Australia plans new rules for visa cancellations

New visa cancellation rules emphasize community protection and the impact on crime victims but still allow decision-makers to prioritize factors other than safety. On Friday, Immigration Minister Andrew Giles introduced ministerial direction 110 to “strengthen our cancellation system to better reflect community expectations” after an independent tribunal overturned several visa cancellations for non-citizens who committed serious offenses. These new rules will take effect on June 21.

Giles stated that the direction underscores the government’s commitment to the Australian community’s safety as a key decision-making principle. However, the direction also notes that community protection should “generally be given greater weight than other primary considerations,” indicating that decision-makers can still prioritize other factors over safety.

A government spokesperson explained that the term “generally” aligns with previous directions, such as direction 90, and affirmed that the minister can overturn visa decisions in the national interest without hesitation.

Giles highlighted that the new direction elevates the impact on victims of family violence, making it one of the primary considerations in visa decisions. This includes assessing the “impact of the offending on any victims and their families,” provided the non-citizen has had the chance to respond.

In January 2023, the Albanese government issued direction 99, which included community protection, family violence, children’s interests, and community expectations as primary considerations for visa cancellation on character grounds. Direction 110 maintains these considerations.

After multiple instances of the administrative appeals tribunal overturning visa cancellations, Labor admitted the existing rules were ineffective and pledged to replace direction 99. Opposition leader Peter Dutton criticized direction 110 for not significantly changing the situation and accused the government of compromising safety. He called for the new direction to be immediately effective and retrospective.

New Zealand Prime Minister Christopher Luxon expressed concerns about deporting individuals with minimal ties to New Zealand and expected a “common sense” approach from Australia. Giles has already re-cancelled 40 visas since the home affairs department alerted him to a backlog of overturned decisions. About 10 cases might be reviewed under the old rules within the next fortnight, with re-cancellations possible within 24 hours if decisions oppose the government.

Giles emphasized acting in the national interest and confirmed notifying New Zealand’s foreign minister about the new directions to ensure community protection remains a priority in visa conditions.

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