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Is it easy to get an Australian visa?


Getting tougher on Australian visa applications from the Philippines


Getting an Australian visa application? Easy? Nope! Never has been! 

Oh, let’s see! MY Australian visa history! Yes I’ve been through the relationship/marriage/visa process myself. I’ve made  Australian visa applications, ie Partner Visas and Tourist Visas. Some good? Some not so good! This is why I GET all your plights! Been there, done that! Some smart. Some stupid.

First? 1986. Met girl from Europe. I was 21. She was 20. This was before the Migration Regulations of 1994 even existed, so things were much easier! I used the first fax machine I’d ever seen (had a mate who worked for Telecom…..that’s why!) offering support to the Australian Embassy for her Australian visa application. She got her 6 month tourist visa. She arrives in Australia. We marry. Get a form for a partner visa. Fill it out. Drop it off with a few letters and photos. I think it was granted in a month!

Second? In the 90’s. Wasn’t a Registered Migration Agent at the time, and assumed could just get a tourist visa and could repeat the first. Of course this was post-1994! Speedy refusal!

Third and Fourth? Same girl! Hard lesson when someone likes the money you send, but has no intention of coming to Australia! Anyway, led to another refusal. Hindsight? Saved me major headaches had she arrived in Australia.


Anyway, live and learn. Met Mila. Partner visa application took two months (which still seemed like forever….yeah, I DO get it!). Just celebrated 20 years of marriage a few months ago! Salamat sa Dyos! 

BUT….I look back to how little we put into that last application, yet it was speedy and successful. If we submitted the same thing today, would probably have failed! 

And every year for Down Under Visa clients? It gets tougher! People still abuse the system, and because of that they raise the standards and sometimes (often!) INNOCENT-but-ill-prepared people just like yourselves get caught up in that. You’re guilty UNLESS proven innocent in this game!


What’s the issue? Why so tough on Australian visa applications from the Philippines?


Issue again is that of people playing the system! Using visas for purposes other than what they were created for, and breaking the rules by overstaying and working unlawfully (illegally). 


Overstaying and working unlawfully?


Know what’s weird? So commonly it’s the relatives in Australia who HELP them to do this! This is why all your assurances of making sure they do the right thing and will leave in time don’t necessarily satisfy them. They get lied-to every day!


And using the wrong visa type?


That means “I want my girl to live with me in Australia, but I don’t want to get married so I’ll just get her a student visa!” etc, or “My mate owns a hardware store, and he can give her a job!” 

The Department see it as playing the system! Intention is to live as your partner, but you pretend she’s a student or that your mate needs her superior skills and sorting nuts and bolts! It IS playing the system! Just as is trying to get 12 month tourist visas and then think they can get another one, all so you can avoid the work and expense required to get a partner visa! I even remember someone wondering why the tourist visa was refused when he wrote on the application “We want to stay for 12 months because partner visas are too expensive”! Seriously!

So save yourself the cyber-ink on the email next time you want to ask me about alternatives! The shortest distance between two points is a straight line, and I do NOT play clever little schemes and games! 

Want your Filipina lady or gentleman to visit you for a while? Tourist visa! 

Want to be together as a couple? Partner visa! 


What changes have happened to Australian visa applications in 2023 and 2024?


Student Visas


NOT my area! Don’t do them. Never have. Most likely never will. 

I understand (as does the Department) that someone from Korea wants to study in Australia because (a) it’s considerably cheaper than local colleges and (b) the tuition is in English! You get more done in the world with English skills and a degree from Monash University than you do with a degree from Gangnam-Style University in Seoul! 

I also understand (as does the Department!) that Maryjoy from Pasay City can do her Hospitality course in Manila (a) WITH English language tuition and (b) a whole lot cheaper! So why go to Australia and do the same thing for 8 or so times the cost?

The Australian Government is reducing the numbers of grants by being tougher! Grants are down by 1/3 over the last 12 months. 


Tourist Visas



If you have HAD a tourist visa application refused, chances are you won’t get a grant unless something very drastic in your circumstances changes! I won’t repeat myself. PLEASE please please read this so you understand.

And please grasp the repercussions of refusals, and get some professional help rather than risking being in the same boat!


Onshore Tourist Visas

It was (honestly!) always fairly easy to get a further stay in Australia on a tourist visa by applying for an onshore tourist visa (ie applying for another tourist visa while they are inside Australia, so they don’t need to go back). And to this day? Don’t recall an actual refusal….ever! 

However? Lately we’ve had some where yes they DID grant a second tourist visa, but they granted one month stay only! Not 3 months. Not 6 months. No, just ONE month! 

What does that mean? It’s a polite way of saying “pack your bags and book yourself a ticket, and enjoy the next month together…because you’re leaving!“ Could be worse! COULD be an actual refusal. But it really amounts to the same.

