There are two types of protection visas, both of which are designed to help people who are facing some type of persecution or are in need of protection from people in their own country. One is a permanent protection visa, and the other is a temporary protection visa. They have different application criteria and different benefits.

Permanent protection visa

This type of visa, known as a Subclass 866, is intended for people who are already in Australia legally and wish to apply for permanent residency because of a perceived need for protection. This is the main difference with the temporary protection visa, which is aimed at people who have already entered the country illegally.

If a permanent protection visa is granted, the applicant can live in Australia as a permanent resident with all the benefits that that bestows on them. They have full access to all government services, including Medicare and Centrelink, as well as full employment rights.

The applicant may be able to sponsor family members for permanent residency, although this can always be a slightly complicated process. The applicant may also be able to apply for Australian citizenship after a certain length of time.

Eligibility for permanent protection visa

In order to be eligible for a permanent protection visa, there are a number of specific criteria that must be met. The main one already mentioned is that the applicant must be in Australia legally at the time of their application.

The other main criteria is that the applicant must be a refugee, or engage in what is known as Australia's complementary protection criteria. The Australian government will require some degree of documentation in order to confirm the applicant's identity, as well as their nationality and citizenship of a particular country.

In addition, there are specific requirements regarding security, health and character. The character requirements are quite stringent. There are a number of very detailed conditions that an applicant must meet. These generally relate to whether or not the applicant has a serious criminal record, or has been actively involved in escaping or previously tried to escape from immigration detention.

In addition, there is a long list of criminal activities that would automatically exclude the applicant from being granted a permanent protection visa.

Temporary protection visa

The eligibility for a temporary protection visa is pretty much the same as that for a permanent protection visa, with two main differences.

A temporary protection visa is normally applied for by people who have entered the country illegally and are seeking asylum or refugee status on the basis of needing to be protected.

If the application is granted, the visa only gives the applicant three years' residency in Australia, during which time they have very specified rights concerning employment and study.

They will be expected to meet the same character and health criteria as someone applying for a permanent protection visa, and may be able to sponsor family members as well.