As anyone who has ever applied for a job, hired a cleaner, volunteered with children or travelled overseas knows, character can be everything. In a security-obsessed world, checking out someone’s background is the norm, but how far would you go in removing those that you perceived to be a threat? Some say the Australian Government has gone too far with an amendment to section 501 of the Migration Act, which came into effect at the end of 2014.

Section 501 provides, among other things, that the Minister must consider deportation of any foreign national if they have committed an offence and sentenced 12 months or more of imprisonment. The reality of the new laws has become apparent with headlines hitting the news such as “Kiwi mother fighting deportation after living in Australia for 37 years” and “Brisbane man, in Australia since the age of one, faces deportation to Chile”. Of the potential deportees, over 200 are citizens of New Zealand, many of whom arrived as small children and have never left. They have jobs, children, partners and homes in Australia and often little connection to New Zealand. New Zealand has recently begun to apply pressure over this policy, with news outlets protesting the “lack of ANZAC spirit” and politicians pointedly considering review of New Zealand’s own migration laws in relation to Australians.

Visa holders should also be aware that the character test applies to past offences as well as any offence the visa holder may commit in the future. At The Migration Place, we take the position that while the criminal actions that lead to visa cancellations can never be condoned, these cases are often not black and white and some of these people are deserving of sympathy. If you have concerns about an incident in your past, don’t risk being caught up in the character net – call us urgently for advice from our experienced immigration lawyers on +61 7 3229 4025.