The following chart represents the available data on all Section 501 character cancellations and visa refusals from 2012 to 2020. These increases are consistent with the growing number of clients we are assisting in this area.

This data comes from the Department of Home Affairs, ‘Visa Cancellation Statistics’, issued in September 2020.

From 2013/2014 to 2019/2020, there has been a 1343% increase in the rate of visa cancellations, and a 424% increase in visa refusals based on character grounds.

The Character Test

There is a remarkable difference between 2013/2014 and the years that follow. This is due, in part, to the legislative amendments to the Migration Act 1958, introduced in December 2014. These amendments expanded the grounds for visa cancellations and refusals.

Essentially, visa-holders or applicants must satisfy the Minister or delegate that they pass the character test as outlined in s501. The person will not pass the character test if any of these grounds apply. Broadly defined, these grounds include:

  • having a ‘substantial criminal record’,
  • associations with persons suspected of engaging in criminal conduct,
  • conviction for immigration detention offences,
  • the person is not of good character, with regard to their past and present criminal conduct and general conduct,
  • the person poses a significant risk for particular types of conduct.

The amendments also added mandatory cancellation provisions. In addition, the 2014 amendments strengthened ministerial decision-making powers for general visa cancellation provisions. Conduct that has not historically resulted in visa cancellation or visa refusal might now have a substantial impact on your status as a visa holder.