Unlawful? Illegal? 13 Things You Need To Know

12 Mar


Have you let your visa expire and and you’ve become unlawful?  How do you feel? What should you do? What should you not do?

If you find yourself in this situation, it is essential that you know what sort of things you can do to alleviate your situation, and what you should absolutely not do (or only do once you have some proper advice).

Don’t do’s

  1. Do. Not. Panic.
  2. Don’t believe the friendly posters that the Department of Home Affairs publishes on its website, on the walls of its offices, and on the doors of various places around the towns and cities of Australia. These posters encourage you to talk to a “friendly” Department officer, who will solve all your problems and make things better. NO! What will happen if you report to the DHA, is that at best you will be given a Bridging Visa E, and seven days to leave the country. At worst you may be detained and you will be given a very short period of time to apply for a Bridging Visa E or another type of visa if you are eligible (really only limited to Partner Visas, and Protection Visas) – but applying for such visas does not mean you will be released from detention.
  3. Don’t get caught speeding, or any other traffic infringement, such as drink-driving etc. Police Departments all around the country are obliged to provide your details to the Department of Home Affairs, who will locate you and possibly detain you as above. A couple of years ago one of our clients was welcomed home in the evening by around eight Border Force officials, after he had been caught speeding.
  4. Keep yourself away from the courts – don’t do anything silly to be charged with a criminal offence as once again the police will be obliged to report your details.
  5. Don’t do anything at the register of Births, Deaths & Marriages (BDM). For example, do not register your relationship, do not register a new baby, do not register or apply for a marriage license. As with the police, BDM must exchange information with the DHA. When the DHA gets their hands on your personal information, you will be located and potentially detained.
  6. Don’t forget that the  ATO, federal and state police departments, social security and other government departments have a data exchange program with the DHA, meaning that any  information you provide to any of these departments may in turn be provided to the DHA.
  7. Don’t work  until you have permission via work rights on a bridging visa.


  1. Remain calm.
  2. Realise that if you have been unlawful for less than 28 days, you may not be subject to a  3 year ban from applying for future temporary visas.
  3. Find yourself an immigration lawyer. When you consult an immigration lawyer, you are protected by Legal Professional Privilege, which means that all information you provide to your immigration lawyer, is confidential and may not be disclosed without your permission. The DHA has the capacity to serve notices on Migration Agents, banks etc to obtain your personal information and location details, when they suspect that you are unlawful. Registered Migration Agents (who are not lawyers) and banks (and other institutions) cannot resist these notices, as to do so can attract criminal convictions to them. Immigration lawyers however, may not disclose any of your information to the DHA because any information you provide to them is privileged.This means that immigration lawyers can ignore the notice without criminal sanctions, and your privacy and information is protected.
  4. Find yourself an immigration lawyer, with known strategies to help you stay in Australia lawfully if that’s what you want to do. Strategic thinking immigration lawyers, will use the law, lawfully to assist you to become lawful – and even become permanent residents and ultimately Australian citizens if the relevant criteria can be met. Generally, a strategic thinking immigration lawyer will be able to  obtain work rights for you as well. Just find an experienced immigration lawyer okay? Now!
  5. Do realise that there may well be perfectly good visa options for you that will make you lawful. The party may not be over!
  6. Read our earlier blog post as a refresher, and for further information.

Panicking? Stressed? Stop, and book a consultation, and let’s see what we can do for you. Or call us +61 3 9573 5200, and ask to speak to one of our lawyers. Put us in your corner.