Australia: Changes to health requirements for all Australian visas to take effect on 20 November 2015

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection has announced a number of changes to health requirements for Australian visa applications, to take effect from 20 November 2015. As part of the changes, a new health matrix will be issued determining who is required to undertake medical examinations. The changes will also abolish streamlined health processing arrangements for 457 visa applicants which can affect the processing times.

From 20 November 2015, a new health matrix will apply to all visa applications. The health matrix determines if medical examinations are required based on the following factors:

  • the applicants’ proposed length of stay in Australia,
  • passport nationality/ place of residence, and
  • other risk factors.

This new health matrix is divided into “safe countries” and “all other countries.” Visa applicants whose country of citizenship is not a prescribed safe country, or applicants who have spent 3 consecutive months or more in a country that is not a prescribed safe country, will generally be required to undertake full medical examinations for stays in Australia of 6 months or more. Previously, medical examinations were only generally required for stays in Australia of 12 months or longer and countries were divided into three risk categories – low, medium and high risk.

Visa applicants from safe countries will not be required to undertake medical assessments for any temporary visas (with the exception of some provisional visas that provide a pathway to permanent visa), unless an additional risk factor applies. Some examples of risk factors include pre-existing medical conditions or working in a health-related occupation.

Prescribed safe countries include the United Kingdom, USA, New Zealand, Ireland, Germany, Spain, Greece and France, among many others. Examples of countries that are not ‘safe countries’ include China, India, Singapore, Malaysia and Russia, as well as others.

Visa applicants proposing to stay in Australia for 6 months or less will not be required to undertake any medical assessments regardless of passport nationality, unless one of the risk factor applies.

What this means for employers

Importantly, under the new health matrix subclass 457 visa applications are no longer subject to streamlined health processing arrangements. As of 20 November 2015, 457 visa applicants whose proposed length of stay is over 6 months and who are not from a safe country (or where a risk factor applies) will be required to undertake a full medical assessment. Previously, 457 visa applicants from high risk countries were only required to undertake chest x-rays.

These changes will impact visa applications lodged after 20 November 2015, and applications already lodged where medical examinations have not yet been undertaken. These changes are likely to result in processing delays, particularly for 457 visa applicants who are not from safe countries.