Government quietly relaxes controversial visa policy affecting people with disabilities

Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton.

A controversial migration requirement that results in more than 15 people with disabilities or illnesses having their Australian visa application rejected each year has been quietly relaxed by the government after decades of campaigning by disability and immigration advocates.

The government’s immigration health requirement prevents any migrant with an illness, disease, or intellectual or physical disability from obtaining a visa if it is deemed their condition will be too costly to the Australian taxpayer or put the general public at risk.

Applicants with permanent medical conditions or disabilities will no longer be assessed in terms of their lifetime care cost, in a move that migration agents and human rights workers say is a step towards reducing discrimination in the immigration system.

New cap and assessment period

Prior to 1 July, the policy underpinning the requirement set the threshold for significant cost at $40,000 but under the new changes. This has now been increased to $49,000.

The way the cost of people with permanent disabilities or conditions seeking permanent residency is calculated has also been updated.

Previously, people with permanent conditions could be rejected if the hypothetical cost of their care exceeded the cost threshold over their lifetime. Now, the hypothetical cost will be calculated over ten years.

“It is a very significant change and it does impact on people with health and disability issues very profoundly,” health and disability specialist and registered migration agent Jan Gothard told SBS News.

She said the changes were most likely to positively affect people with permanent disabilities, or those with conditions including hepatitis B, down syndrome and cerebral palsy who are hoping to live in Australia permanently.

Government quiet on changes

Dr Gothard, who works at Western Australia migration law firm Estrin Saul, said she had not been aware of the changes – which came in with the new financial year – until her colleague stumbled across them while reviewing the government’s policy recently.

“She noticed that the figure for significant costs had gone from $40,000 to $49,000, at first she thought she was looking at a typo,” she said, adding that she was surprised by the move.

“But then we double-checked and yes it had indeed gone up.”

No announcement was made about the changes but the Department of Home Affairs updated the requirement details on its website. Source:

A spokesperson for the Department of Home Affairs told SBS News the department had recently developed a new calculation methodology for the significant cost threshold which will allow it to be updated every two years to keep up with the changing cost of healthcare.

In regards to reducing the costing period to ten years, the department said it would improve the reliability of cost estimations.

“The changes will benefit both the department and visa applicants by streamlining the application of the policy while balancing the need to minimise public health threats and public expenditure,” the spokesperson said.

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Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton.
Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton. Source: AAP

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