Humanitarian visas

HUMANITARIAN VISAS

The Humanitarian Program has two components:

  • The onshore (asylum or protection) component offers protection to people in Australia who meet the refugee definition of the United Nations Refugees Convention;
  • The offshore (resettlement) component offers resettlement for people outside Australia who need humanitarian assistance.

The offshore Humanitarian Program has two categories:

  • The Refugee category for people subject to persecution in their home country;
  • The Special Humanitarian Program (SHP) category for people who,
    • while not being refugees, are subject to substantial discrimination amounting to a gross violation of their human rights in their home country.
    • People who wish to be considered for an SHP visa must be living outside their home country and be recommended by an Australian citizen, permanent resident or eligible New Zealand citizen, or an organisation operating in Australia.

MORE ABOUT VISAS

Refugee Visa (Subclass 200)

This visa is for people who are subject to persecution in their home country and need resettlement. The majority of applicants who are considered under this category are identified by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and referred to the Australian Government by the UNHCR.

In-country Special Humanitarian Program Visa (Subclass 201)

This visa offers resettlement to people who have suffered persecution in their country of nationality or usual residence and who have not been able to leave that country to seek refuge elsewhere. 

It is for those living in their home country and subject to persecution in their home country.

Global Special Humanitarian Program Visa (Subclass 202)

The Special Humanitarian Program (SHP) visa is for people who, while not being refugees, are subject to substantial discrimination and human rights abuses in their home country. 
People who wish to be considered for a SHP visa must be recommended by an Australian citizen or permanent resident over the age of 18, or an eligible New Zealand citizen or an organisation operating in Australia.

Emergency Rescue Visa (Subclass 203)

This visa offers an accelerated processing arrangement for people who satisfy refugee criteria and whose lives or freedom depend on urgent resettlement. 
It is for those subject to persecution in their home country and assessed to be in a situation in which normal processing delays could put their life or freedom in danger.

Woman at Risk Visa (Subclass 204)

This visa is for female applicants, and their dependents, who are subject to persecution or are of concern to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), are living outside of their home country without the protection of a male relative and are in danger of victimisation, harassment or serious abuse because of their gender. 

The majority of applicants who are considered under this category are identified and referred to the Australian Government by the UNHCR.

Criteria

A person may be eligible if:

  • They are outside Australia;
  • They have been identified as a refugee or a person subject to persecution or substantial discrimination amounting to gross violation of human rights in their home country and deemed to be in need of humanitarian aid.

Applicants must also satisfy the decision maker that there are compelling reasons for giving special consideration to the grant of a visa. 
This criterion is common to all permanent visa subclasses under the offshore Humanitarian Program.

It involves an assessment of various factors including:

  • The degree of persecution or discrimination to which the applicant is subject in their home country;
  • The extent of the applicant’s connection with Australia;
  • Whether or not there is any suitable country available, other than Australia, that can provide for the applicant’s settlement and protection from discrimination;
  • The capacity of the Australian community to provide for the permanent settlement of the applicant in Australia.

Most humanitarian visas are granted to applicants who are outside their home country. If a person is living in their home country, it is unlikely that they will meet the criteria to be granted a refugee or humanitarian visa.

Explanations

A refugee is a person who: 

  • who is not an Australia citizen or permanent resident and who is outside of the home country due to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, and who is unable, or is unwilling due to fear to avail himself of the protection of that country; 
  • or who, not having a nationality and being outside of the country of his or her residence, is unable, or is unwilling due to fear to return to that country. (Article 1A(2) of the Refugee Convention)

Therefore, to be a refugee, you must prove:

  • That you have a well-founded fear of being persecuted; and
  • The persecution is because of your race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion; and
  • You are:
    • Outside of your country of nationality and unable or unwilling (due to the fear of persecution), to avail yourself of the protection of that country; or
    • Without a nationality and outside your country of former residence and unable or unwilling (due to fear of persecution), to return to that country.

What is Persecution?

Persecution includes:

  • Threats to life, liberty or security;
  • Continued or periodic harassment, detention or arrest;
  • Forced exile or relocation to a remote area;
  • Arbitrary arrest or detention;
  • Torture or cruelty or inhuman treatment;
  • Slavery;
  • Confiscation of property, or
  • Forced indoctrination or re-education.

What is Substantial Discrimination?

Substantial discrimination includes:

  • Arbitrary interference in your privacy, family, home or correspondence;
  • Deprivation of all means of making a livelihood, being paid unreasonably low wages or not being able to work at an appropriate job;
  • Being forced to live in substandard dwellings;
  • Being excluded from education;
  • Being forced to give up social or civil activities;
  • Being constantly watched or pressured to become an informer;
  • Removal of citizenship rights, or
  • Being denied a passport.

PROTECTION VISA. Subclass 866

This visa is for people who seek protection in Australia, if:

  • they arrived in Australia legally
  • they engage Australia's protection obligations
  • they are not barred from lodging a Protection visa application

PROTECTION GROUNDS

According to the Migration Act 1958, refugees are people who are outside their home country and cannot return because they have a well-founded fear of persecution due to their:

  • race
  • religion
  • political opinion
  • nationality
  • membership of a particular social group.

Australia is obliged under the Refugees Convention to provide protection to refugees and to ensure they are not returned to any place where they are likely to face persecution for one of the five grounds under the Migration Act 1958.

To have a well-founded fear of persecution, the persecution feared must involve serious harm to the person. Serious harm includes, but is not limited to:

  • a threat to the person's life or liberty
  • significant physical harassment of the person
  • significant physical ill treatment of the person
  • significant economic hardship that threatens the person's capacity to subsist (ability to survive)
  • denial of access to basic services, where the denial threatens the person's capacity to subsist (ability to survive) 
  • denial of capacity to earn a livelihood of any kind, where the denial threatens the person's capacity to subsist (ability to survive).

Protection can also be provided to people who cannot be returned to their home country because they engage Australia's complementary protection obligations.

Read Protection obligations for more information.

In addition to demonstrating the grounds for protection, it is also necessary meet the health, character and security requirements.

Other criteria also apply when applying for a permanent protection visa.