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Travelling to Australia

 

Aim of this information

This information is designed to set out the types of visa required for travel to Australia and how a criminal conviction may affect your ability to get a visa.

Why is this important?

People with criminal records are not barred from travelling to Australia. However, it’s important to know how a criminal record determines the type of visa you should apply for and whether or not you are likely to meet the good character test.

Introduction

Visas are required for all travel to Australia. British citizens can obtain the following types of electronic visitor visa:

An eVisitor

  • An eVisitor is designed for people who are outside Australia and want to visit Australia for tourism or business purposes.
  • Tourism includes holidays, recreation and seeing family and/or friends. Business purposes may include attending a conference, negotiation or exploratory business visit.
  • eVisitor applications are free, there is no application charge or service fee.
  • An eVisitor lets you stay in Australia for up to three months on each visit within a 12 month period from the date of grant.
  • An application for the visa can be made online here.

For more information, visit the Department of Immigration and Border Protection.

An Electronic Travel Authority (ETA)

An ETA Tourist Visa allows you to stay in Australia for up to 3 months on each arrival within 12 months from the date the visa was granted.

Although there is no visa application charge, a service fee of $20 applies.

An example of this is the Australian Visa Bureau but other services are available.

A Visitor Visa (Subclass 600)

A Visitor Visa gives more flexibility in the length of stays that are permitted in Australia. There is a substantial charge for this type of visa and they can often take over a month to process (see here for more details).

You may require other visas for transit through Australia to another destination or if you are visiting Australia for reasons other than a holiday.

Criminal convictions

As part of the eligibility requirements to obtain any of the above, it states that:

You must not have any criminal convictions, for which the sentence or sentences should not equal a total period of 12 months duration or more (whether served or not), at the time of travel to, and entry into, Australia.”

This implies the following:

  • If you received two 6 month sentences, you would be ineligible to apply online, and would have to apply for a full Tourist Visa.
  • If you have received a 12 month sentence, but only served, for example, 6 months, you would still have to apply for a full Tourist Visa.
  • If you have received a 12 month suspended sentence, and therefore never stepped foot in a prison, you would still have to apply for a full Tourist Visa.
  • The Australian authorities do not recognise the difference between concurrent and consecutive sentences. Therefore if you were convicted of two offences and received two six month sentences to run concurrently, the Australian authorities would consider this to equal a 12 month sentence and you would have to apply for a full Tourist Visa.

Good character test

If you fall into the category of ‘criminal convictions’ set out above, in order to travel you must pass what the Australian government calls ‘the character requirement’ (as defined in Section 501 of the Migration Act 1958). You are likely to fail this test if you have a ‘substantial criminal record’.

A person is deemed to have a substantial criminal record if they have been:

  • sentenced to either death or life imprisonment
  • sentenced to a term of imprisonment for 12 months or more
  • sentenced to two or more terms of imprisonment (whether on one or more occasions), where the total of those terms is two years or more
  • acquitted of an offence on the grounds of either unsoundness of mind or insanity and, as a result, the person has been detained in a facility or institution.
  • they have, or have had, an association with an individual, group or organisation suspected of having been, or being, involved in criminal conduct

You are also likely to fail the good character test if there is a risk that you would:

  • engage in criminal conduct in Australia
  • harass, molest, intimidate or stalk another person
  • vilify a segment of the Australian community
  • incite discord in the Australian community or a segment of that community
  • represent a danger to the Australian community or a segment of that community by becoming involved in activities that are disruptive to or threatening harm to that community

Applying for a visa if you’ve been convicted of a sexual offence

In February 2017 amendments were made to the Australian Migration Act 1958 which will affect those who have been convicted of a sexual offence who are considering travelling to Australia.

Any new visa applications will be refused or existing visa’s cancelled if, a court in Australia or a foreign country has:

  • convicted you of one or more sexually based offences involving a child; or
  • found you guilty of such an offence, even if you were discharged without a conviction (for example you received an absolute discharge).

If an Interpol green notice is in force, then the Australian authorities will infer that you would present a risk to the Australian community and any visa application will be refused or existing visa revoked. Interpol green notices are often given to people on the Sex Offenders Register

What happens if you do not pass the good character test?

Even if you fall into the above, you will not automatically be refused a visa. Another requirement of the ‘good character test’ will look at what you have done (and how you have behaved) since being sentenced. You may want to give some thought to what evidence you could provide to show this. The Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection will use their discretion as to whether or not to approve your application.

How will your application be decided?

When a visa applicant or visa holder does not pass the character test, immigration officials will decide whether to refuse the application or to cancel a visa. Exercise of this discretion will take into account a wide range of factors, including the protection of the Australian community, the expectations of the community, the best interest of any children under 18 years of age, as well as other considerations such as the non-citizen’s links to Australia, and any relevant international law obligations.

‘I managed to get into Oz with a record (24 month sentence) even though my offence made it impossible to enter the country.  I had to bend over backwards to get all the necessary paperwork together but the point is that if you have a record there is a chance of getting in.  I’m working with explosives now – this would have been unheard of in the UK.’

