DO YOU HAVE THE MEMORY OF AN ELEPHANT?

Australia has, admittedly, a very selective programme for migration to Australia. Now, with the expansion of data required in order to complete the necessary security checks for migration to Australia, that selection – and exclusion – process may be more stringent than ever.

Most, if not all, visa applicants to Australia must meet public interest criterion 4002 which states:

The applicant is not assessed by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation to be directly or indirectly a risk to security, within the meaning of section 4 of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act 1979.

The Department of Immigration policy then guides case officers on how to obtain the relevant assessment. In a ‘not for public disclosure’ document, the Security Checking Handbook, case officers consider a visa applicant’s attributes such as age, ethnicity, nationality, countries of current and previous residence, purpose of stay in Australia to determine the appropriate security checking process.

Policy then invites case officers -

If appropriate (having regard to the Security Checking Handbook), officers may ask visa applicants to complete a form 80.

The Form 80 – Personal particulars for assessment including character assessment   is surely the most dreaded form for registered migration agents and visa applicants alike! The most recently updated version in March 2014 now runs to 18 pages and 55 questions!

In practice all applicants for permanent residence applications for Australia and some applicants for temporary residence visas – including 457 visa applicants from India and Pakistan – are required to complete the form.

What is the big deal, you say? The gathering of data from visa applicants to Australia is, of course, a necessary part of the security checks made on applicants to ensure that they do not have profiles which would be unacceptable to the Australian people.

The level of detail now required in Form 80, however, combined with the enhanced powers of the Minister for Immigration and his Departmental officers under public interest criterion (“PIC”) 4020, means that visa applicants may now be ‘caught’ and have their visas refused for providing false or misleading information regarding, for example, the address of a hotel they stayed at overseas 25 years ago!

Take some of these questions from Form 80 and decide whether you would be able to answer correctly and completely:

Q18: Your address history for the last 30 years. Include: addresses inside and outside Australia, places you resided for study / work, refugee camps, any other place you have resided such as share houses, university residence and temporary accommodation.

Q34: Do you have any other addresses in Australia that have not been declared at Question 18 … (including hotel name and/ or unit and building number and street name)?

Q19: Have you travelled to any country other than Australia in the last 30 years?

Q20: Give details of all employment and unemployment since birth.

Q32: Do you know any details of the places you will stay during your time in Australia (eg hotel, friends, relatives?)

Applicants must then make a declaration that:

the information I have supplied in or with this form is complete, correct and up-to-date in every detail.

The relevance is that, if a visa applicant makes a false declaration – for example regarding the supply of correct information, or provides information that is false or misleading, may not only be refused a visa but may then be prohibited from applying for a further visa for a period of three years, being in breach of PIC 4020 which states:

4020

(1)      There is no evidence before the Minister that the applicant has given, or caused to be given, to the Minister, an officer, the Migration Review Tribunal, a relevant assessing authority or a Medical Officer of the Commonwealth, a bogus document or information that is false or misleading in a material particular in relation to:

(a)      the application for the visa; or

(b)      a visa that the applicant held in the period of 12 months before the application was made.

On 22 March 2014, PIC 4020 was ‘strengthened’ with the addition of the following provision:

 The applicant satisfies the Minister as to the applicant’s identity.

Applicants who fail to satisfy the Minister will have a ten year exclusion period imposed on them. This provision will be a particularly useful tool for the Department of Immigration in the refugee and humanitarian visa programme.

Whilst PIC 4020 must relate to a ‘material particular’ of the visa application and whilst there are waiver provisions where there exist ‘compelling circumstances that affect the interests of Australia or compassionate or compelling circumstances that affect the interests of an Australian citizen’, the power of the Department of Immigration to refuse and exclude visa applicants due to even unwitting or unintended provision of false information is very strong.

In the current migration environment in Australia, in which the dichotomy between welcoming new migrants that meet our strict standards and needs (Department of Immigration) and the deterrence of unwelcome arrivals, especially by boat (Department of Border Protection) is sometimes blurred, it is imperative that all visa applicants provide the most carefully considered answers to each and every question in each and every visa application form that they submit to the Department of Immigration.

And in the interim, start nurturing your memory!