Most people who apply for an Australian visa must meet the health requirement for their visa application to be successful. We acknowledge that the health requirement is needed in order to ensure that existing Australian citizens and permanent residents continue to enjoy access to quality healthcare and community services. However, we have identified several issues with the current immigration health assessment process that could be improved to ensure a balance between maintaining the “best health standards in the world” and fostering migration in a way that benefits the Australian community overall.
In recent years, visa application processing times have lengthened significantly and long waiting periods may negatively affect some applicants more than others. For example, applicants for the Parent Visa, notorious for lengthy estimated processing times, are often elderly with ailments that may deteriorate as they await a decision from the Department. It is also not unlikely for a relatively healthy mature applicant to eventually fail to meet the health requirement after a waiting period of more than 4.5 years.
Professor Benjamin Cowie, a physician and expert in hepatitis B, recently indicated to SBS News that there has been a “plummet”, in recent years, in the price of antiviral medication and that there is a disparity between the estimated and current cost calculations in visa applications. These inflated totals are not reflective of the true cost of medication and healthcare needed by visa applicants and negatively affect their chances of meeting the health requirement. Professor Cowie told SBS News that the true cost could be “a fifth of the cost” which is a significant difference when the aim is to not exceed the $40,000 threshold. This threshold has recently increased to $49,000.
The “one fails, all fail” rule is a significant hurdle in permanent visa applications. Under this rule, “all individuals included in the visa application, as well as any non-migrating dependants, must meet the health requirement on health costs and prejudice of access grounds”. Besides causing emotional distress and potential financial strain on families, this rule has previously been reported as discriminatory towards people with disabilities a contradiction to Australia’s pride in its ‘fair go’ spirit. This rule seems arbitrary and archaic in situations where there are non-migrating family members and dependants with disabilities who have family members able and willing to contribute to their physical and financial care.
Receiving a negative health outcome as part of your visa application does not mean that it is the end of the line for you or your family. The health assessment screening process, as well as the Medical Officers of the Commonwealth (MOC), are not infallible. In some cases, a waiver of the health requirement may also be available. We are well-equipped to assess your situation and help you challenge the MOC’s assessment and, where applicable, assist you with securing a waiver of the health requirement.