Australia: New visa conditions and changes - how they affect you

Last Updated: 29 November 2017
Article by Yunn Chen
Most Popular Article in Australia, December 2017

From 18 November 2017, a number of new visa conditions and changes have been introduced by Australia's Department of Immigration & Border Protection.

A breach of the new visa conditions can lead to visa cancellation, a very serious (and often irreversible) situation to be in. For applicants who have applied for or are applying for a visa from 18 November 2017, take note of how these affect you. These changes do not apply to existing visa holders, unless renewing the visa after 18 November 2017.

Here's a rundown of the new conditions:

  • Condition 8602 - Public Health Care Debt

"The holder must not have an outstanding public health debt"

This visa condition will apply to most temporary visa holders, most of whom are not eligible for Medicare. What happens then when a temporary visa holder uses a public health care service (not covered by Medicare or their private health insurance) and can't afford to pay? They incur a debt to the health care providers who are ultimately funded by the government. In a situation like this the Department will encourage the visa holder to make the payment. A failure to pay will constitute a breach of condition, and the visa holder may be subject to visa cancellation.

  • Condition 8303 - Endangering, threatening, disruptive or violent behaviour

"Forbids activities that endanger or threaten any individual; or activities disruptive to, or violence threatening harm to, the Australian community or a group within the Australian community."

Previously, condition 8303 was only applicable to behaviour threatening the Australian community as a whole. The condition now applies to behaviour threatening individuals as well.

This condition has wide-ranging implications, especially in the ever-expanding and publicly visible world of social media. Some examples that may be considered a breach are:

  • harassment, stalking, intimidation, bullying, including on online platforms such as Facebook or Twitter
  • public 'hate speech'
  • online vilification targeting groups and individuals based on gender, sexuality, religion, and ethnicity.

It is the intention of the Department to send a clear message with this condition, explicitly requiring that the behaviour of temporary visa holders be consistent with Australian government and community expectations.

  • Condition 8564 - Criminal Conduct

"The holder must not engage in criminal conduct."

It is important to note that 'criminal conduct' can cover a broad range of activities, including being suspected of or accused of any criminal activity. A single criminal charge, regardless of the type crime can lead to visa cancellation.

This condition was previously applicable only to certain Bridging E visas, and is now applicable to temporary visas.

  • Condition 8304 - Single Identity and Change of Name

"You must maintain a single official identity during your stay in Australia."

This new condition requires visa holders to:

  1. Use only one identity when dealing with Australian State, Territory and Federal Governments; and
  2. If the you change your name, notify the relevant Australian government agencies you deal with as soon as practicable

This visa condition is aimed at reducing identity fraud, and to prevent the use of aliases to escape government detection concerning law enforcement, tax, and social security. This is in response to heightened risks when a person* is able to deal with different government agencies under different names, thereby preventing law enforcement agencies from sharing important information to protect Australia's national security.

*The example most frequently cited in support of this potential risk is the case of Man Haron Monis, who, prior to the 2015 Martin Place Siege, used several identities, aliases and titles when dealing with agencies such as Australia Post, Australian Business Registry and the Australian Electoral Commission as he was not always required to prove his 'legal name' with formal documentation.

To view which visas are subject to conditions 8303, 8564 and 8304, and whether there is discretion whether to cancel the visa in the event of a breach, see here.

Beware The Fraud Criteria - An expansion of PIC 4020

There are serious consequences if found to have provided false or misleading information to the Department of Immigration, and the consequences are now more serious than ever under the strengthened Public Interest Criteria 4020(1).

Previously, the Department could refuse a visa under PIC 4020 if there is false or misleading information in:

  • Any current application being processed by the Department; or
  • A visa held by the applicant in the last 12 months; or
  • An application which has been refused under PIC 4020 in the last 3 years.

Currently, for any application lodged on or after 18 November 2017, the Department can refuse a visa if there is false or misleading information in:

  • A visa applied for by the applicant in the past 10 years; or
  • A visa held by the applicant in the past 10 years

The consequences of this is that anyone found to have provided false or misleading information in an application, whether or not that application has been withdrawn, can be refused a visa for up to 10 years.

If you have concerns about a breach of condition or anything in your application that you believe the Department might consider false or misleading, we recommend seeking professional advice from a registered migration agent or lawyer.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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