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The Australian Border Force performs a significant role in the community by maintaining and supporting the integrity of the visa programme using a range of compliance measures to monitor, identify and locate foreign nationals who breach their visa conditions.

This role complements our border protection activities at our airports, seaports and across our maritime jurisdiction.

Our compliance role is designed to ensure that non-citizens comply with immigration laws while in Australia.  While the vast majority of travellers to Australia comply with visa requirements and laws, we use intelligence systems and field compliance operations to identify and locate non-citizens who do not have a valid visa or those in breach of their visa conditions.  Non-citizens without a valid visa, and those who do not comply with their visa conditions and have their visa cancelled, may be subject to detention and removal from Australia.   

Visa holders

All non-citizens must have a valid visa to enter and remain in Australia.  Information about obtaining a visa is available here  at Coming to Australia video.

Visa holders must comply with their visa conditions and be aware of the date that their visa ends. Visa holders are expected to either leave Australia or make a new visa application before their visa ends so they remain lawful. If a person's visa ends while they are still in Australia and they do not have a further visa application they will become an unlawful non-citizen.

The Australian Border Force uses intelligence and compliance field activities to locate people who have breached their visa conditions. 

Unlawful non-citizens should contact the Department straight away.  The Department will work with people who voluntarily approach us to resolve their immigration status.

The Department will facilitate the return of non-citizens who have been non-compliant, and do not have a lawful right to stay in Australia, to their home country or to a country where they have right of entry and long-term stay. People in these circumstances who do not voluntarily make arrangements to leave Australia as soon as possible risk being detained and removed by the Australian Border Force.

Illegal maritime arrivals

Australia does not provide permanent protection to people who arrive illegally by boat.  Anyone who attempts to travel to Australia illegally by boat will be turned back or transferred to a regional processing country.  The Republic of Nauru and the Independent State of Papua New Guinea are currently designated as regional processing countries.  Further information is available about illegal maritime arrivals (IMAs).


It is the responsibility of all Australian employers to employ workers who are lawfully permitted to work in Australia. Employers are expected to take reasonable steps to make sure they do not employ, refer or contract illegal workers.  Employers who are identified as engaging illegal workers can be fined or face criminal charges.  

Information for businesses including guidelines for how and when to check if someone can work is available at Employing legal workers

To make this easier, we provide a free service to check visa details online at Visa Entitlement Verification Online (VEVO).

Detention facilities in Australia

Where a person is subject to detention pending resolution of their immigration status, a range of detention facilities may be used depending on their circumstances. 

The Australian Border Force manages four types of immigration detention facilities in Australia:

  • immigration detention centre
  • immigration residential housing
  • immigration transit accommodation, and
  • alternative place of detention

This map shows the locations of detention facilities in Australia

Visiting an immigration detention facility can be arranged for legal representatives or migration agents of detainees, consular officials, religious representatives, volunteers and community groups and family members of detainees.  For more information, including a Visitor application form (30KB PDF) and Visitor conditions of entry form (34KB PDF), refer to Visiting an immigration detention facility.

In addition to immigration detention facilities, persons can also be accommodated in the community detention programme.

Since November 2011, eligible illegal maritime arrivals have been released from immigration detention into the community on a Bridging visa E.

We provide detainees in immigration facilities with accommodation and access to services such as health care, education, recreation and religious activities.

Our detention, return and resettlement operations are subject to significant independent oversight, for example by the Ombudsman and the Australian Human Rights Commission.

We have strong governance arrangements over our operations and publish a range of reports and statistics concerning illegal maritime arrivals and immigration detention in the community.

The Australian Border Force and the broader Department works with key government and community stakeholders at the international, national and regional levels who help us deliver world class migration, refugee and settlement programmes.

Offshore, we work in partnership with:

  • foreign governments to support and implement regional processing and settlement
  • a range of international intelligence, law enforcement and immigration agencies

In Australia, we work closely with the Australian Federal Police and a range of other Federal, State and Territory government partner agencies.