance a person applying for a partner visa applies on a particular Department form and usually obtains work rights. This can be quite important as a partner visa can take six months to be determined. If the Department rejects the application, these work rights will continue while the applicant seeks merits review before the Migration Review Tribunal.

Partner and other visa applicants can obtain work rights even though previously unlawful, although this usually involves more submission work before the Department.

Once a person obtains a partner visa (temporary or permanent), the visa allows unlimited work and travel rights. Anyone who obtains a permanent visa (from any part of the programme) has the right to work and travel in or out of Australia.

People who have made applications to the Minister to grant a visa can obtain work rights if the Minister is personally examining their case (work rights would be attached to the person’s bridging visa).

Also, protection visa applicants (those seeking refugee status) can obtain work rights, but only if they apply for protection within 45 days of being in Australia within the year prior to lodgement. This rule usually is fixed.

So, you can see that visa applicants and visa holders can obtain work rights in Australia, but guidance and advice is needed to secure them. You are only one email or telephone call away from obtaining our advice and services.

Further Reading


Paul Hense BA, LLB, BSW (University of Sydney), Principal, Paul Hense Migration Lawyers

Tel +61 402 448 449  |  Email:

If you wish to proceed to personalised assistance from Mr Hense of any inquiry, it will be done on a strict fee for service basis.

Mr Hense has been a migration lawyer since 1994. He has run a number of landmark cases, including before the High Court of Australia. He frequently represents clients before the Migration Review Tribunal and Refugee Review Tribunal. He has lectured for the University of NSW on refugee law and for the Immigration Advice and Rights Centre.  From 1990 and until recently he was a volunteer with the Immigration Advice and Rights Service. Previously he was a Senior Research Officer for the Australian Taxation Office.

Noric Dilanchian