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Fact Sheet 62 – Assistance for Asylum Seekers in Australia

In this fact sheet:

  • Who is an asylum seeker?
  • Assistance for asylum seekers
  • The Asylum Seeker Assistance Scheme (ASAS)
  • ASAS eligibility criteria
  • ASAS exemption criteria
  • Financial assistance
  • Who are the contracted service providers?
  • Assistance with health care
  • Professional migration advice for asylum seekers
  • Bridging visas and permission to work for asylum seekers
  • Access to Medicare for asylum seekers

Who is an asylum seeker?

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees describes an asylum seeker as an individual who is seeking international protection.

'In countries with discrete refugee assessment procedures, an asylum seeker is someone whose claim for protection has not been decided by the country in which she or he has submitted their claim. Not every asylum seeker will ultimately be recognised as a refugee, but every refugee is initially an asylum seeker.'

(United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Master Glossary of Terms, June 2006).

An asylum seeker in Australia is usually an applicant for a protection visa, who is assessed at the primary stage by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, and at the merits review stage (for example, by the Refugee Review Tribunal). Further information can be found on Fact Sheet 61 - Seeking Protection Within Australia

Assistance for asylum seekers

The Australian Government administers programmes which provide assistance for eligible asylum seekers during the period in which their applications for protection are processed before being finally determined. This may include:

  • financial assistance under the Asylum Seeker Assistance Scheme (ASAS)
  • casework services through contracted service providers under ASAS
  • legal assistance for preparing an application for a protection visa under the Immigration Advice and Application Assistance Scheme (IAAAS)
  • providing permission to work in Australia
  • facilitating access to Medicare.

The Asylum Seeker Assistance Scheme (ASAS)

The Asylum Seeker Assistance Scheme (ASAS) is administered by the department's contracted service providers. ASAS provides financial assistance to protection visa applicants, who satisfy specific eligibility criteria, to enable them to engage with the department in progressing their application for protection. The level of financial assistance offered to asylum seekers is less than that offered to Australian citizens under similar living arrangements. ASAS also facilitates casework assistance through professionals employed by the service provider to relieve difficulties experienced by vulnerable asylum seekers in the Australian community.

The ASAS eligibility criteria are described below. For those asylum seekers who arrived lawfully and wish to apply for ASAS, they should approach an office of the Red Cross in the capital city of their nearest state or territory.

ASAS eligibility criteria

An asylum seeker may be eligible for ASAS if they have a valid application for a protection visa lodged with the department and where:

  • the date of lodgement of the protection visa application is more than six months old and the applicant is waiting for a decision
  • the date of lodgement of the protection visa application is less than six months old, the applicant is waiting for a decision and meets one of the ASAS exemption criteria
  • the protection visa application was refused by the department and the applicant has lodged an application for review by the Refugee Review Tribunal and continues to meet the ASAS exemption criteria
  • the applicant is not in immigration detention
  • the applicant holds a current visa
  • the applicant is not eligible for either Australian or overseas government income support
  • the applicant who arrived unlawfully, for example, by boat without a valid visa, and has been granted a bridging visa to progress their application for protection.

ASAS exemption criteria

Exemptions to ASAS eligibility criteria may be available to vulnerable asylum seekers who are suffering hardship and are unable to meet their basic needs because they lack adequate support within the community. These applicants may include:

  • unaccompanied minors
  • elderly persons
  • families with children under 18 years old
  • people who are unable to work due to a disability, illness, care responsibilities or the effects of torture or trauma
  • people experiencing financial hardship resulting from a change in circumstances since arriving in Australia.

Financial assistance

Asylum seekers who are eligible for ASAS may receive payments of limited financial assistance through the department's service provider to reduce the burden of everyday living expenses.

Recipients of ASAS may also receive payments to cover some of the costs associated with the processing of their application for a protection visa.

Financial assistance through ASAS ceases:

  • upon the grant of a protection visa
  • within 28 days after notification by the department that the application for a protection visa has been refused
  • when the recipient no longer meets eligibility criteria or fails to meet reporting obligations
  • where the recipient no longer needs support, has been re-detained, imprisoned, is admitted to a health care facility such as a hospital or leaves Australia.

Some asylum seekers whose application for a protection visa has been refused by the department may be eligible to continue receiving assistance through ASAS if they apply for review by the Refugee Review Tribunal and continue to meet ASAS eligibility criteria.

Who are the contracted service providers?

Assistance with health care

Asylum seekers who are eligible for ASAS may receive limited financial assistance to reduce the burden of expenses associated with health care.

Professional migration advice for asylum seekers

Free professional migration advice and application assistance is available to some vulnerable and disadvantaged asylum seekers living in the community through the Immigration Advice and Application Assistance Scheme (IAAAS) - Fact Sheet 63 - Immigration Advice and Application Assistance Scheme

Bridging visas and permission to work for asylum seekers

Protection visa applicants entering Australia may be granted a bridging visa to live lawfully in the Australian community while their application is being finalised. Failure to comply with the conditions on the visa may result in the applicant's visa being cancelled and being placed in immigration detention. Further information at Fact Sheet 82 - Immigration Detention

The conditions on the visa may include permission to work, reporting requirements, and notification of change of address.

Most protection visa applicants who arrived lawfully are entitled to remain lawfully in the community on the visa they used to enter Australia, or on a bridging visa if their initial visa expires, until their application for a protection visa is finalised. New permission to work arrangements explains work arrangements for protection visa applicants.

Access to Medicare for asylum seekers

Some protection visa applicants may be eligible for Medicare, the Australian Government's health insurance scheme.

Further information on asylum seeker eligibility for Medicare can be obtained from the Department of Human Services website.

Fact Sheet 62. Produced by the National Communications Branch, Department of Immigration and Border Protection, Canberra.

Last reviewed January 2014.

Last reviewed Wednesday 27 August 2014