If you are thinking about applying for a visa to Australia, you should be aware that health considerations may come into play in determining whether or not you qualify for the relevant visa. One such aspect is the health requirement, to which most visa subclasses are subject as a criterion for visa grant. The Australian migrant health criteria is designed to proect the Australian community from public health risks, manage public expenditure on health and community services, and to ensure the supply of health and community services to enable Australians access to limited supply.
The Department has introduced potentially major changes to migration health policy, which should make it easier for permanent and provisional residence visa applicants with a long-term health condition or permanent disability to meet Australian migrant health criteria and therefore to qualify for visa grant.
In this article, we take a closer look at health insurance for visa holders, as well as the health requirement, including the changes made to health policy as it pertains to the significant cost threshold, and the assessment period for health costs, which are relevant considerations for meeting the health criterion for visa grant.
Health Insurance For Visa Holders
Having an adequate level of health insurance cover may also be required as a condition on your visa. For example, visa condition 8501, which applies to student visas, specifies that you must maintain adequate arrangements for health insurance whilst you are in Australia. The same visa condition applies to holders of a Subclass 482 Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) visa, to ensure adequate migrant workers healthcare is arranged whilst the visa holder is in Australia.
Be aware that visa holders are financially responsible for any health care debts incurred in Australia. Any outstanding health debts that you have may be considered by the Department if you apply for a visa in future. It is therefore important for visa holders to consider migrant health care as part of any visa application, whether or not it is a visa requirement.
The Department provides a guide as to the types of factors to consider when selecting a migrant health care insurance policy in Australia, which also applies to migrant workers healthcare.
Most travellers to Australia are not entitled to Medicare benefits, meaning they are responsible for all costs associated with hospital, medical and para-medical health care provided in Australia, whether that be in a public and or private hospital. It is therefore highly recommended even if health insurance is not a condition on your visa, to ensure you take out an adequate level of health insurance to cover you during your stay in Australia for any unplanned or unexpected health issues that arise.
Medicare is generally only available to people who are permanently residing in Australia, and are either:
- Australian citizens;
- permanent visa holders;
- New Zealand citizens; or
- in certain circumstances, permanent residence visa applicants.
An example where visa holders are covered for migrant health care in Australia through Medicare are subclass 491 Skilled Work Regional (Provisional) visa and subclass 494 Skilled Employer Sponsored Regional (Provisional) visa holders, who are entitled to Medicare benefits in Australia. In these cases, visa holders do not require migrant workers healthcare to meet visa conditions.
Permanent and provisional visa applicants, including family members applying for the visa as dependents must undergo health examinations to meet the Australian migrant health criteria. In certain cases, family members who are not accompanying you to Australia may also be requiremed to complete a health examination.
If you are applying for a temporary visa, you and any accompanying family members may be required to complete health checks. Whether you need to, and what examinations you need to complete in order to meet the Australian migrant health criteria, will depend on:
- the visa you are applying for;
- how long you plan to stay in Australia;
- what you plan to do in Australia;
- the country you apply froml
- any special circumstances that might apply to you; and
- whether you have any significant medical conditions.
Also be mindful that In certain circumstances, the Department of Home Affairs (the Department) may apply a health waiver, which means that Immigration will waive the need for you to meet the health requirement. This is discussed later in this article.
To learn more about the health requirement, please see our Guide To Health Criteria For Australian Visas.
What Are The Health Policy Changes?
Significant Cost Threshold Increased
Firstly, in assessing whether a visa applicant meets the health requirement, a Medical Officer of the Commonwealth (MOC) (which is a registered medical practitioner appointed by the Department of Home Affairs) is required to provide an opinion as to whether an applicant’s medical condition or disease is likely to result in significant health care and community service costs if the visa were to be granted.
Under Immigration policy, the maximum cost threshold, or the significant cost threshold as it is referred to in policy, has been increased to $51,000 as of 1 September 2021.
Changes To Assessment Period For Health Costs
In the second change introduced, an applicant for a permanent or provisional visa who has a permanent medical condition will only be assessed on their likely health care and community service costs as follows:
- if the applicant is aged less than 75 years: a five year period; or,
- if the applicant is aged 75 years or older: a three-year period;
- the applicant has a condition that is permanent and the course of the disease is inevitable or reasonably predictable (65% likelihood) beyond the five year period in these circumstances (such as hepatitis or kidney disease), the applicant would be assessed for a maximum of 10 years. When assessing costs, the MOC should estimate costs for a period up to the maximum of 10 years;
- the applicant has an inevitable or reasonably predictable (65% likelihood) reduced life expectancy due to their health condition or disease – in this case, the applicant should be assessed for a reduced life expectancy up to a maximum of 10 years.
Before these changes were introduced, the likely health care and community service costs for an applicant with a permanent medical condition were required to be assessed over their lifetime, rather then a 10 year period as explained above.
This shorter assessment period will likely improve the chances of affected visa applicants meeting the health requirements for visa grant, especially for applicants who are relatively young and healthy. This also means that they even no longer need to lodge a health waiver as part of their visa application.
What Is A Health Waiver?
Applicants who would otherwise fail to satisfy the health criteria can, in certain cases, apply to the Minister to waive this requirement if:
- they meet all other criteria for the grant of the visa; and
- the Minister is satisfied that granting the visa would be unlikely to result in undue cost to the Australian community, or undue prejudice to the access to health care or community services of an Australian citizen or permanent resident.
Be aware that for certain visas, the health requirement does not include a provision for it to be waived. In such cases, the visa applicant will be unable to be granted the visa if they do not satisfy the health criteria.
What About For Temporary Visa Applicants?
For temporary visa applicants, the assessment period for their likely health care and community service costs remains the same, which under current policy is the period over which the temporary visa is to be granted. To illustrate how this provision is applied in practice, take the example of an applicant whose estimated annual health care costs are $20,000. If they apply for a Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) Subclass 482 visa with a term of 2 years, they will meet the significant cost threshold and therefore meet the health requirement for visa grant. If, however, the applicant is to be granted a 4-year subclass 482 visa, they would exceed the significant cost threshold (with total estimated costs of $80,000) and be unable to qualify for the visa, unless they successfully apply to the Minister to have the health requirement waived.
Get More Information
To learn more about the Australian migrant health criteria, we recommend that you refer to our Guide To Health Criteria For Australian Visas.
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Australia’s migration laws are complex, and each case is different. We recommend that you seek professional advice if you are interested in applying for a visa to Australia, including the Australian migrant health criteria and migrant workers healthcare, as being fully informed will give you the best chance of achieving a successful outcome on your case. A migration professional can help you to do this. Also be aware that several terms are defined in the migration provisions. It is vital to have a good understanding of these terms and how they apply in practice. Detailed advice about these is beyond the scope of this article and we would therefore recommend that you seek further information in this regard.
For up to date advice on applying for a visa and the requirements that apply, including the Australian migrant health criteria and migrant workers healthcare requirements, contact PAX Migration Australia, a leading immigration service providing advice on a range of visas, including the migrant health care requirements that apply. Contact us for a no obligation discussion on how we may be able to assist you in achieving your migration goals in Australia.