Answer provided by our agents
Thank you for your question.
I understand from the information provided above that yourself and your wife are already permanent residents of Australia, and as soon as your visa was approved back in 2012, you visited Australia and activated the visa, and received the permanent residence visa label in your Passports. Your current permanent residence visa expires in March 2017, but you are currently working in Saudi Arabia.
As you are probably aware - the permanent residence visa, which you currently hold - allows you and your family who have been granted this visa to:
stay in Australia indefinitely
work and study in Australia
enrol in Medicare, Australia's scheme for health-related care and expenses
apply for Australian citizenship (if you are eligible)
sponsor eligible relatives for permanent residence
travel to and from Australia for five years from the date the visa is granted (after that time, you will need a resident return visa or another visa to return to Australia).
In answer to your question, your family - your wife and 3 children can definitely return to Australia before March 2017, without any problems or issues, and they can continue living in Australia and they can accumulate time in Australia and eventually they can apply for Australian citizenship and an Australian passport (Usually after living in Australia for the last four years, including the last 12 months as a permanent resident - they can then apply for Australian citizenship, which would then entitle your family to automatic right of entry to Australia and they would not need to apply for a visa again. The Citizenship application involves sitting a Citizenship test and attending a Citizenship ceremony, in Australia).
Regarding yourself, given that you intend to continue working in Saudi Arabia beyond the expiration of your permanent residence visa in March 2017, you would need to apply for a resident return visa to return to Australia after March 2017, and you could not just re-enter Australia on your expired permanent residence visa.
You would need to apply for the Resident Return visa (subclasses 155 and 157) . The Resident Return visa will let you keep or regain your status as an Australian permanent resident.
The Resident Return visa lets you stay in Australia indefinitely as an Australian permanent resident. It is a permanent visa with a travel facility that lets you travel to and from Australia for up to five years from the date it is granted. Once the travel facility expires you will need to apply for, and be granted, another permanent visa if you want to leave Australia and return as a permanent resident.
The current government visa application fee for the Resident Return visa is $360 AUD.
Resident return visa eligibility criteria for the Subclass 155 visa (entitles you to visa valid for another 5 years):
You might be able to be granted this visa if you:
have spent a period totalling two years in the last five years in Australia as either an Australian permanent resident or citizen (the 'residence requirement').
have not spent two of the last five years in Australia as a permanent resident or citizen, but can satisfy the processing officer that you have substantial business, cultural, employment or personal ties of benefit to Australia, and:
are lodging while in Australia and can show compelling reasons for any continuous absence from Australia of more than five years;
are lodging while overseas, were a permanent resident or citizen when you last departed Australia and can show compelling reasons for any continuous absence from Australia of more than five years;
are lodging while overseas, were a permanent resident or citizen in the last 10 years and can show compelling reasons for absence(s) over five years;
have not spent two of the last five years in Australia as a permanent resident or citizen, but are the partner or dependent family member of a person who holds a subclass 155 visa, or who has also applied for a Resident Return visa and satisfies criteria for grant
If you are applying for a Resident return visa in March 2018, 1 year after the expiry, you could claim 'Personal Ties' to Australia, given that your wife and children have been resident and living there for 1 year and they rent a house or have bought a property:
Personal ties: Substantial personal ties may be of benefit to Australia if you are, or have been, a participating member of the Australian community and economy. Living in Australia for a substantial period of time or living overseas with an Australian citizen partner is taken into account. Proof of personal assets or family who live in Australia could also help to demonstrate personal ties if you are able to show they are both substantial and of benefit to Australia.
It is unlikely that you will have Cultural, Employment or Business ties to Australia.
Subclass 157 Resident Return visa (Visa valid for 3 months usually):
You might be able to be granted this visa if you:
have lawfully spent at least one day in the past five years in Australia
have spent less than two years in the past five years in Australia
have been a permanent resident or an Australian citizen for the entire period spent in Australia
can show a compelling and compassionate reason for having to leave Australia or, if you are outside Australia, for leaving when you did
Therefore, it would be beneficial to return to Australia with your family in January 2017 for a short visit of 1 - 2 weeks so that you have been back recently and the Department of Immigration has a record of a recent visit to Australia, and you satisfy the requirements for the Subclass 157 visa above, in that you have visited Australia for at least 1 day in the past 5 years. However, you would also need to prove that you have been absent for a compelling and compassionate reason. Your compelling reason may be due to employment obligations and commitments in Saudi Arabia.
Thank you for your further questions and information provided:
In January 2017, you could enter Australia and apply for a Resident Return visa, as a current permanent resident prior to your actual permanent resident visa expiring in March 2017. The 157 visa is valid for 3 months but it can also be valid for up to 12 months depending on a number of factors. The 155 visa gives you an additional 5 years visa validity though.
You could apply for the Resident return visa from within Australia during your 2 week holiday in January 2017 and the processing time is fast - usually processed and approved within 1 - 2 working days in Australia. If you apply offshore in Saudi Arabia then the processing time is up to 2 weeks.
2. You can keep re-newing your 157 visa - which is valid for 3 months but in some cases it can be issued for up to 12 months or you may be issued with the 1555 visa which is valid for 5 years, based on the information and supporting documents that you provide in your visa application, and your submission and request to the Case Officer for a visa valid for at least 12 months to allow you to re-unite with your family in March 2018.
Yes - it would b e a good strategy to keep your permanent resident visa active through applying for a resident return visa prior to your permanent resident visa expiring in March 2017 and any other times, and it will be much easier to get the Subclass 155 or Subclass 157 visa for 3 months, 12 months or 5 years, as opposed to actually applying for the Resident return visa after March 2017 when your Permanent residence visa has expired and you will need to prove social, cultural or economic ties to Australia and compelling reasons for being away.
I hope that I have answered your question, and would appreciate if you could provide a favorable review.
Thank you for using Ask an Agent. If you need further services from myself or a registered migration agent, please contact Amy at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit https://www.ask-an-agent.com.au/visa-quote - and don't forget to mention your Question ID so that I can keep providing immigration services to you.