With the rise of Ebola in West Africa, it’s important to talk about how our immigration law would respond to an applicant with the virus. This discussion is essential in light of Australia’s response (or lack of it) to the crisis.

To come to Australia, you need a visa.

First things first. Any person wanting to travel here needs a visa. You can’t even board a flight to Australia without a visa. (There are some exceptions but they’re very obscure.) If an airline did let you on board, they would face prosecution under Section 42 of the Migration Act 1958.

What does getting a visa have to do with it? You have to meet certain health criteria. The criteria in Schedule 4 of the Migration Regulations (1994) state that you must be free from a disease that may be a threat to public health in Australia. It’s not too controversial to say that Ebola is captured by that definition.

Does every applicant need to be medically assessed?

No. In practical terms, though, the Department of Immigration doesn’t need every applicant to be medically assessed. But, an applicant’s level of health risk is one of the contributing factors in priortising applications. Other things include the country they come from, and how long they intend to stay.

The Department of Immigration relies on people to provide the correct information on their applications. When you apply for a visa, you are required by law to be honest in your responses.

What if an applicant was low-risk, or unaware of their condition?

In this case, the health requirements framework would come into play. The Department may choose, for example, to require health assessments of people even from low risk countries. That really comes down to choice of policy and policy responses by the government. So, we aren’t able to give you a concrete answer to this.

If you would like more information about immigration and disease outbreaks, contact us today.

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