Getting – and keeping – an Australian visa has become a lot tougher since a strict interpretation of the country’s ‘character test’ was introduced in late 2014. Amendments to the Migration Act in September of that year swiftly led to a crackdown on ‘undesirables’ who were not deemed of good character.
Residents whose visas are revoked are either deported or sent to immigration detention centres, pending appeal. Some long-term residents have been sent back home after decades living in Australia. And once that visa is cancelled on character grounds, they can wave goodbye to Oz for good as they won’t be granted another visa to re-enter Australia.
Clear message on good behaviour
The good character clause also applies to new applications entering Australia, whether permanently or temporarily. Immigration Minister Peter Dutton exercised new powers to revoke more than 200 visas over summer of 2014-5, compared to a total of 372 visa cancellations in the previous three years.
Mr Dutton explained how section 501 of the Migration Act had increased his power to cancel visas:
"It confers a power on the minister to, in the national interest, decide that a visa should be cancelled of somebody who, for example, had been involved in a serious crime. It may be that they've been involved in trafficking of illicit drugs, gang rapes or sexual assaults of another nature."
It is entirely up to the Minister to define what is in the national interest on a case by case basis, but two high-profile examples to fall foul of Peter Dutton in 2015 were singer Chris Brown and boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr – both with previous convictions for domestic violence and subsequently refused Australian visas.
Official government advice from the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) states that “Entering or remaining in Australia is a privilege, and it is expected that non-citizens are, and have been, law-abiding. Visa holders must also continue to satisfy the character requirement.”
So how can you avoid the pitfalls?
For the Australian Government to determine whether you are of good character, you might be asked to provide police certificates. You must disclose information including criminal convictions or charges, and the refusal or cancellation of any previous visas. Spent convictions also need to be disclosed.
You will automatically fail the character test if you have a substantial criminal record, which is defined as having been sentenced to prison for 12 months or more, or have any convictions arising from being held in immigration detention. It is also an automatic fail if you’ve been associated with an individual, or group suspected of having involvement in criminal conduct or are considered a risk for future criminal activity or danger.
But the character test is just part one of a two-part process. If any of the above circumstances apply to you, you could still be eligible for a visa if there are reasons for the Minister to exercise his discretion in your favour - for example, if your age or length of time in Australia shows that you are otherwise of good character.
But be warned – there is very often no appeal grounds against a
personal decision by the Minister, and very limited opportunities for appeal in
If you’d like to find out more, speak to us here at Visa Solutions Australia. We can advise and assist on your plans to migrate to Australia. Ring us today on +61 8 9328 266