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Character requirements for visas

You may not pass the character requirements in some circumstances. These include if:  

  • you have a substantial criminal record
  • you have been convicted of escaping from immigration detention, or convicted for an offence that you committed:
    • while you were in immigration detention
    • during an escape from immigration detention
    • after an escape, but before you were taken into immigration detention again.
  • you are or have been a member of a group or organisation, or had or have an association with a person, group or organisation that the Minister reasonably suspects of being involved in criminal conduct
  • the Minister reasonably suspects that 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, whether or not you have been convicted of such an offence
  • your 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 in a part of it
    • be a danger to the Australian community or a part of it.
  • you have been convicted, found guilty or had a charge proven for, one or more sexually based offences involving a child
  • you are subject to an adverse security assessment by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation
  • you are 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.

When applying:

  • declare all criminal conduct you have engaged in
  • truthfully answer all questions
  • provide all requested information

We consider all circumstances of a case. Even if you do not meet the character requirements, we, or the Minister for Home Affairs can choose to grant your visa.

If you are not completely honest about your criminal history, we may refuse your application.

After you apply

We may ask you to:

Where a third party, such as a foreign government or law enforcement authority gives us details about you, we treat your details in accordance with privacy laws (180KB PDF).

Refusal or cancellation

If you do not pass character requirements, the Minister or a delegate can refuse your application or cancel your visa.

To decide if you pass character requirements, we consider a variety of matters, 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

If we cancel your visa on character grounds, we may not be able to grant you another visa.

Mandatory cancellation

By law, we must cancel your visa if you are serving a sentence in a 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 had 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.

If we must cancel your visa, you have 28 days to request revocation of the cancellation.  Revocation of the cancellation decision would have the effect of restoring your visa.

Review a refusal or cancellation

In certain cases, you may appeal to the AAT if we refuse or cancel your visa for failing to meet character requirements.

If a delegate of the Minister decides not to revoke the cancellation of your visa, you can apply for a review by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT).

If you are in Australia , appeals have strict time limits. You must apply in writing within the time specified by the Department in our decision notice.

You may seek judicial review if you believe the decision was not lawfully made.

Appeal a refusal or cancellation

If we must cancel your visa you, your sponsor or your nominator have 28 days to request we consider restoring your visa.

If a delegate of the minister decides not to restore your visa, you can apply for a review by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT).

In certain cases, you may appeal to the AAT if we refuse or cancel your visa.

Appeals have strict time limits. You must apply in writing within 9 days of our decision notice.

You may seek judicial review if you believe the decision was not lawfully made.

Military certificates

You may need to provide a military certificate with your visa application. If we ask you for one, it will usually be when you served for more than 12 months in any country’s military force.

A military certificate can be a letter from your commanding officer. It should say you have not been convicted of any criminal offence while in the military.

You may also need to provide a police certificate for every country you served in for over 12 months. This includes where you were stationed at a military base.

Police certificates

We may ask you to provide a police certificate (also called a penal clearance certificate) from every country you lived in. If we ask you for one, it will usually be if you are over 17 and lived in any of the listed countries, including Australia, for at least 12 months in the past 10 years.

Police certificates are valid for 12 months from the issue date. They must cover:

  • the time you turned 16 up to the issue date
    or
  • the whole time you were in the country

Apply for a police certificate

See how to apply for a police certificate in the relevant countries.

To get a police certificate in Australia you must submit an Australian Federal Police National Police Check application form.

Use Code 33 at Question 1 on the form and include details of all names you have been known by.

We do not accept state- or territory-issued Australian police certificates.

Fingerprints are not needed for Australian police checks.

Contact your nearest Australian immigration overseas office if a country you lived in is not listed or you cannot get a certificate.

Requirements for ship workers

You must provide a police certificate if you have spent more than 12 months in the last 10 years working on one or more merchant ships, cruise ships, private yachts or oil rigs.

The flag of the country that the vessel sails under is the country you should request the police certificate from. Use our location finder to see how to apply for a police certificate in the relevant country.

You should also provide a letter of good conduct from the captain or company of each vessel. The letter should include:

  • the name of the vessel
  • the job you had while on the vessel
  • the start and end employment dates
  • a statement about your character

If you have worked less than 12 months on a vessel for one particular country, the letter of good conduct may be accepted instead of the police certificate.

Character requirements for visas

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