Australian permanent residents are residents of Australia who hold a permanent visa but are not citizens of Australia. A holder of a permanent visa may remain in Australia indefinitely. A 5-year initial travel facility, which corresponds to the underlying migration program, is granted alongside the permanent visa. Until the travel facility expires, the visa holder may leave and re-enter Australia freely. After that period the visa holder needs to re-apply for the travel facility. However, holders of a permanent visa who are already in Australia with an expired travel facility may remain in Australia indefinitely.
Permanent residents enjoy many of the rights and privileges of citizens, including access to free or subsidized legal, education and health services. They do not have the right to vote in federal or state/territory elections, unless they were registered to vote prior to 1984, but may vote in some local government elections. Permanent residents are not entitled to an Australian passport.
Most permanent residents are eligible to become citizens after a waiting period. When the waiting period is complete, the process of sitting the citizenship test and attending the ceremony will add up to two years to gaining citizenship.
There are a number of programs under which a person may enter and obtain permanent residency in Australia, including:
General Skilled Migration Program– mainly for skilled migrants, and has made available 129,250 visas for year 2012-2013
Humanitarian Program– mainly for refugees seeking permanent residency, and has made available 13,750 visas for year 2012-2013.Family members can also be sponsored. An unlimited number of visas can be issued for partners (either married or de facto) and dependent children. Visas for other family member types are subject to limited (known as “capping”); for example there are only 1000 visas available under the ‘Parent’ category, and as a consequence there is currently up to a twenty-year waiting period before undergoing consideration for these visas.