Understanding visas & conditions

Asylum seekers have applied for permanent residency and are waiting
for their request to be processed.
In the meantime, many live in the community
with the right to work and study.

They may have come by plane, on another visa; once in Australia they approach
the Department of Immigration and ask for protection
(refugee application). Or they may have arrived by boat, spent time in detention,
and been released in the community on a Bridging Visa.

Asylum seekers are not refugees: in Australia, the term ‘refugee’ applies to those
who have been granted protection and permanent residency, and have
access to Centrelink services and support as other permanent residents do.

Asylum seekers do not have access to Centrelink services while they are waiting.

Asylum seekers are typically on a Bridging Visa – a visa that creates a ‘bridge’ between the visa they arrived into the country with, and the one they are applying for.

During this time, they are given a Bridging Visa, often A or E. The duration of Bridging Visas A is ‘indefinite’; Bridging Visa E generally have an end date, after which they are renewed until the person’s application for protection is finalised. These visas may grant:

  • Full work and study rights
  • Access to Medicare
  • No access to Centrelink allowances
  • No access public housing.

Note: this does not include people who live in Community Detention – in the community but without a visa.

The best way to ensure an asylum seeker has the right to work or study is to do a Visa Entitlement Verification Online (VEVO). VEVO is a free online service that gives visa holders and registered Australian organisations access to visa entitlements and status information 24 hours a day. Your agency can register online to request work entitlements and study entitlement checks. In order to request a VEVO, you will need the asylum seeker’s passport or immicard details, their full name, date of birth and country of origin. With these details in hand you can obtain a VEVO in a matter of seconds.


Some asylum seekers will have a visa in their passport, others a letter from the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, others again will have a visa document with their photo.

Visa & conditions (pdf)

Many asylum seekers are also issued an ‘immicard‘, which is a small plastic card not unlike a driver’s license. An immicard is not a visa, it is a piece of identification and has no bearings on work rights, study rights or visa duration.

Confused? If the visa comes without work or study rights, this will be specified under ‘conditions’. If no conditions are specified, the person has full work and study rights.

When checking someone’s visa, look for the mention of ‘Conditions: Nil’.