Under the relevant legislations, it is a requirement for applicants of both temporary/permanent visas, and Australian citizenship, to satisfy the Department of Home Affairs that the applicant is of good character. However, there are common misconceptions as to how these requirements operate, and many applicants do not know that they are different.

 

The good character test for visa applications

Under the Migration Act, applicant are required, for most subclasses of visas, to pass the ‘character test’. This is embedded in Section 51 of the Migration Act, and administered through Condition 4001 of Schedule 4 of the Migration Regulations, and the corresponding Ministerial Direction made under Section 499 of the Migration Act.

The ‘character test’ is defined in Section 501(6). However, and generally speaking, it is targeted at applicants who have engaged in serious criminal conduct, or general conduct of similar seriousness and magnitude as the said criminal conduct (such as repeatedly defrauding the Immigration Department).

In short, the threshold for failing to meet the ‘character test’ for visa applications is considerably high, and in our experience, is not frequently evoked by visa case officers to refuse visa applications, unless the applicant has engaged in serious criminal conducts.

However, applicants should be mindful of condition 4020 of Schedule 4 of the Migration Regulations, which operates in an unique way, albeit also ties closely to the character of the applicant.

 

The good character requirement for citizenship application

Under the Citizenship Act, applicants for Australian citizenship must also satisfy the Department fo Home Affairs that s/he is ‘of good character’, in accordance with Section 21(2)(h) of the Citizenship Act.

However, and unlike the relatively high threshold of ‘good character test’ for visa applications, the ‘good character’ requirement for citizenship applications has a relatively low threshold, and case officers have wide discretion when assessing what fails, and what passes the ‘good character’ requirement. In our practice, we have represented clients in resolving character issues arising from citizenship applications by reasons of including, but not limited to: Criminal conduct; Tax evasion; Housing illegal migrants; Engaged in general, albeit unlawful conduct etc

 

It is important to be clear on the differences of the two, and seek proper advice on the best way to approach, and deal with their corresponding issues.

However, and unlike the relatively high threshold of ‘good character test’ for visa applications, the ‘good character’ requirement for citizenship applications has a relatively low threshold