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Immigration - migration and visas

Immigration - migration and visas

Immigration scams warning!

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is warning migrants to watch out for scammers pretending to be from the 'Department of Immigration', threatening deportation and demanding money. To find out more about how to protect yourself click here.

What are the main ways people can migrate to Australia?

People who want to move to live in Australia must apply to migrate.

The four main ways of applying to migrate to Australia are through:

  •  the family stream
  •  the skill stream
  •  the Refugee and Humanitarian Program as a refugee
  •  the special eligibility stream - most of those are accepted under this stream are former residents.

What is the family stream?

Family migration allows people who have already settled in Australia and have become permanent residents or citizens, to ask the government to let their family members join them. For more information on family migration visit the Department of Home Affairs website.

What is the skills stream?

The skills stream of Australia's Migration Program is specifically designed to target migrants who have skills or outstanding abilities that will contribute to the Australian economy.

In the skill stream, priority processing is currently given to applicants who are migrating to a regional area, sponsored by employers or nominated by a state or territory government under a State Migration Plan.

These visa applications are expensive and complicated. You may need help from a registered migration agent or a lawyer specialising in this area. For more information on work visas click here.

What is the Refugee and Humanitarian Program?

Australia is a signatory to the United Nations (UN) 1951 Geneva Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol Relating to Refugees. This means that Australia is required to give protection to people who arrive at Australia's borders (or are already in the country), if they fit the UN definition of a refugee.

Even if you are recognised as a refugee by the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) or any other official body, this doesn't mean you will automatically be allowed to migrate to Australia. You must also meet all the criteria set down by Australia for the relevant visa category.

You should get advice before making an application under this program. For more information on the refugee and humanitarian program click here.

What is special eligibility?

The special eligibility stream of Australia's Migration Program covers the former resident category. This allows former permanent residents and certain people who served in the Australian Defence Force to live in Australia as permanent residents.
For information on the requirements for this visa visit the Department of Home Affairs website.

What is a visa?

A visa is a document that allows a person to enter Australia. There are strict rules about visas. An application must meet all the criteria before it may be granted. Get legal advice if you have questions about the criteria for a particular visa.

Can a decision to refuse a visa be reviewed or appealed?

Where you apply to appeal depends on what type of decision you are appealing.

If the Department of Home Affairs or the Department of Immigration and Border Protection refuses your application for a visa (except in relation to a protection visa), you can ask the Migration and Refugee Division of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) to review the decision. This is called "making an appeal" to review the decision.

You should get legal advice before starting an appeal.

Do time limits apply to appeals?

Yes, there are strict time limits for making an appeal. Time limits depend on the type of decision and whether you are in immigration detention. The time limit cannot be extended.

Which body reviews decisions to refuse protection visas?

The  Migration and Refugee Division of the AAT hears appeals about decisions made by the Department  to refuse protection visas unless refusal is on character grounds. Certain protection visa decisions are not subject to merits review.

Do time limits apply?

If you have a notification from the Department of Home Affairs (or the Department of Immigration and Border Protection)  that a decision has been made which can be reviewed by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, Migration and Refugee Division, that notification will set out review rights including who can apply for review and the time limit which applies. For appeals against Department of Home Affairs or Department of Immigration and Border Protection decisions to refuse protection visas, you have seven working days to appeal if you are in immigration detention, or 28 days if you are not in detention.

What can I do if I have received a notice of visa cancellation on character grounds?

See Visa cancellation on character grounds.

I have applied for a visa and I am the victim of family violence. What can I do?

For information on this see Immigration status and family violence.

Where can I find out about becoming an Australian citizen?

Contact the Department of Home Affairs.

What are the consequences of a entering into a fake marriage or relationship to obtain a visa?

If either an applicant or a sponsor has lodged documentation in support of an application to the Department of Home Affairs that contains false  information or false or misleading statements it may result in a criminal prosecution. For example, if at the time of the application the applicant did not intend to live permanently with the other person in a married relationship or de facto relationship.

A  visa based on incorrect information may be cancelled and the visa holder deported.

Divorce may be needed to end the relationship as there may not be grounds for a decree of nullity of the marriage. A decree of nullity is a formal declaration from the Family Court of WA that the marriage never legally existed. The grounds for nullity are set out in the Marriage Act 1961 (Cth). They include the ground that there was no real consent to the marriage because the marriage was obtained through fraud or duress. This may not apply in this situation if you have knowingly been part of the arrangement. For more information on the requirements for divorce see Divorce. For more information on the grounds for nullity see the factsheet Applying for a decree of nullity on the Family Law Courts website (note the forms referred to are different for applications in WA).

Where can I get more information?

  • On legal services provided by Legal Aid WA see Legal Aid Services - Immigration services or contact Legal Aid WA's Infoline on 1300 650 579.
  • Refugee Legal offers free telephone advice Wed 10am-2pm and Fri 10am-2pm (both EST). Call (03) 9413 0100. Information is also available on the Refugee Legal website.
  • Contact The Humanitarian Group on (08) 9227 7311. It provides professional and accessible migration assistance, legal advice and education to people new to WA  from culturally and linguistically diverse (CaLD) backgrounds including humanitarian visa holders, asylum seekers, refugees and people who are otherwise disadvantaged in their access to legal services.  Services provided include in relation to:

    • Protection visas: These are visas issued to people outside of their home country who cannot return home because they are at risk of persecution or serious human rights violations.

    • Temporary protection visas (TPVs) Project: This project has been set up to provide assistance for the approximately 2,000 asylum seekers currently living in WA who arrived by boat between August 2012 and December 2013 who are subject to a fast track assessment process to determine their eligibility for TPVs.

    • Family reunion: When people are forced to leave their home country due to a fear of persecution or serious human rights violations, they are often separated from their family who may still be in serious danger. The Humanitarian Group works with these people to help reunite them with their families.

    • General legal help: working closely with people from CaLD backgrounds seeking general legal advice. It helps them understand the law and exercise their rights as well as referring them to other organisations for further help in settling in Australia.

    • Administrative review assistance: providing various levels of information, advice and help for administrative review for people who have received negative migration decisions.  

Last reviewed: 05/10/2016

Last modified: 2/01/2018 3:50 PM


The information displayed on this page is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. If you have a legal problem, you should see a lawyer. Legal Aid Western Australia aims to provide information that is accurate, however does not accept responsibility for any errors or omissions in the information provided on this page or incorporated into it by reference.