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​.

thumbnail image of Returning home voluntaliy youtube video thumbnail image of Expectations and behaviours youtube video thumbnail image of Cooperating with Department youtube video
Returning home voluntarily Expectations and behaviour Cooperating with the Department
thumbnail image of Proving your identity youtube video thumbnail image of Immigration pathways and placement youtube video thumbnail image of Living in community on a bridging visa youtube video
Proving your identity Immigration pathways and placement​ Living in the community ​on a bridging visa

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 bvereporting@immi.gov.au 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. Information about the SRSS programme is available.

Temporary protection visa processing

This section contains information about:

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

Processing 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. Specific information on Temporary Protection visas for unaccompanied minors is also available.

The Fast Track Assessment process

On 5 December 2014, Parliament passed legislation to create a Fast Track Assessment process for protection visa applications. These laws come into effect on 19 April 2015.

From this date, your protection visa application will be assessed under the Fast Track Assessment process if:

  • you arrived on or after 13 August 2012 and before 1 January 2014
  • you have not been taken to a regional processing country
  • the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection has allowed you to make a valid protection visa application, and
  • you lodge a valid protection visa application on or after 19 April 2015.

The Minister could also determine that other groups of people will be processed under the Fast Track Assessment process. We will tell if you are a fast track applicant. The Fast Track Assessment process will allow protection claims to be assessed efficiently by introducing a new review pathway. It also has shorter timeframes for applicants to respond to requests for further information or to respond to adverse information.

The Fast Track Assessment process uses a new review body called the Immigration Assessment Authority (IAA). If you are refused a protection visa, you will not be able to apply for review by the Refugee Review Tribunal (RRT). Instead, we will automatically refer your case to the IAA for a review. However, you will not be eligible for IAA review if you are assessed to be an 'excluded fast track review applicant'.

Under the Fast Track Assessment process, it is extremely important to give us your protection claims early and in full. If you do not give us all of your protection claims and we refuse your application, you might not have another chance to provide these claims.

If we have questions or concerns about the claims you have made or the information you have given, we will give you an opportunity to respond to our questions or concerns. This will be either during your interview or in writing. However, you will be given limited time to give us any new information before we make a decision on your application. It is important that you respond and provide any new information within the timeframes we give you.

It could be some time before you are invited to apply for a protection visa, given the large number of people who need to be assessed under the Fast Track Assessment process. When it is your turn and the Minister has allowed you to make a valid protection visa application, we will invite you to apply.

Stay in contact with us and make sure we have your current contact information so we can send you this invitation. It is also very important that you attend any appointments we arrange with you and respond to any questions we ask you.

To update your contact details, call 1300 728 662 with your name, date of birth, boat identification number, home address and contact phone number.

Tell us if your circumstances change. This includes a new residential address or phone number, a pregnancy, change of relationship, birth or death in your family, significant changes in your health or financial situation or criminal charges.

What will the Fast Track Assessment process involve?

When you are invited to apply for a protection visa, you can apply for a Temporary Protection visa or for a Safe Haven Enterprise visa (when available). You will need to fill out the relevant application form in English, or get a translator to help you if you cannot write in English. In this form, you should include all of your protection claims as fully as possible. You must be truthful and provide evidence to support your claims where this is possible.

You must provide genuine documents as evidence of your identity, nationality and citizenship. You will be asked to provide translated, certified copies of these documents with your application form. If you cannot give us these documents, you must have a reasonable explanation for not providing them.

Documents in a language other than English should be accompanied by an English translation completed by a translator who is accredited by the National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters (NAATI).

You will be asked to attend an interview with an immigration officer. That officer will ask you for more information about yourself and your claims. When answering these questions, you must speak truthfully and provide all the information you have about your protection claims.

If you are found to engage Australia's protection obligations and meet all other criteria, such as health, security, character and identity requirements, you will be granted a temporary visa to stay in Australia.

To help you apply for protection, we have developed the Protection Application Information and Guides (PAIG). These documents include more information on how to apply for a visa, your visa options and the assessment process.

Review rights

Under the Fast Track Assessment process, you will not have access to the RRT. If you are found not to engage Australia's protection obligations, you could get a limited form of review by the IAA. You will not be eligible for this review if you are assessed to be an excluded fast track review applicant.

The IAA will only consider information that was available to us when we made the decision to refuse your visa. This includes the information you gave to us in your protection visa application. In most cases, you will not be able to give new information to the IAA. This will only be allowed in exceptional circumstances.

You do not need to apply for IAA review. If you are eligible, we will automatically refer your case to the IAA. We will tell you if we do this.

Excluded fast track review applicants

If we find that you do not engage Australia's protection obligations, we will then assess whether you are eligible to have this decision reviewed. You will not be eligible for a review if you:

  • have access to a safe third country that you can seek protection from, or are a national of two or more countries
  • have previously entered Australia and, while in Australia, made an application for a protection visa which was either refused or withdrawn
  • have been refused protection in another country, including with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
  • have made manifestly unfounded claims for protection (that is, your claims have no substance)
  • have given us a bogus document as part of your protection visa application and do not have a reasonable explanation for doing so.

If you fit one of these criteria, you will be an excluded fast track review applicant. We will tell you if we assess that you fit one of these criteria. You will be able to comment and give us more information before we reach a decision.

If we decide that you are an excluded fast track review applicant, you cannot seek merits review of our decision to refuse your visa. You will be expected to make arrangements to leave Australia.

Application assistance

To help you apply for protection, we have developed the Protection Application Information and Guides (PAIG).

People who have entered Australia illegally and have been determined to be most vulnerable may have access to application assistance through the Primary Application Information Services (PAIS). We will tell you if you can get this service.

You can seek the assistance of a registered migration agent at any time. You will have to pay for this yourself.

Why has the new Fast Track Assessment process been introduced?

There are many asylum seekers who arrived in Australia illegally and are waiting to have their claims assessed. This new system means we can make sure our protection visa application process for these asylum seekers is more efficient and effective.

Can I choose to have my claims for protection assessed under a different process?

No. All IMAs in Australia who arrived on or after 13 August 2012 and before 1 January 2014, who lodge a valid protection visa application on or after 19 April 2015, will have their claims assessed under the Fast Track Assessment process.

Will IMAs at Nauru or Manus Island be processed under the Fast Track Assessment process?

No. IMAs who have been transferred to Nauru or Papua New Guinea will have their asylum claims assessed under the laws of those countries. They will not be resettled in Australia.

Going home

If you are found not to engage Australia's protection obligations, you will be expected to return home or to another country where you have right of entry.

You can choose to return home or to another country where you have right of entry at any time. You may be eligible for assistance to return home. For information about your options to return home, visit the IOM Thinking of home website.

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.

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
    or
  • 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.

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