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Why are character checks required to enter or stay in Australia ?

Section 501 of the Migration Act 1958 includes a character test to ensure that visa applicants and visa holders are of good character. The test puts the onus on visa applicants, and visa holders already in Australia, to prove that they are of good character. The provision also contains discretionary powers to either refuse or cancel visas when issues of character arise.

A person will fail the character test when :

  • the person has a substantial criminal record, defined as where the person has been :
    • sentenced to a term of imprisonment for 12 months or more, or
    • sentenced to either death or life imprisonment, or
    • 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, or
    • 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,
  • the person either has, or has had, an association with an individual, group or organisation suspected of having been, or being, involved in criminal conduct,
  • 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,
  • having regard to the person's past and present criminal conduct, the person is found not to be of good character, and
  • having regard to the person's past and present general conduct, the person is found to be not of good character.

A person whose visa is cancelled on criminal grounds is permanently excluded from Australia.


How do I have character checks done ?

In order for the Australian government to determine whether you are of good character, you may be asked to provide penal clearance certificates for each country you have resided in for 12 months or more over the last 10 years.

In some instances, you may also be asked to obtain additional documentation.
Form 47P, Character requirement, police certificates provides instructions on how to obtain penal clearance certificates from countries where you have resided.


I have a criminal record, will this mean my application will be refused ?

No, only serious or substantial records generally result in refusal. Some examples of when a person will fail the character test include:

  • When the person has a substantial criminal record, sentenced to a term of imprisonment for 12 months or more, or
  • Sentenced to two or more terms of imprisonment where the total of those terms is two years or more, or
  • 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;
  • When 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

What do I do if I have criminal convictions ?

Declare all convictions on your visa application form. If you fail to declare this information, then any visa you may be granted will be liable to subsequent cancellation.

Visa cancellation can result in detention and subsequent removal from Australia.


I have criminal convictions but these no longer show on the official record because of spent convictions legislation - should I declare them ?

Such convictions must be declared on your visa application form, as spent convictions legislation does not apply to decisions made under immigration law.


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