Australian Refugee and Humanitarian Program

It is very unfortunate when a country is in turmoil and conflict and people are forced to leave it. Starting life afresh in a new country can reinstill hope and order in the lives of families. The Australian refugee and humanitarian program offers the Australian refugee visa in 4 different subclasses. These are the subclasses 200, 201, 203 and 204. In this article we will be explaining how to apply for refugee status in Australia.

Australian Refugee and Humanitarian Program
Australian Refugee and Humanitarian Program

Australian Refugee and Humanitarian Program

Refugee Category Visas

With these visas, applicants can relocate to Australia if they are victims of persecution in their home country. These visas allow the applicant and their family to live, work and study indefinitely in Australia.


To be eligible for the refugee visas the applicant must:

  • be outside Australia (offshore)
  • be subject to persecution in their home country
  • meet the “compelling reasons” criterion
  • meet health, character and national security requirements

They can apply for 1 of 4 refugee visa subclasses:

  • Refugee (subclass 200) for people who the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has referred to Australia for resettlement
  • In-country Special Humanitarian (subclass 201) for people who are still living in their country and have been unable to leave
  • Emergency Rescue (subclass 203) for people who the UNHCR has referred to Australia as they are in immediate danger
  • Woman at Risk (subclass 204) for women who do not have the protection of a partner or a relative and are in danger of victimisation

Priority Processing

Priority is given to the most vulnerable applicants. This includes:

  • assessed as refugees by United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and referred to Australia for resettlement, or
  • proposed by an immediate family member (for example, spouses and minor aged children) who hold a Refugee category visa (subclasses 200, 201, 203 or 204)

Applicants in the most compelling circumstances are accepted due to the limited number of resettlement places available each year.

Rejoin Your Split Family

This is in the case that the applicant’s immediate family members are in Australia already. These family members might help in bringing the applicant to Australia by “proposing” their visa application. This is called a “split family” application. Special consideration is given to split family applications.

The applicant’s immediate family member can include:

  • spouse or partner (including same-sex partner)
  • dependent child or stepchild
  • parent or step-parent if you are younger than 18

Immediate family members in Australia are only eligible to propose your split family application if they hold:

Refugee visa (subclass 200, 201, 202, 203, 204)

They must also:

  • have been a member of the applicant’s immediate family when their visa was granted
  • have spoken about the relationship with the applicant before their visa was granted
  • still be a member of the applicant’s family
  • propose the applicant’s visa application within 5 years of being granted their visa

Illegal Maritime Arrivals who arrived in Australia on or after 13 August 2012 may not propose applications for family members

The proposer will need to complete a Form 681 Refugee and Special Humanitarian Proposal for the applicant to submit along with the applicant’s Form 842 Application for an Offshore Humanitarian visa.

“Split family” applications are processed in the same visa subclass the proposer holds.

Visa Subclasses in the Australian Refugee and Humanitarian Program

There are four visa subclasses included in the Refugee category of the Humanitarian Program. They are:

  • Refugee (subclass 200)
  • In-country Special Humanitarian (subclass 201)
  • Emergency Rescue (subclass 203)
  • Woman at Risk (subclass 204)

The following information pertains to all of the above refugee category visas.

These visas allow the applicant to:

  • stay in Australia permanently
  • work and study in Australia
  • enrol in Australia’s public healthcare scheme, Medicare
  • propose family members for permanent residence
  • travel to and from Australia for 5 years
  • if eligible become an Australian citizen
  • attend free English language classes through the Adult Migrant English Program

Length of Stay

These are permanent visas. They allow the applicant who receives the visa to stay in Australia indefinitely. The applicant who receives the visa becomes a permanent resident when they enter Australia. For the process of citizenship, permanent residence starts on the day of entry in Australia.


There is no visa application charge.

Refugee Visa Australia Processing Time

The decision could take several months or years. The number of applications received for resettlement each year is much larger than the number of available visas.

Applicant Must:

  • enter Australia by the date on their visa
  • applicant and their family members must obey all Australian laws

Adding Family

Select family members can be added to the application anytime before a decision on the application is received.

For these visas, family are the following:

  • the applicant’s partner
  • the applicant’s dependent children
  • the applicant’s partner’s dependent children
  • other relative who is a dependent

Additional Rules

  • If the applicant’s child is not dependent on them, they must apply for their own visa.
  • Family members who apply for the visa must meet the health and character requirements.
  • Family members who are not coming to Australia might also have to meet the health requirement.
  • It is important to declare all family members, even if they will not be applying with the applicant.
  • If the applicant does not declare a family member in their application, they may not be able to propose them for a refugee and humanitarian visa after they arrive in Australia.


