Refugee and Humanitarian Visas

The definition of a refugee is someone who has a well-founded fear of persecution, for a Convention ground. Convention grounds are: race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion.

There are a number of different refugee and humanitarian visas available to applicants wishing to come to Australia.

There has been much publicity of asylum seekers who have, and who have attempted to come by boat to Australia. From 19 July 2013, no person coming by boat has been allowed to settle in Australia (so the Government officially says). However there are visas for boat arriving asylum seekers who entered Australia before that date in 2013, and there are other refugee visas available for people overseas and who come to Australia to seek protection.

Although various Governments takes offence at asylum seekers arriving by boat, there is no prohibition on a person arriving by plane or otherwise through the normal channels of Australian immigration, from applying for refugee status. In that instance a person would apply for a subclass 866 Protection Visa. This visa grants permanent residency if approved. Several thousands of people apply for a Protection Visa annually, although there is a low approval rate of 2 per cent (2%).

There are concessions to a person applying for a Protection Visa onshore. Firstly, a person can always apply for the visa (of course only if there are reasonable grounds). Often non-electronic visitor visa holders have condition 8503 on their visa. This stops a person from making a valid (lawful) application while in Australia. However this restriction does not apply to a person seeking a Protection Visa, if that condition is on their incoming visa.

Also, if the person applies for a Protection Visa while holding a substantive visa (a “normal” visa but not a bridging visa), that person will obtain full work rights.

There is also a refugee/humanitarian set of visas for people who apply offshore, that is outside of Australia. There are the subclass 200 – 204 visas. Unlike an applicant for an onshore 866 visa, the offshore refugee visas require a family or community organisation sponsorship and support. A visa applicant also needs to show that resettlement in Australia is the most appropriate course of action. This ties in with the sponsorship aspect.

 

Some community groups have been allocated clusters of visas for sponsorship.

There are many more offshore refugee applicants than visas granted, and so the prospect of success is relatively low statistically. But the Government sets targets for different regions in the world.

The Australian Government announced an intake of 12,000 Syrian and Iraqi refugees (over a short number of years) some years ago.

The definition of a refugee is someone who has a well-founded fear of persecution, for a Convention ground. Convention grounds are: race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion. The Australian Government has its own definition of some of these terms (such as persecution, and some exclusions from the Refugees Convention (such as families being excluded from claiming refugee status, if the reason for persecution comes from illegal behaviour by a family member). Whether a person obtains a Protection Visa is determined by the Migration Act, no longer the Refugees Convention.

A person can also be granted a Protection visa, if the applicant would have substantial grounds for believing the person would suffer significant harm on return to their own country.

If an application for a Protection Visa is refused onshore, a person can make a review application to the Refugee Division of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. There is some delay for a Hearing before the Tribunal (over two years at present). A matter is completely reassessed by the Tribunal.

If the Tribunal refuses an application, a review application can be made to the Federal Circuit Court. For an adviser (that is a solicitor or barrister) to assist, there must be reasonable prospects of success.

This is a brief outline only of course of what is involved in a refugee or humanitarian visa.

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