Call us today + 61 7 3210 0888

Visa Cancellations under s 501 of the Migration Act 1958 (Cth) (Migration Act)


The Department of Immigration and Border Protection are issuing more and more visa cancellation Notices to non- citizens of Australia, effectively rendering their Permanent Residency visas, or other types of visas, invalid and placing them at risk of deportation. In most cases, our clients have always known Australia to be their home, and are often unaware that their Permanent Residency visa had the potential to be cancelled, under any circumstances.

Sadly, many people have established their lives in Australia, and have no networks in their country of birth, but their country of citizenship has an obligation to accept them back.

Under section 501 of the Migration Act, a non-citizen’s application for a visa may be refused or their visa may be cancelled if they do not satisfy the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection (the Minister), or the Minister’s delegate, that they pass the ‘character test’. This legislation is receiving increased media attention nowadays, with high numbers of mandatory deportations taking place of non-citizens of Australia.

Who is at risk?

Any non-citizen of Australia, including those on Permanent Residency visas, who are deemed to be of questionable ‘character’ is at risk of facing a cancellation of their visa. Typically, criminal activity is at the heart of character grounds, however, the character test is so broad that it can ultimately cover anything deemed not to be ‘in the best interest of the community’.

What impact do visa cancellations have on the people involved?

Visa refusal or cancellation can have serious consequences for a person, including placement in immigration detention for lengthy periods of time, separation from family and friends, removal and effective exclusion from Australia. If excluded from Australia, that person can never return. If a person voluntarily leaves the country, again, they can never return, unless Minister revokes the decision to cancel their visa.

Mandatory Visa cancellations:

These Notices are served while people are incarcerated, serving out their custodial sentence. Once served, they will automatically be detained by Border Police at the conclusion of their custodial sentence, and taken directly to a detention centre. They can be held here for an extended / indefinite period of time.

Other cancellations:

If the Minister considers you to be of poor character, you are at risk of having your visa cancelled. Generally, a criminal history, or improper conduct in the community is considered to be reason to cancel a visa.

In these situations, our clients receive a Notice that the Minister is considering cancelling their visa, and that they have an opportunity to make a submission to show cause as to why they should be allowed to remain in Australia.

What can you do to appeal a cancellation?

There are steps to be taken to appeal the visa cancellation, and it is a complex area of the law. Once a Notice of cancellation or intention to cancel a PR Visa is received, there is a 28 day period to advise the Department of an intent to appeal the decision.

From there, a comprehensive submission must be compiled to show just cause as to why you should be entitled to stay within Australia. It is crucial that you seek legal advice at the earliest opportunity, from a registered Migration agent and solicitor.

What is the likelihood of a visa cancellation being revoked?

Every case is different, and needs to be thoroughly assessed on its merits. With so many potential variants in each matter, such as reasons for the cancellation, family circumstances, and personal circumstances of the person involved, there can be a wide scope to be considered.

Once all of the factors are reviewed , an experienced migration agent and solicitor can provide an educated opinion as to the prospects of success in an appeal to the Department.

If you have a criminal history, or find yourself facing charges, and are not a citizen, please contact our office to seek advice immediately. Terry Fisher, migration agent, has close to 40 years of experience in migration and criminal law, and can provide you with realistic and well informed advice. Call (07) 3210 0888 or email for a confidential discussion.