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Character Requirements for Visas

You must be of good character to visit or live in Australia. This means you must pass the character test, and remain of good character.

You must meet the character requirements if you are applying for:

  • a visa
  • Australian citizenship

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

Even if you do not meet the character requirements, the Department of Home Affairs or the Minister for Home Affairs can choose to grant your visa.

If you are not completely honest about your criminal history, your visa may be refused.

After you apply

You may be asked by to:

  • provide a police certificate
  • complete a Personal particulars for character assessment
  • complete a character statutory declaration
  • provide a military certificate
  • provide a letter of good conduct from an employer

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, a variety of matters are considered  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 your visa is cancelled on character grounds, we can assist you to appeal the decision.

Mandatory cancellation

By law, a visa must canceled 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 this occurs you have 28 days to request revocation of the cancellation.  Revocation of the cancellation decision would have the effect of restoring your visa. We can assist you with this process.

Review a refusal or cancellation

In certain cases, you may appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal if your visa is refused or cancelled for failing to meet character requirements.

We can assist you with this process.

Military certificates

You may need to provide a military certificate with your visa application, 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

You may need to provide a police certificate (also called a penal clearance certificate) from every country you lived in, 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
  • the whole time you were in the country

We can help you to apply for a police certificate in those relevant countries.


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