What if they say no?

If your visa application is cancelled on the grounds of either a substantial criminal record, or another character issue, you are permanently excluded from Australia.

There is generally no appeals procedure if you have been refused an eVisitor or ETA. The only visitor visa that may have a right to appeal in very limited circumstances is the sponsored visitor visa.

If you have a substantial criminal record or a character issue then you should seek advice from the Migration Institute of Australia (MIA). This organisation has contacts in the UK, providing migration advice to prospective migrants, workers, students, families and humanitarian entrants and to employers seeking to obtain skilled overseas workers.

Personal experiences

The personal story below has been posted on theRecord, our online magazine.

Dealing with my barriers and borders – a story from Carlotta, one of Unlock’s trustees who has recently travelled to Australia

Discuss this with others

Read and share your experiences on our online forum.

Key sections include:

Below you will find links to useful websites relating to this page. More specific details (including addresses and telephone numbers) of some of the organsiations listed below can be found here.

For more information

  1. For practical information – More information on character and police certificate requirements can be found on the Australian Government Department of Immigration and Border Protection website
  2. To read personal stories – You can read stories about this posted on theRecord, our online magazine under the tag travelling abroad
  3. To discuss this issue with others – Read and share your experience on our online forum
  4. Questions – If you have any questions about this, you can contact our helpline

Get involved

  1. Comment on this information (below)
  2. Send your feedback directly to us.
  3. Discuss your views and experiences with others on our online peer forum.
  4. Share your personal story by contributing to our online magazine, theRecord.

Comments

Add Comment
  1. I have a conviction from 1967 for ‘Receiving Stolen Property’ for which I was sentenced to a fine of £20 or 3 months imprisonment.
    Would such a conviction bar me from entering Australia?

    1. Hi Terence

      Although you’d need to disclose your conviction if asked on the ETA or visa application, it definitely wouldn’t automatically bar you from entering Australia.

      Best wishes

      Debbie

  2. Hi, I was in a violent relationship between 5-9 years ago when I was 18-23 in which I received more than 12 months prison sentence (time not served). I have never been in any sort of trouble outside of this relationship and this person still tries to contact me even now (even though I am the apparent abuser). What would the likelihood be of me being completely refused entry or what further steps would I need to take? This would be for either an eVisitor and I am looking to move there in the future as my boyfriend lives there.

  3. I have a dismissed case 7 years ago for theft. The company of my husband under subclass 482 want to sponsor me. Will my application denied? I have a current job for almost 6 years now and I have a good character on my job. Thinking this depressed me so much 😢

  4. I have a 2 year suspended sentence for ABH/wounding from 14 years ago when I was 18 years old, would this stop me getting a visa?

    1. Hi Alex

      Unfortunately, as you received a 2 year suspended sentence you would not be eligible to apply for the Electronic Travel Authority, you would need to apply for a full tourist visa.

      Don’t assume that just because you have a conviction you will automatically be refused a visa. In your favour is the fact that the conviction is old, you were very young when you received it and you have nothing else on your record. The Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection will take into consideration what you have done since you were convicted and will look at each application on a case by case basis.

      Best wishes

      Debbie

  5. I received a penalty notice for disorder and spent the night in a police cell. Is this something I would need to disclose as a conviction?

  6. Thanks for the awesome website.

    I was given a six-month suspended sentence for offensive behaviour (urinating in public!) in my 20s, nearly 28 years ago, but the offence is hidden (but not erased) from government records under NZ’s “clean slate” law.

    Do I have to declare this on the Australian immigration form?

    Many thanks.

  7. Hi I have a drink driving conviction from 2012 which I recieved a 9 month driving ban and a conviction from 2013 for breaking a car window when drunk and paid a fixed penalty for this. Do these two records create a struggle for entry to aus for me?

    1. Hi Matthew

      As you can see from the above information the Australian authorities are only really interested in prison sentences or suspended sentences which equal more than 12 months. I’m sure your driving disqualification and fixed penalty notice will not stop you from travelling to Australia.

      Best wishes

      Debbie

  8. My husband got into an argument with a traffic officer in 2021 and there for had to pay a fine now it is against his name as criminal offence called crimen injura, will it affect his working visa application

  9. Before anything allow me to thank you for your time. I’m currently in the process of applying for an urgent visitors visa to Australia with an agent. I do have a felony conviction for a weapons charge well over 10 years ago. I was never sentenced to prison time. I received 5 years probation and completed my probation successfully. It’s one of my biggest regrets. Should I be concerned that my visa will be denied?

  10. I have 2 drink drive convictions from 22 yrs ago and 17 yrs ago, do I need to disclose these as so long ago. Also just got driving bans for both

    Thank you

  11. 20 November 2008 an order was made for my deportation to my homeland from USA.
    I were unaware of my deportation order and continued about my life in the U.S. until January 2019, when a Homeland Security Agent detained me at your home.
    During the process they found an unregistered firearm in my home (locked in your safe) and this led to a Federal criminal conviction of ‘Possession of an unregistered firearm’.
    In August 2020 I was sentenced to 30 months imprisonment for this conviction. I served 6 months of my sentence in prison and 24 months in immigration detention.
    After my sentence, I was deported back to my homeland.
    I seek more information about your visa options and the quickest way that will allow me to get a visa to Australia to join my girlfriend (which happen to be an Australian citizen) we are ready to go with the prospective visa too!
    is there any big chance for us?

