Victoria Legal Aid

Appealing a visa decision

How to appeal a decision made by the Department of Home Affairs to refuse a visa application.

If your application for a visa to visit, enter or stay in Australia is refused, you may be able to appeal against the decision.

The Migration and Refugee Division of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (the tribunal) deals with decisions about general visa applications and decisions about protection visas.

Applying for review at the Administrative Appeals Tribunal

If the Department of Home AffairsExternal Link refuses an application for a visa, other than a protection visa, you can ask the tribunal to review the decision. This includes decisions about visitor, student, partner, family, business or skilled visas. This is called ‘making an appeal’.

There are strict time limits for making an appeal. Time limits depend on the type of decision and whether you are in immigration detention. The time limit cannot be extended.

You should get legal advice immediately after you receive the decision.

Appeal costs for review of general visa application decisions

There are costs for having a visa decision reviewed by the tribunal. In most cases, you have to pay a fee of $3,000 when you apply.

The application fee can be reduced 50 per cent if the tribunal:

  • makes a decision in your favour
  • is satisfied that payment of the full fee has caused, or is likely to cause, severe financial hardship.

If the tribunal decides that your application for review is invalid, you will be refunded the whole amount.

If you withdraw your application, the tribunal can only refund your application fee in very limited circumstances.

Applying for review of a decision to refuse a protection visa

There is a different appeal process for protection visas. You need to ask the tribunal to review the decision.

If you are in immigration detention you have seven days to make an appeal. If you are not in detention, you have 28 days.

Appeal costs for review of protection visa application decisions

If you are appealing a decision about a protection visa there is no application fee to go to the tribunal.

However, if your application is unsuccessful you will have to pay $3,000.

Applying for review of a decision to refuse or cancel a visa on character grounds

If the Department of Home Affairs has refused or cancelled a visa on 'character' grounds, following a Notice of Intention to Consider Cancellation, you may appeal this decision to the tribunal.

Examples of these character grounds include:

  • a criminal history
  • committed offences while you were in immigration detention.

There are very strict time limits for making an appeal to the tribunal. If you are in Australia and your visa has been refused or cancelled on character grounds, you only have nine days from the date of the decision to lodge your appeal. The tribunal has no power to extend this time limit.

If your visa is mandatorily cancelled, you have no right of appeal to the tribunal. If you are currently serving a full-time sentence and have ever been sentenced to 12 months or more imprisonment (regardless of actual time served) or have committed a sexual offence involving a child, your visa must be cancelled under the Migration Act 1958 (Cth). You have 28 days from the date of cancellation to request a revocation of the mandatory cancellation decision.

A decision by the Department of Home Affairs to not revoke a mandatory cancellation decision is reviewable and you must apply to the tribunal within nine days of being notified of the decision.

Read about Mandatory visa cancellations

Appealing decisions of the tribunal

If you apply for a review of a decision at the tribunal and you lose, you may be able to appeal to the Federal Court.

This is a different kind of appeal. You have to show that the tribunal made a legal mistake in the way that it conducted your case. The grounds for appeal are very limited and you will definitely need a lawyer to help you.

Get legal advice immediately before appealing to the Federal Court.

Disclaimer: The material in this print-out relates to the law as it applies in the state of Victoria. It is intended as a general guide only. Readers should not act on the basis of any material in this print-out without getting legal advice about their own particular situations. Victoria Legal Aid disclaims any liability howsoever caused to any person in respect of any action taken in reliance on the contents of the publication.

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Reviewed 24 February 2023

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