New visa health matrix commencing on 20 November 2015

For many Australian visas, there are common “public interest criteria” that must be met in order for that visa to be granted. Which public interest criteria applies varies according to the visa application. An important one is the health requirement as it must be met for a number of substantive visas. That being said, many applicants tend to be left in the dark on which, if any, medical examination(s) are required for their visa. In some cases, even though the health requirement applies, the applicant does not even need to do anything to meet it.

With the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) implementing online medical declarations, known as the My Health Declaration, many applicants will not appreciate the legislative basis for why medicals are needed. This is because after the My Health Declaration has been completed, an eMedical referral letter determines, based on the answers provided, what tests are required.

For those that want to know in advance, this information is contained in a legislative instrument, with a new one commencing on 20 November 2015. This instrument determines what medicals are required for what visa, taking into account such circumstances as:

  • Whether the visa being applied for is either a temporary, provisional or permanent;
  • If it is a temporary visa, the length of time the applicant will be in Australia;
  • The country of citizenship of the applicant;
  • Which countries the applicant has spent their time in the last 5 years;
  • The applicant’s age; and
  • Certain circumstances that require additional medical assessments (such as being pregnant or that they will likely be in a classroom situation).

If it seems a little daunting, there is no need to worry. All of these factors are neatly listed in a referrable table. The major change from the previous health matrix is a move a two-tiered approach instead of a three-tiered “low”, “medium”, and “high” risk system.

Additionally, the instrument also lists who are authorised to conduct these assessments. Bupa and in some cases an approved and vetted Medical Practitioner can conduct these assessments in Australia while panel physicians and radiologists appointed by the Australian Government are approved to conduct medical examinations outside of Australia.

On more than one occasion an applicant has said that they recently had a physical with their GP and this would be enough to pass a visa medical. This has always been met with the typical response that there was no chance the DIBP would accept this, by reason that they were not assessed by an approved service provider according to law.

It should be noted that the DIBP’s rollout of eMedical clinics have been, on the whole, nothing but successful. It has sped up the processing of visa medicals significantly from the days when sealed envelopes had to be couriered to the DIBP for further processing.