So yes we will happily try for you, and I’d like to think we will get you at least the 3 month stay that you want. But it’s only fair to make you realize that they are AGAIN toughening up when they think someone is playing the system. 

This leads on to the next point!


Condition 8503 – NO FURTHER STAY

When I was first in practice? It was pretty much stock-standard for tourist visa applications granted in Manila to have Condition 8503 on them. Almost all! What this meant was that they could visit and stay for 3 months (and they even granted 6 month stays to Filipina fiancees back then), but then they had to leave at the end. No such thing as an Onshore Partner Visa. I can remember ONE grant in maybe 2012 or so which had NO 8503, and I immediately told them to take advantage of that situation and applied for an Onshore Partner Visa. I think it was the first I ever did! 

Now? Well, I haven’t seen one for at least 8 years. Maybe 10 years! One day they just stopped issuing them, and everything changed from that point. Suddenly the following became possible:



And don’t get me wrong! They still ARE available to genuine applicants (who are prepared to tell the truth about their intentions, ie never lie to the Department!)

However I hear from colleagues that they are starting to see 8503’s once again! And this is for all types of situations. Maybe driven by their intentions to thin out the herd of student visa applications, but these seem to be from a range of client situations. Not all intended student visa applicants. 

Now, this MAY happen to us! Maybe! Maybe soon. Maybe next year. But I’m duty-bound to warn you that it may happen. And no I cannot ask “Please don’t slap an 8503 on this one, fellahs?” Doesn’t work like that. 


How would an 8503 (No Further Stay) affect me?


It would mean that your 3 month stay would be just that. 3 months, then you leave! 

Waivers? ONLY in EXCEPTIONAL circumstances which are compelling and compassionate AND unexpected! And missing each other is NOT exceptional! In fact it’s very normal!

It means that if you planned an Onshore Partner Visa that it won’t happen. 

It means if you planned on adding another 3 or 6 months on to give yourself a total stay of 6 months or more, it won’t happen either!

If you wanted to add your child to your partner visa, or lodge an Onshore Child Visa, it also won’t happen. 


Is it the end of the world if that happens? Game over?

No! Not at all. Messes up your plans somewhat, in the same way as getting a tourist visa refused because you had a refusal already. You just change to an Offshore application, ie lodging (generally) in Manila while the applicant waits in the Philippines.

That’s how everything worked before! No one ever died from an offshore visa application. They just didn’t get to wait around in Australia on a Bridging Visa!

  • Bridging Visa Holders in Australia September 2022 369,182
  • Bridging Visa Holders in Australia June 2023 176,856
  • Bridging Visa Holders in Australia February 2024 231,409

Do you know that (to my knowledge!) no other countries use bridging visas! I don’t know about other country’s visas, and maybe some have something similar…..but wouldn’t be much! Most countries? You apply based on being married or engaged and you sit on your bum in your home country and you wait for that visa to be granted.

Australia? You apply for an Onshore Partner Visa? Even if it was still the bad old days of these taking years, the applicant remains in Australia on a Bridging Visa with work rights and Medicare! Clients of ours are often shocked when they realize it’s such a great deal! And look at those numbers! Some have lodged weak and pathetic applications and have no moral right to be inside Australia, but there they are reaping the benefits!

So they clearly want to reduce these numbers. 


The good news?


Partner Visas are being processed speedily offshore these days! In most cases you only need to wait a few months. Drop in the ocean in a long life together, right? And these are less stressful applications than preparing and managing Onshore Partner Visa applications, most definitely.


  • And right now? Other than getting really tough on student visas most things are the same. 
  • Still haven’t seen an 8503 (No Further Stay) in maybe 10 years!
  • They are still granting 3 months to MOST Onshore Tourist Visa applicants
  • We still have a very high success rate with Offshore Tourist Visa applications
  • Onshore Partner Visa applications are still a possibility for MOST applicants


Getting a Tourist Visa granted after a refusal? That remains a tough one, and a STRONG reason why you should not mess about and try to do this yourselves! Save yourselves a major headache and use a professional for this and for ALL visa work! 

It’s NOT getting easier!



Free online visa assessment form from Down Under Visa



Jeff Harvie is a Registered Migration Agent from Australia, but resident in Philippines since 2010 with his Filipina wife Mila and large extended family. Experienced with the Philippines culture, cross-cultural relationships and bureaucracy as well as Australian visas and Australian Migration Law, he writes with authority and fortunately with enough informality and humour that the average Aussie gets it! Down Under Visa specialises in visas for Australians in relationships with ladies and gents from Philippines, Thailand, China and Vietnam. Read MORE


Happy Down Under Visa clients – James and Evelyn
Down Under Visa – Australian Filipina couple John & Eva

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