Strengthened Character Assessment Will Be Applied To Safeguard Australian Community
Having a good character is a must for those who want to visit or live in Australia, so character assessment becomes a critical process.
To qualify the character assessment means visa applicants must meet the character requirements set out under section 501 of the Migration Act 1958.
On 08 March 2021, Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs issued a new Ministerial Direction to guide visa decision-makers in applying the character test.
The character test applies to certain visa cancellation and refusal decisions and the revocation of mandatory visa cancellations.
What is the new Ministerial Direction, and how does it affect the visa applicants?
Determined Convictions for Character Assessment
The Australian Department of Home Affairs lists some convictions and criminal records on its official website. If you are or have been in some circumstances listed below, you might not pass the character assessment:
- Have a substantial criminal record;
- Have been convicted of escaping from immigration detention, or convicted for an offence while in immigration detention; during an escape from immigration detention; after an escape, but before taken into immigration detention again;
- Are or have been a member of a group or organization, or had an association with a person, group, or organization that the Minister reasonably suspects of being involved in criminal conduct;
- The Minister reasonably suspects you have been involved in people smuggling, people trafficking, genocide, a war crime, a crime against humanity, a crime involving torture or slavery, or a crime that is of serious international concern;
- The past and present criminal or general conduct shows that you are not of good character;
- There is a risk that while you are in Australia, you would engage in criminal conduct; harass, molest, intimidate or stalk another person; vilify a segment of the Australian community; incite discord in the Australian community or a part of it; be a danger to the Australian community or a part of it;
- Have been convicted, found guilty or had a charge proven for one or more sexually-based offences involving a child;
- Subject to an adverse security assessment by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation;
- Subject to an Interpol notice, from which it is reasonable to infer that you are a direct or indirect risk to the Australian community or a segment of the Australian community;
- Are or have been convicted of a domestic violence offence or have ever been subject to a domestic violence order.
What happens if you do not meet the character assessment?
If you do not meet the character assessment, the Department of Home Affairs might refuse your visa application or cancel your visa. Additionally, the Department of Home Affairs might apply mandatory cancellation on your visa if you have been convicted of a serious crime.
Visa cancellation or refusal decision
If you do not pass the character assessment, the Department of Home Affairs has a right to refuse your visa application or cancel your visa. There are some considerations taken to decide whether you pass the character requirements or not, including:
- The protection of the Australian community;
- The best interests of any children in Australia;
- Australia’s international legal responsibilities;
- The impact of visa refusal or cancellation on your family in Australia;
- Any impact on Australian business and community interests.
Once the Minister or delegate cancels your visa due to your character, they may not be able to grant you another visa.
Read more about 4 must-dos if your Australian visa application get rejected here.
Mandatory Visa Cancellation
By law, the Department of Home Affairs must cancel your visa if you are serving a sentence in prison full-time for an Australian crime, and you:
- Have been sentenced to death, imprisonment for life or imprisonment for longer than a year;
- Have been convicted of a sexually-based crime involving a child by an Australian or foreign court;
- Have a charge proven for a sexually based crime involving a child, even if you were discharged without conviction;
- Have been found guilty of a sexually-based crime involving a child, even if you were discharged without conviction.
Read more about Temporary Visa Cancellations Based on Biosecurity Grounds List Updated 2021 here.
What is the new Ministerial Direction for Character Assessment for Migration Purposes?
The new Ministerial Direction 90 (MD 90) requires all visa decision-makers to consider some violence as a primary consideration in making visa determinations.
The crimes and conduct which are considered as very serious are:
- Violent and/or sexual crimes;
- Crimes of a violent nature against women and children, regardless of the sentence imposed;
- Acts of family violence, regardless of the sentence imposed.
And these crimes or conduct are considered to be serious:
- Causing a person to enter into a forced marriage, regardless of whether convicted of an offence or the sentence imposed;
- Crimes against vulnerable people such as the elderly, disabled, government representatives or officials;
- Crimes committed in immigration detention, during an escape or after escape from a detention centre;
- Crimes against humanity, people trafficking and worker exploitation.
The decision-makers must also seriously consider other forms and documents that show visa applicants’ character history.
The character assessment plays a significant role in safeguarding the Australian community. Hence, the Australian Government must strengthen it to prevent the entry or stay of non-citizens who may present a risk to the Australian community’s safety. Non-citizens who do not pass the character assessment may be stripped of their visa or have their visa application refused.
The changes align with the Australian community’s expectation that non-citizens who commit serious offences will not be allowed to enter or stay in Australia. The changes will come into effect on 15 April 2021 and MD 79 will remain in effect until that time.
Necessary Documents for the Visa Character Assessment
To do the character assessment, the Department of Home Affairs may ask you to send some required documents after applying for the visa. These documents are:
- Police certificate;
- Form 80 Personal Particulars for character assessment;
- Character Statutory Declaration;
- Military certificate;
- Letter of good conduct from an employer.
If you are above 18 years old and have lived for more than 12 months in other countries (except for your home country), the Department of Home Affairs might ask you to send a Police Certificate from that country.
If the Department of Home Affairs asks you to send a character statutory declaration, you must submit the English language version.
Find more about document checklist for Australian Partner Visa here.
How does the strengthened visa character assessment affect visa applicants?
The strengthened character assessment is to protect the Australian community. The strengthened character assessment might not significantly impact visa applicants who have never been convicted or involved in any serious crimes or non-violent crimes mentioned above.
However, it would be best if you do not underestimate the strengthened character assessment. You must be sure that you have not and will never commit any crimes, including non-violent crimes such as fraud, extortion, exploitation and neglect as these may affect the Department’s decision-making process.
After all, being a good person by respecting and protecting other people is the best way to lead yourself to your dreams, one of those is your dream of living in Australia. However, at the same time, should you have committed any convictions in Australia or overseas, you must let the Department know.
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