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 health criteria and therefore to qualify for visa grant.

What are the changes?

The changes, which came into effect from 1 July 2019, are twofold. 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, before these changes were implemented, the maximum cost threshold, or the significant cost threshold as it is referred to in policy, was $40,000. From 1 July 2019, this threshold has been increased from $40,000 to $49,000, which is a rise of 22.5 %.

In the second and more significant change introduced, an applicant for a permanent or provisional visa who has a permanent medical condition (such as hepatitis or kidney disease) will only be assessed on their likely health care and community service costs over the next 10 years, and not over their lifetime, which had been the case before this change was implemented.

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.

Australia’s migration laws are complex, and each case is different. We recommend that you seek professional advice before you proceed with applying for a visa, as being fully informed about the process and requirements that apply will give you the best chance of achieving a successful outcome on your application, and thus lessen the chance that it will be refused. A migration professional can help you to do this.

For up to date advice on these changes to the health criteria, book your confidential consultation with a migration agent in Adelaide. PAX Migration Australia is a leading immigration advice service based in Adelaide.