Australia operates a dedicated Humanitarian Visa Program, that offers resettlement for refugees and other overseas individuals who are in dire humanitarian need and also require protection. Despite opinions to the contrary Australia is one of the world’s most generous contributors to international refugee resettlement efforts, successfully settling more than 930,000 refugees and others in humanitarian need since the end of the Second World War. So as a percentage of population this is quite high and does not take into consideration all the other immigration pathways into Australia.

Whilst the filing/application cost of humanitarian visas range from $0 to nominal amounts e.g., $40.00. They can cost between $1500.00 and $5,000.00 per application for professional assistance.

This may sound high however, immigration law is a minefield. Compiling, coordinating and assisting to organise what is required in relation to documentation, the application process etc. is very time consuming, very specific and at times extremely difficult to navigate.

Some applications can take a number of years to complete and finalise. So, when you compare the time period, over which an application can take to be processed, the requirements in relation to further submissions on behalf of applicants, as an applicant’s details, circumstances and status changes, this is money well spent and a relatively low cost, as far as fees go in comparison to time spent.

It definitely helps to have someone who is familiar with the process to avoid the many pitfalls, that can cause problems for the unrepresented applicant. If an application is refused at any time, the offshore applicant cannot seek review of the decision.

Last year, Australia granted 13,770 humanitarian visas, fulfilling its international obligations. However outside of Australia there were probably ten times that number hoping to be accepted by Australia.

There are many options available to assist a person in gaining a visa on humanitarian grounds, depending on their circumstance and the type of visa sought.

Although Australia is a signatory to the refugee convention, the Government is not obliged to accept a person who is not in danger of persecution, even if their reason for fleeing their home country is due to war, famine, environmental disaster, or pursuing better economic opportunities. This is partly due to the fact, that there are potentially other countries, in which the applicants may be a better fit culturally. Sometimes when people leave their homeland for reasons they cannot control and arrive in a new country of residence, there is the potential of a culture shock and the new arrivals may have trouble adjusting to their new surroundings.

When granting a humanitarian visa, Australia uses the Refugees Convention as an assessment tool. The Refugees Convention defines a refugee as a person:

  • Who is outside their country of origin or residence
  • who is unable, or unwilling to return to their country of origin because of a legitimate fear of persecution regarding their race, religion, nationality, group membership, or a political belief
  • who is not a war criminal, and has not committed any serious non-political crime.

That being said, there are a number of other humanitarian visa categories, for humanitarian visa applications, made outside of Australia. These are -:

  • Refugee Visa (Subclass 200)
  • In-country Special Humanitarian Program Visa (Subclass 201)
  • Global Special Humanitarian Program Visa (“SHP”) (Subclass 202)
  • Emergency Rescue Visa (Subclass 203)
  • Woman at Risk Visa (Subclass 204)

These SHP Visa, applications made outside of Australia are granted on the following basis -:

1. A person is in danger of persecution in their country of origin.

2. The (UNHCR) has identified a particular class of person is in danger, and has referred the person to the Australian Government.

3. The Australian Government to make a direct assessment on the threat of persecution, and provide the appropriate response.

An application for an SHP Visa is made on behalf of a person who is suffering substantial discrimination and a violation of their human rights, and can be made by an Australian citizen, permanent resident or humanitarian organisation.

However, when a person is already in the country, and is seeking a humanitarian visa, an application can be made for a Protection Visa (Class XA) (Subclass 866).

In this instance an applicant who is successful in gaining a Protection Visa must:

  • be a refugee as defined by the Refugees Convention
  • pass the health and character tests
  • sign the Australian Values Statement.

The Protection Visa affords permanent residency status and allows a person to receive Medicare and Centrelink services.

If you or someone you know wants more information or needs help or advice, please contact Damien Duncan our migration agent on 02 9699 9877 or email [email protected].