Illegal maritime arrivals

People who arrived illegally by boat are referred to as illegal maritime arrivals (IMAs).

The Australian Government is committed to not providing permanent protection visas to people who arrive illegally.

If you travelled to Australia by boat without a visa, click on the tabs below for:

  • multi-language videos to help you understand your immigration situation and how you can cooperate with the Department to reach an outcome
  • information about living temporarily in the Australian community
  • information about processing protection claims and decision reviews
  • information about what to do when a final decision has been made on your application for a temporary protection visa.

Information videos

Click on the images below to watch information videos in your language. These videos explain key issues about your immigration situation that you need to understand​.

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Returning home voluntarily Expectations and behaviour Cooperating with the Department
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Proving your identity Immigration pathways and placement​

Living in the community

This section contains information about living in the Australian community, in community detention or on a bridging visa, while you cooperate with the Department to resolve your immigration status. It also describes some of the services you might receive and the behaviour expected of you.​

Bridging visas for illegal maritime arrivals

A bridging visa is a temporary visa that lets holders remain in the community while their immigration status remains unresolved. Only the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection (the Minister) has the power to grant Bridging visa Es (BVEs) to illegal maritime arrivals.

If you are living in the Australian community on a BVE, you cannot apply for a further bridging visa. If the Minister is considering granting you a further BVE, we will contact you. It is very important that you inform us of any changes to your contact details so that we can contact you about immigration matters.

For more information, see Fact sheet 65 - Bridging visas for illegal m​aritime arrivals.

Code of Behaviour

A code of behaviour applies to all adult IMAs who are considered for the grant of a Bridging visa E (BVE) by the Minister.

The code of behaviour must be signed and witnessed. You will need to sign Form 1443 Code of Behaviour for Subclass 050 Bridging (General) (316KB PDF).

For assistance with this form, send an email to or talk to your service provider.

Form 1444i – Code of Behaviour for Subclass 050 Bridging (General) visa holders Supporting Information:

Thinking of Home?

If you are thinking about returning home you might be eligible for some assistance to depart Australia. The type of assistance is based on your individual circumstances. More information about voluntary returns is available.

Status Resolution Support Services

Some IMAs are eligible to receive Status Resolution Support Services (SRSS). These services provide support to people while they work towards resolving their immigration status in the community.

Temporary protection visa processing

This section contains information about:

  • processing claims for protection
  • current laws and regulations about protection visa applications
  • review processes.

Information for people who arrived illegally with questions about the processing of their protection claims

Information about the processing of protection claims by illegal arrivals is available in the When will my claims for asylum be considered? page.

Temporary Protection visas

On 5 December 2014, the Australian Parliament passed legislation to introduce Temporary Protection visas (TPVs). You can be granted this visa if you arrived in Australia illegally, are assessed as engaging Australia's protection obligations and meet all requirements.

Information about Temporary Protection visas is available.

Reassessment of cases affected by the SZQRB Full Federal Court judgment

The SZQRB Full Federal Court judgment found some International Treaty Obligations Assessments (ITOAs) did not apply the correct test to determine whether Australia's non-refoulement (non-return) obligations under complementary protection were met in some protection assessments.  The Full Federal Court also found that procedural fairness requirements regarding adverse country information were not met.

Information about the reassessment of SZQRB-affected cases is available.

Website privacy breach

In February 2014, a routine report was released on our website that unintentionally allowed access to personal information about people who were in immigration detention on 31 January 2014.  This information was accessible online for a short period of time before it was removed from our website.

Information about the website privacy breach is available, including translated fact sheets.

Safe Haven Enterprise visas

On 5 December 2014, the Australian Parliament passed legislation to introduce the Safe Haven Enterprise visa (SHEV). It is anticipated that the SHEV will come into effect in April 2015.

The SHEV will encourage IMAs to settle in a regional community and find work or study, while addressing the need to develop the economic and social structure of regional Australia.

