In December 2014 there were changes made to section 501 of the Migration Act. Now an individual’s Visa can be cancelled if they have spent 12 months in jail or if they fail a ‘character test’. This has taken many foreign individuals by surprise. In 2016 more than 1000 visas were revoked.
Before the changes to section 501 were made there were occasional enquiries made by foreigners concerned about the future of their visa status, about one per month. Now there are about two calls per day.
There are many more individuals on visas who do not any enquiries because they are unaware of any issues. Some people have been in the country so long that they consider themselves citizens. But legally they belong to another country, and could be deported if they have substantial criminal history.
There is sometime ground for appeal in these cases; if people with Australian born children, for example. But in many cases they do not have the financial resources to appeal. If their visa is revoked they will be denied legal aid, and they often cannot afford a lawyer.
Several New Zealanders have had their visa revoked, often while serving time in prison. They are not told of the deportation till the prison sentence is over. About 100 New Zealanders were deported for criminal offences in the 12 months following the policy change.
About 2,358 non-citizens have had their visas cancelled since December 2104
Individuals concerned with their legal rights and immigration status should consult an immigration lawyer. Talks to Hope Immigration, a migration agent Sydney residents can trust.