The changes will effectively lower the threshold for the cancellation of temporary visas for non-citizens. A person can now fail the character test if there’s a ‘reasonable suspicion’ – not a conviction – for involvement in crime gangs, people smuggling, genocide, war crimes, torture or slavery.
Anyone who has one or multiple jail sentences adding up to 12 months – down from two years – or has an adverse ASIO assessment of child sex charges can also fail automatically.The minister can cancel or refuse a visa to anyone who fails the character test.
Schedule 1—Character test
- provide for mandatory cancellation of the visa of a person who is serving a prison sentence, where the Minister is satisfied that the person fails the character test as they have a substantial criminal record or have been found guilty of a sexually based offence involving a child
- broaden the power to refuse or cancel visas by including additional grounds on which a person will not pass the character test
- provide that a person does not pass the character test if there is a ‘risk’ (rather than the current ‘significant risk’) that they would pose a danger to the Australian community
- amend the definition of ‘substantial criminal record’ so that a person sentenced to terms of imprisonment totalling 12 months or more (rather than the current two years) will not pass the character test
- allow the Minister to set aside decisions by a delegate or a Tribunal and cancel a visa if the Minister thinks it is in the national interest and
- enable the Minister to require heads of state or territory agencies to disclose personal information.
Schedule 2—General visa cancellation
- expand the grounds on which a visa may be cancelled under the general visa cancellation power
- expand the Minister’s personal powers to cancel a visa on section 109 or 116 grounds
- provide a mechanism to revoke a cancellation in certain circumstances and
- allow the Minister to substitute their own decision for a decision of a Tribunal or a delegate.