Last updated 23 January 2017

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) administers an on-shore and off-shore refugee and humanitarian program. In the 2015–2016 financial year, 13 750 visas were set aside for the refugee and humanitarian program.

The refugee and humanitarian program is a highly political area of immigration law. Law and policy changes are frequent, and applicants, migration agents and legal representatives should ensure that they have access to up-to-date sources of law.

There are now three types of protection visas that can be granted onshore to people who are recognised as refugees in Australia:

  • Permanent Protection visa (subclass 866)
  • Temporary Protection visa (subclass 785)
  • Safe Haven Enterprise visa (subclass 790).

Refugee and resettlement visas issued off-shore through the humanitarian program are:

  • Refugee visa (Subclass 200)
  • In-country Special Humanitarian visa (Subclass 201)
  • Global Special Humanitarian visa (Subclass 202)
  • Emergency Rescue visa (Subclass 203)
  • Woman at Risk visa (Subclass 204).

Unauthorised maritime arrivals may now be removed from Australia to a country designated by the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection as a regional processing country, and asylum seekers who arrive in Australia by sea will never be settled in Australia and are currently being sent to Papua New Guinea and Nauru on the basis of regional settlement arrangements. However, in practice there are a number of asylum seekers who will have their claims for protection processed in Australia.

Fast track assessment process

People who arrived by boat without a visa between 13 August 2012 and 1 January 2014 and who were not taken to Narau or Papua New Guinea for offshore processing are described as ‘fast track applicants’. Unlike asylum seekers who arrive with valid visa and who have access to the ordinary refugee status determination processes, fast track applicants have limited form of review to the Immigration Assessment Authority.

A referral to the Immigration Assessment Authority for a review will be automatic, however, the authority will only consider information that was available to the original decision maker. New information will only be allowed in exceptional circumstances.