This is obviously a highly stressful situation – so the first rule needs to be: Don’t Panic.
Before making a decision to cancel a visa, the Department will ordinarily issue a ‘natural justice’ letter, which outlines its intention to cancel your visa and invites you to provide reasons and evidence for why your visa should not be cancelled.
Why Would the Department Cancel a Visa?
The reasons why the Department would generally cancel a visa relate to character – relevantly, that you are considered not to be of good character because of some information the Department has about you that it didn’t have before. This could include (for example):
– A new criminal conviction or evidence you are involved in criminal activity,
– Information that you provided with a previous application is believed to be incorrect, or one of your documents is considered ‘bogus’, or
– You are suspected or breaching a condition of your visa (most commonly, a ‘no work’ or ‘limited work’ condition).
Natural Justice Letter:
If you have received a natural justice letter, this is a really serious matter. This is the point at which you really need professional assistance.
It’s crucial that you realise this is the step where you have the opportunity to ‘clear the air’ with the Department – explain why they should not cancel your visa, why their information is wrong, or why their understanding is different to reality.
This step is so critical because it can be quite easy to clear up issues right here; if you let them linger, however, it can be much more difficult to clear up even simple matter once your visa has been cancelled!
As in the case of visa refusals (see our article here), a visa cancellation may attract appeal rights (and will if you are in Australia).
The proper avenue of appeal is to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT), and the time frame for appeal is outlined in your decision letter (usually 28 days, but check!).
However, note that once the Department has issued a cancellation of your visa, if you are still in Australia you now have no visa and will be considered an unlawful non-citizen until you obtain a bridging visa:
– by lodging an appeal to the AAT, or
– by applying for a bridging visa directly from the Department (e.g. through their Community Status Resolution Team.
If you are outside Australia when your visa is cancelled, it’s much trickier. You have no Australian visa so can’t return to Australia – therefore, in order to return you need to obtain a new visa.
However, your odds of being granted any kind of visa after a cancellation for character reasons are very small in the absence of highly compelling reasons for returning.
These are the provision the Australian Government has used to great effect to prevent the return of organised crime figures in recent times.
If you find yourself in such a situation it’s critical that you get advice on your prospects and next steps. The damage may be done, but if there is any hope of a return in the next few years, you need to be very confident that the next steps you take are the right ones.