Both TPVs and SHEVs will be protection visas that can be applied for onshore.

TPVs will be valid for up to three years and SHEVs valid for five years.

SHEV holders will need to commit to work and/or study in regional Australia.

SHEV holders who work and/or study in regional Australia for at least three and a half years of their visa and access income support for not more than 18 months in that time will then be able to apply for onshore substantive visas. This includes permanent visas (but not permanent protection visas) provided that they meet the application criteria for those visas. A full list of visas that SHEV holders can apply for if they are eligible is available in the legislation on the Parliament of Australia website.

If a SHEV holder was to access government assistance to study for a degree, diploma or trade certificate in a designated regional area, this would not be classified as accessing social security benefits.

A list of designated regional areas will be made available at a later date.

Like TPVs, SHEV holders will not have access to family reunion.

SHEV holders will be able to apply to travel outside Australia. Travel will only be allowed if they can demonstrate compassionate or compelling circumstances. They will need to get permission in writing before they travel. SHEV holders will not be allowed to travel to the country from which they sought protection.

The same benefits and conditions that apply to TPVs will apply to SHEVs. Both TPV and SHEV holders will have:

  • work rights
  • access to Medicare and related benefits
  • access to Early Health Assessment and Intervention Services (including counselling for torture and trauma)
  • access to Special Benefits, rent assistance, family allowance, maternity allowance and family tax benefits
  • access to education for children of school age
  • no access to settlement services, except where the relevant minister grants access as required.

People granted a TPV will have the opportunity to apply for a SHEV, if they wish to, when it is available.  A further assessment of protection claims will not be required in these circumstances.

More information on the new SHEV will be available on this website in due course.

Disallowance of regulation 866.222

On 14 December 2013, the Australian Government introduced a new regulation relating to protection visas that prevents anyone who came to Australia unlawfully from being granted a permanent protection visa. This regulation was disallowed on 27 March 2014.

Refusals that were made under this regulation remain valid as the regulation was valid at the time of decision. The government remains committed to only granting temporary protection to illegal arrivals by boat or by plane.

Information for service providers regarding the regulation 866.222 disallowance is available.

After your visa application has been decided

This section provides information on what to do when your application for a temporary protection visa has reached an outcome. 

There could be two outcomes:

  • You meet the requirements for the grant of a temporary protection visa
  • You are found not to meet the requirements for a temporary protection visa.​

You meet the requirements for the grant of a temporary protection visa

If you are found to meet all requirements for the grant of a temporary protection visa, you w​ill receive a ‘Visa Grant Notice’ from the Department and an ‘Important Information’ leaflet.

    • The Visa Grant Notice explains your visa conditions and provides your visa grant number. You should keep your Visa Grant Notice in a safe place for future reference. The Visa Grant Notice explains your visa conditions and provides your visa grant number. You should keep your Visa Grant Notice in a safe place for future reference.
    • The Important Information leaflet contains important information about services in the Australian community.

You are found not to meet the requirements for a temporary protection visa

If you are found not to meet the requirements for a temporary protection visa, you will receive a letter explaining the reasons for this outcome. You will be told if you have the option of a merits review available to you.​

If a decision is made to refuse you a temporary protection visa, and this decision is upheld by an independent merits review:

  • If you are in immigration detention:
    • you will be removed from Australia as soon as reasonably practicable.

  • If you are living in the Australian community:
    • you are expected to leave Australia
    • you might be provided support to help you return voluntarily to your home country.

Returning voluntarily means:

  • you will have more control over preparations for your departure
  • if you are currently living in the community, you will depart Australia from the community just like any other plane passenger
  • you might be provided assistance to help you rebuild your life in your home country.

More information about returning home voluntarily is available.

If you do not cooperate with the Department to organise your departure from Australia you might be detained and removed. You will have less control over your departure arrangements and you will not receive the same level of assistance as people who return voluntarily.

Last modified Monday 2 March 2015