Once the applicant has received the visa they can travel to and from Australia for 5 years from the date the visa is granted. After 5 years they need a Resident Return (RRV) visa (subclass 155) or (subclass 157) to re-enter Australia as a permanent resident.


Be Outside Australia

The Applicant must be outside Australia. These visas cannot be applied from within Australia.

Be Facing Persecution

The applicant must need resettlement because they face persecution in their home country.


Work is permitted on these visas

Health Requirement

The applicant and any family members who apply for the visa with the applicant must meet the health requirement.
Family members who do not apply with the applicant might also have to meet our health requirement.
If the applicant has compassionate and compelling circumstances, the health requirement might be waived.

Character Requirement

The applicant and any family members who apply for the visa with the applicant must meet the character requirement.
Family members who do not apply with the applicant might also have to meet the character requirement.

Sign the Australian values statement

The applicant must confirm to respect the Australian way of life and obey Australian laws when they sign or accept the Australian Values Statement.

Have paid back your debt to the Australian government

If the applicant or any family members (including those who don’t apply for the visa with the applicant) owe the Australian Government money, the applicant or family must have already paid it back or made arrangements to pay it back.

How To Apply


  • certified copies of all documents
  • as much information as possible to help decide the application
  • each document only once, even if the applicant is using it to show more than one thing
  • all documents with the application, if the applicant can

Documents Required

The Applicant must provide accurate information.

Identity Documents

  • Pages of current passport showing photo, personal details, and passport issue and expiry dates.
  • National identity Card
  • Proof of change of name

Documents to prove a change of name include:

  • a marriage or divorce certificate
  • change of name documents from an Australian Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages, or the relevant overseas authority
  • documents that show other names you have been known by

If the applicant cannot provide these items, they must provide a statement explaining why they do not have travel or identity documents.

Humanitarian Circumstances

The applicant can provide proof if they have registered with any international organisation dealing with refugees, such as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

If the applicant has been referred for resettlement by the UNHCR, they must provide a full copy of your resettlement registration form.

The applicant must also write a statement, in English, about why they left their home country.

Visas or Residence Permits

The applicant must provide certified copies of any visas or residence permits they have.

Relationship Documents

The applicant must provide certified copies of marriage certificates or relationship registrations for them and anyone else included in their application, even if they are not joining them in Australia.


  • Provide 2 recent photographs (45mm x 35mm).
  • The photographs should be of the head and shoulders only against a plain background.
  • Print your name on the back of each photograph.

Character Documents

The applicant must provide military service records or discharge papers if they served in the armed forces of any country.

Partner Documents


  • Identity documents
  • Character documents
  • Documents about other relationships, if applicable
  • Any visas or residence permits held
  • 2 photographs, as described in the information for the main applicant

Provide either:

  • Your current marriage certificate, or
  • Documents to prove you have been in a de facto relationship with your partner for at least 12 months before you apply

Documents that prove your de facto relationship include:

  • joint bank account statements
  • billing accounts in joint names
  • joint leases or mortgages
  • documents that show your partner has lived at the same address as you

Additional Documents are required for under 18 dependents, parents responsibility and over 18 dependents.

Documents must be translated and certified.

Apply for Visa

The application for visa must be sent via post. The Australian refugee visa application form is the following:

  • Form 842 Application for an Offshore Humanitarian Visa
  • Send your application to an immigration office outside Australia.

After Application

  • The applicant will be informed when application and documents are received
  • There will be no status updated on the application. The applicant must wait to be contacted
  • The applicant must keep updating any changes with contact details or change of circumstances
  • The applicant must only make travel plans to Australia one they have received in writing that they have been granted a visa
  • Health examination may be required
  • Biometrics may be required
  • The applicant must provide any required documents that have not been sent
  • Additional information may be requested


The applicant may be asked for an interview. They must bring their passport or other identification and any other requested documents.

They might be asked about:

  • their situation, including why they are applying for a humanitarian visa
  • their family
  • information they provided in their application

The applicant will usually be allowed to comment on any information that has been received that can result in their being refused a visa.

Adding Family

In certain circumstances select family members can be added to the application before it is decided. Form 1436 Adding an additional applicant after lodgement must be completed for this .

Mistakes on Application

Form 1023 Notification of incorrect answers can be used to correct mistakes on the application.

Visa Outcome

The decision will be sent by email or letter.

We hope that this article has been informative and helpful about the Australian refugee and humanitarian program.

The Australian visitor visa is another Australian visa which allows people to visit Australia for the purpose of Tourism or Business.

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Ask Indian Friend Now


What is the processing time for visas in the Australian refugee and humanitarian program ?

These visas can take many months to many years.

Do these visas require the applicants to be outside Australia ?


Who gets priority for these visas ?

The most compelling cases get priority for these visas, due to the limited number of them.

Does the applicant have to be facing persecution in their home country to be eligible for this visa ?


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