Australia Immigration – Application For Protection (Refugee Status)

Sameen* is a citizen of Iran, but has been living and studying in Australia for nearly 3 years. She presently has a student visa, and is aged 27. Unless Sameen can obtain permanent residency, she will need to leave Australia when her studies are completed. However, having recently converted to Christianity while in Australia, Sameen is concerned that she will be discriminated against if she returns to Iran. She therefore wants to stay and live permanently in Australia. (* name changed)

One option which may be available to Sameen is to make an application for protection (refugee status), which can be made while she is in Australia, but the outcome will depend on whether Sameen meets the definition of a refugee, as per the United Nations 1951 Convention that Australia has signed. The Convention defines refugees as people who:

(a) are outside their country of nationality or their usual country of residence,
(b) are unable or unwilling to return to their home country, or to seek the protection of that country, due to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion, and
(c) are not war criminals or people who have committed serious non-political crimes.

As Sameen is living outside her home country, and does not have any criminal convictions or history, she may only need to show that her conversion to Christianity means she would be persecuted in Iran. However, “persecuted” may mean more than just discrimination, so it will depend on whether the Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship believes that forcing Sameen to return to Iran would result in her suffering serious punishment or penalty, or some significant detriment or disadvantage 海外留學  . The decision-maker in the Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship would also have to be satisfied that Sameen’s conversion to Christianity was genuine, and that she could not easily re-integrate into Iranian society due to her new faith.

During the 2007-08 year, people born in Iran were one of the ten largest groups granted offshore visa grants by the Australian Government, which may be an indication that the Australian Government recognizes Iran as a country where people are persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion. The top ten birth countries in the 2007-08 report were (in order of the number of offshore visa grants): Burma/Myanmar, Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan, Liberia, Congo (DRC), Burundi, Iran, Sierra Leone, and Sri Lanka.

If Sameen is refused a protection visa, she cannot usually apply again. Moreover, she may be refused any other kind of visa while she remains in Australia, and it may be necessary for her to return home to Iran even if she intends to apply for permanent residency on some other basis.

Sameen might also investigate the visa options for employer sponsored workers (who must have qualifications and skills/or experience in particular occupations required in Australia), regional employment programmes (which aim to attract young – below age 45 – skilled migrants to areas of Australia where they are most needed), or visa options for family migration (if she has family members in Australia, or has an Australian fiance or partner). Although it is not necessary to use a migration agent to apply for a visa in Australia, a migration agent can advise regarding all visa options. Migration agents operating in Australia, who offer immigration assistance services, must be registered with the Office of Migration Agents Registration Authority. Migration agents operating outside Australia may be registered with the Office of Migration Agents Registration Authority, and must also comply with relevant laws in their country of operation.

Stephen G Bourne is a lawyer and attorney, and has written and edited books about various aspects of the law.



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