  12. Hi Unlock,
    I was recently put in a police cell over night for drunk and disorderly behaviour (just arguing with bouncers and police – very out of character but was my own drunken fault). From this I received a Community Resolution (alcohol awareness course) which I completed immediately, do I need to disclose this when applying for visas in Australia/New Zealand as I am travelling there next year and worried about entry, I am also interested about America since they’re also strict when applying for ESTAs/visas.
    Thank you

  13. Hi Debbie,

    I got into trouble 11 years ago and was handed a 12 month community order where I had to complete 70 hours unpaid work. I’m uk based and travelled to Australia on a Working holiday visa 3 years later in 2014 I had to send away for a police report but my visa was accepted and I spent a year there. I’m now travelling to Australia in January for business purposes, what visa would I require, do I have to declare this and will I need to send away for a police report again?

    1. Hi Kate

      I’m not sure what visa you’d require for a business trip to Australia so it’s probably worth having a look at the ‘Visa Finder’ section of the Australian High Commission website – https://uk.embassy.gov.au/.

      Most visa applications will ask for an upto date police certificate and I would imagine that the one from 3 years ago would probably be too old. As visa applications are exempt from the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act, you would need to disclose your conviction from 11 years ago.

      I hope this is helpful.

      Best wishes

      Debbie

  14. Hi. I was fined 4000NOK almost 5 years ago for having THC in my urine. It is not in my police certificate anymore. Is this something i need to inform on visa application for australia?

      1. Hi, I am in a similar position and my certificate shows “no trace” but they ask about criminal records and not just convictions so would this not need to be disclosed?

        1. Hi Debra

          If your Police Certificate states ‘No Trace’ this means that there is nothing recorded on the Police National Computer (PNC) and therefore nothing to disclose. If however the Certificate states ‘No Live Trace’ this means that there is something recorded on the PNC but enough time has passed for it to no longer be necessary to disclose it on the Certificate – you would however need to disclose it to the Australian Embassy when applying for your visa.

          I hope this is helpful but if you require any further information, please feel free to give our helpline a call.

          Best wishes

          Debbie

  15. Hi, just wondering if there’s any chance I can go to Australia to visit family, I have a criminal record and have served over 12 months of sentences, I haven’t been in trouble for over 5 years and haven’t had a custodial sentence for over 10 years, any advice would be much appreciated, cheers

    1. Hi Jamie

      As you are aware, as you received a prison sentence of over 12 months, you would not meet the eligibility requirements to gain entry into Australia. In addition to this, due to the length of the sentence it’s likely that you would not pass the good character test.

      However, just because you fall into these categories, you will not automatically be refused a visa. The ‘good character test’ also looks at what you have done since you were convicted. Your police certificate will show that you’ve had a clean record for over 5 years and other evidence you may want to present could be proof of employment, voluntary work you’ve carried out etc.

      The Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection will deal with each application on a case by case basis.

      Hope this is helpful.

      Best wishes

      Debbie

  16. I have convictions from 20 years ago, all fines and community orders but I don’t know when exactly they were and what the sentences were. What do I do? I can’t declare them because I do t know what they are exactly

    1. Hi Cat

      If you’re unsure of the details of any conviction then I’d suggest applying for a copy of your police record (sometimes referred to as a Subject Access Request). This will show the date of the conviction, what you were convicted of and the sentence or disposal you received. You can apply for this by emailing the ACRO Criminal Records Office at subjectaccessrequest@acro.police.uk. You can find further information at https://unlock.org.uk/advice/police-records/.

      Best wishes

      Debbie

  17. In 2020 I was sentenced to a 12 month conditional discharge, in relation to a harassment in 2017 ( took the police 3 years to investigate and to get the charging decision they manipulated the system) The discharge is now spent and my police certificate shows I have no convictions. This has also been confirmed in writing by a detective Sgt in the police. The sentencing remarks from the crown court judge were that, at the time of sentencing I was of “exemplary character”…… I had no record prior to the incident and have had nothing since (6 years) The Australian immigration dept or “VACCU” as they call themselves have all the information above yet it has now taken them 2 years to process my visa under the “character assessment” and I still do not have an answer. I have a sister who is a resident in Australia and an 18 month old niece who I have never met because this application for a tourist visa so I can visit has taken so long!!! I have contact the minister for immigration, spoken to unlock, spoken to a solicitor and no one seems to be able to help

  18. I received a police warning for violent disorder aged 13 which has been stepped down. It states on my police check that there is no live trace. I have submitted supporting evidence on the immi website but I was wondering if anyone has experience of a time frame it takes for the further assessment?

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Photo of Head of Advice, Debbie Sadler
Debbie Sadler
Head of Advice

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