Fact Sheet 62 – Assistance for Asylum Seekers in Australia
On this page
- Who is an asylum seeker?
- Assistance for asylum seekers
- Asylum Seeker Assistance Scheme (ASAS)
- ASAS eligibility criteria
- ASAS exemption criteria
- Financial assistance
- Assistance with health care
- Professional legal advice for asylum seekers
- Permission to work for asylum seekers
- Access to Medicare for asylum seekers
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.'
Source: United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Master Glossary of Terms, June 2006
In the Australian context, an asylum seeker is an applicant for a protection visa. They are assessed at the primary stage of processing by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (the department), and at the review stage of processing by the Refugee Review Tribunal.
See: Fact Sheet 61 - Seeking Asylum within Australia
The Australian Government administers programs which provide assistance for eligible asylum seekers during the period in which their applications for protection are processed. This may include:
- financial assistance under the Asylum Seeker Assistance Scheme (ASAS)
- casework services through the Australian Red Cross under ASAS
- legal assistance for preparing an application for a protection visa under the Immigration Advice and Application Assistance Scheme (IAAAS)
- facilitating access to Medicare.
The Asylum Seeker Assistance Scheme (ASAS) is administered by the Australian Red Cross under contract to the department. ASAS provides financial assistance to protection visa applicants who satisfy specific eligibility criteria. ASAS also facilitates casework assistance through professionals employed by the Red Cross to relieve difficulties experienced by vulnerable asylum seekers in the Australian community.
The ASAS eligibility criteria are described below. To find out if they are eligible for ASAS, asylum seekers should approach an office of the Red Cross in the capital city of their nearest state or territory, or an office of the department.
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 visa
- the applicant is not be eligible for either Australian or overseas government income support.
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.
Asylum seekers who are eligible for ASAS may receive payments of limited financial assistance through the Red Cross 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
- 28 days after notification by the department that the application for a protection visa has been refused
- if the circumstances of an asylum seeker change and they no longer meet ASAS eligibility criteria.
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.
Asylum seekers who are eligible for ASAS may receive limited financial assistance to reduce the burden of expenses associated with health care.
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).
See: Fact Sheet 63 – Immigration Advice and Application Assistance scheme
Protection visa applicants who entered Australia on a valid visa must comply with the conditions on that visa until that visa ceases. For example, if they entered on a student visa they must continue to comply with the conditions of a student visa.
Protection visa applicants who entered Australia without a valid visa and were subsequently granted a bridging visa in Australia, must comply with the conditions on the bridging visa.
The conditions on visas may include permission to engage in limited work, permission to engage in full time work, or no permission to work.
Most protection visa applicants 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.
Permission to work while awaiting a decision on the protection visa depends on several criteria. Generally speaking, permission to work is available to applicants who have maintained their lawful status in the community and are engaged with the department to resolve their immigration status.
See: New Permission to Work Arrangements
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 Medicare website.
See: Medicare Australia
Further information is available on the department's website.
The department also operates a national general enquiries line.
Telephone: 131 881
Hours of operation: Monday to Friday from 8.30 am to 4.30 pm. Recorded information is available outside these hours.
Fact Sheet 62. Produced by the National Communications Branch, Department of Immigration and Citizenship, Canberra.
Last Reviewed March 2012.
© Commonwealth of Australia 2010.