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Character Requirements

All non-citizens, including sponsors of visa applicants and non-migrating family members seeking to enter or stay in Australia, must be assessed against the character requirement.

Visa applicants, some non-citizen sponsors, and non-migrating family members must therefore meet the character requirements defined in Section 501 of the Migration Act 1958. These requirements are usually linked to the class of visa being applied for through Public Interest Criteria (PIC) 4001.

Section 501 of the Act contains a character test to ensure that visa applicants, visa holders, relevant non-citizen sponsors, and non-applicant family members are of acceptable character. The test puts the onus on the person to show that they are of good character.

As well as being a tool to help assess the suitability of people to enter and stay in Australia, and/or sponsor a non-citizen to come to Australia, the test introduces discretionary powers to either refuse or cancel visas if the person does not pass the character test.

The Character Test

A Person will not Pass The Character Test Where:
  • They have a substantial criminal record
  • They have been convicted of any offence that was committed while in immigration detention, during an escape from immigration detention, during a period where a person escaped from immigration detention, or if the person has been convicted of the offence of escaping from immigration detention
  • They have, or have had, an association with an individual, group or organisation suspected of having been, or being, involved in criminal conduct
  • Having regard to the person's past and present criminal conduct, the person is found not to be of good character
  • Having regard to the person's past and present general conduct, the person is found to be not of good character
  • There is a significant risk that the person will engage in criminal conduct in Australia, harass, molest, intimidate or stalk another person in Australia, vilify a segment of the Australian community, or incite discord in the Australian community or in a segment of that community, or represent a danger to the Australian community or a segment of that community.

Substantial Criminal Records

A Person is Deemed to have A Substantial Criminal Record if they have been:
  • They have a substantial criminal record
  • Sentenced to either death or life imprisonment
  • Sentenced to a term of imprisonment for 12 months or more
  • Sentenced to two or more terms of imprisonment (whether on one or more occasions), where the total of those terms is two years or more
  • Acquitted of an offence on the grounds of either unsoundness of mind or insanity and, as a result, the person has been detained in a facility or institution

Discretionary Powers and Ministerial Direction 41

    When a person does not pass the character test, decision-makers will decide whether to refuse the application or sponsorship or to cancel a visa. Exercise of this discretion will take into account a wide range of factors, including the protection of the Australian community, whether the person began living in Australia as a minor, the length of time the person has been living lawfully in Australia, Australia's international law obligation. Other factors such as the person’s family ties in Australia, the person's age, their health and level of education will also be taken into consideration
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