To be granted a visa, an applicant must meet the prescribed eligibility criteria for the relevant subclass and submit a valid visa application in accordance with Australia’s immigration laws. An invalid application cannot be considered and will be returned by the Department of Home Affairs to the applicant (or representative), even if that person would otherwise meet the required criteria.

Submitting an invalid visa application can waste thousands in preparation costs, extend wait times by months, and cause great inconvenience as the applicant remains in a state of limbo. An invalid application is particularly detrimental when timing is a critical element in the application process.

While it’s true that some applicants do not meet the criteria required for the grant of a certain visa type, many applications are unsuccessful because of procedural errors rather than actual ineligibility.

Navigating a complex immigration system and being familiar with the Department’s policies and procedures is essential for submitting a valid application. This article looks at some common pitfalls which lead to costly visa application mistakes. The article is intended to provide general information only. You should obtain professional advice before you undertake any course of action.

Applying for the wrong visa type

Australia’s immigration system provides pathways for temporary and permanent residency. With around 100 visa subclasses available, each prescribing very specific eligibility criteria, making the right choice from the outset is essential to avoid wasting time and money and to increase the prospects of being granted residency.

Applying for the wrong type of visa can also be detrimental to a successful grant down the track. For example, if a person who proposes staying in Australia long term applies for, and is granted a tourist visa, then the visa holder’s real intention (to stay longer) may be seen as a breach of a condition attached to that visa and jeopardise the grant of a further long-term visa.

Assessing the most appropriate pathway based on an applicant’s skills, qualifications, personal circumstances and visa history requires a considered approach, usually with the assistance of an immigration lawyer.

Lack of supporting documents

The Department assesses thousands of visa applications and must be satisfied that an applicant meets the required eligibility for the class of visa sought.

In addition to verifying an applicant’s personal identity through birth certificates, passports, etc, various visa types require proof of other matters such as:

  • Relationship status – documents to prove a genuine de facto relationship exists such as joint bank account statements, and testimonials from friends and family regarding the nature and length of the relationship.
  • Business activities – evidence of company trading history such as financial reports and accounting records, which may need to be audited and verified.
  • Personal assets and resources – complex personal wealth, company and trust structures need to be analysed and presented in a manner consistent with Departmental requirements.
  • Qualifications, trades and skills – credentials gained overseas need to be matched with the relevant Australian standards and validated through skills assessments.
  • Employment records and experience – tax returns, payslips and work references.

Immigration lawyers understand the documentation required to authenticate this information and often draw on experience in other areas such as corporate law and trusts to ensure an application is properly supported.

Mistakes in the application

The correct and most recent visa application form must be completed in accordance with the instructions. Common mistakes include failing to complete separate applications for additional applicants (such as a dependent child over 18 years), application forms not being signed by all applicants, and using a post office box rather than a residential address. These simple mistakes can be avoided by carefully reading and checking forms and instructions.


Information provided to the Department is scrutinised for inconsistencies. Details may be checked against a range of sources including previous visa applications, supporting documents, government records and even social media profiles. Information provided to the Department that is contradicted through Facebook posts can be a problem.

It is important to triple check everything before lodging the application, paying particular attention to inconsistent dates which can raise legitimate questions. Transparency is essential and copies of all information submitted should be retained by a visa applicant.

Innocent irregularities can usually be explained, however identifying issues before they are queried at Department level is preferable. Working with an immigration lawyer to understand and address any matters that could raise concern is wise.

Bad timing

Delays in meeting eligibility criteria and obtaining documents within prescribed timelines can impact significantly on the application outcome. Generally, little flexibility is permitted when it comes to non-compliance, even if a deadline is only marginally missed.

The validity of some visa applications can be affected by the applicant’s location at the time the application is made. Attention to timing requirements for submission with respect to whether an applicant must be on-shore or off-shore when an application is lodged is critical.

Processing times for applications vary, and it is important to plan strategically to ensure that eligibility criteria can be met and supporting documents provided as prescribed.


Many visa refusals are based on procedural issues rather than an applicant’s inability to meet the required criteria. In many cases, an application will not even be considered and be returned to the applicant as invalid. In some cases, an invalid visa application may be relodged, and a visa refusal reviewed. Of course, it is preferable to avoid this situation in the first place by submitting a valid and supported visa application.

If you or someone you know wants more information or needs help or advice, please contact us on 02 9699 9877 or email [email protected].