Defining “Tourist” for Australian visa applications


Australia has a very large number of different visa types, and all are governed by legislated Regulations defining what must-be and what must-not-be for that visa to be granted. And they take these Regulations very seriously when making decisions.

This is very different to many countries, where a tourist visa is almost the “base visa” which is the one you get when you don’t qualify (or couldn’t be bothered applying) for another more specific visa. That’s how it works in the Philippines. There are people here who’ve been on a tourist visa for more than 10 years! They just keep on extending it, and they continue to live here.


Actual "tourists"!

Actual “tourists”!


What is a tourist? What is a visitor?

It means someone who visits temporarily. They travel around and gawk and things in amazement. They say “wow” at every new thing they try. They take lots of photos. They buy souvenirs. And then they get on a plane and head back home.

A tourist or a visitor is NOT someone who settles in and makes themselves at home! If they intend to do this, then they’ve chosen the wrong visa.

Partner visas now cost a fairly large chunk of money. They also take an average of 9 months to be granted. And before that, they take a lot of work to prepare. I can’t blame anybody for thinking and asking  “Is there an easier and cheaper option?” But honestly, there isn’t. If you want to be together permanently, you will have to get around to doing this anyway. THREE great certainties in life: death, taxes AND partner visas!


Basic misconceptions

The most basic one is the “We’ll marry in Australia, then she will get to stay because she’s my wife” one.

Visa grants are “grants”. They are not “rights”. You may marry anyone you want, but they don’t get an automatic right to stay in Australia. They are quite OK about deporting your wife if she has no visa and therefore no legal right to stay in Australia. No visa = no stay. You still need to apply for a partner visa, and that’s all there is about it.

The other one is the LONG VISA myth. I’ve already written a post or two on this subject, the most detailed is the one entitled “Can I get a 1 year tourist visa for my Filipina lady?

Yet despite this, I still get regular requests for 12 month tourist visas! I had one the other day asking for a 24 month tourist visa!

No one takes a 12 month holiday! I wish I could! I’m sure most of you wish you could be a 1 year tourist somewhere, but it’s not realistic. And the Department know this too. If you want to be together for 1 year, it’s because you intend to use that time living together in a de facto relationship.

A tourist is NOT someone who “sets up house”! They are not someone who settles in, starts rearranging furniture (or going to Ikea with you buying new furniture), and starts making a family. That’s a partner!

This is something from a refusal letter once, and let me assure you that this is the USUAL way they look at attempts to use tourist visas in order to stay together.


I note that the applicant have previously been to Australia on a visitor visa on two of occasions and have spent a total of 183 days in Australia. A relevant consideration in assessing the genuine intent of a proposed stay is whether the intent is to use the visitor visa to effectively live in Australia rather than visit. Although I acknowledge that the applicant complied with the conditions of the visas previously granted to her, the fact that she had spent more time in Australia in the last year than in the Philippines on visitor visas, leads me to conclude that a genuine visit is not intended.


I DO understand that you want to be together and that you want to save money, but you need to stick to the visa types designed for your purpose. That means partner visas. Looking forward to helping you both!



Filed under Australian Visa Applications, Partner Visas - Offshore, Partner Visas - Onshore, Tourist Visas

2 responses to “Defining “Tourist” for Australian visa applications

  1. Maria Mercedes

    What about lodging a tourist visa…say for 6mos…while waiting for partner visa decision?

    • They are reluctant to grant 6 months in case they need anything further from you for a partner visa, Maria. Please feel free to complete an assessment form on our website and we can discuss this further.

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