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Fact Sheet 63 – Immigration Advice and Application Assistance Scheme

What is the Immigration Advice and Application Assistance Scheme?

This scheme gives free, professional migration advice and visa application assistance to people who have arrived lawfully in Australia and who meet specific eligibility criteria with respect to disadvantage. To qualify for IAAAS assistance, individual applicants must be disadvantaged financially and disadvantaged in another, specific way.

Under the IAAAS Scheme, Registered Migration Agents contracted through the scheme may help with complex immigration matters, the completion and submission of visa applications, liaison with us, and explaining the outcome of the visa decision.

Advice may cease when a telephone or face-to-face conversation ends because, for example, the person seeking advice understands whether or not they are eligible to apply for a visa and the visa application processes they can follow, without further assistance. In some cases, this advice may need to be followed by assistance in preparing and lodging a visa application and this assistance may cease once the visa applied for has been granted or refused.  

From 31 March 2014 the IAAAS scheme does not assist with review applications. IAAAS is also not available to persons seeking judicial review or those requesting ministerial intervention.

Who is the Immigration Advice and Application Assistance Scheme for?

From 31 March 2014 IAAAS is available only to non-citizens who arrived in and entered Australia lawfully on a valid visa and who meet the eligibility criteria with respect to disadvantage.

What does disadvantage mean in this context?

IAAAS providers consider the circumstances of non-citizens living in the community and decide if they are eligible to receive advice or assistance, under the IAAAS.

A 'disadvantaged person' is one who is in financial hardship and is disadvantaged due to:

  • non-English speaking background, youth or other cultural issues such as gender barriers
  • illiteracy in the main language of their country of origin
  • remote location (outside any Australian capital city, except areas with known registered migration agents)
  • physical or psychological disability, including from past torture or trauma
    or
  • physical or psychological harm resulting from family violence.

It is important to note that eligibility for IAAAS services is not a guarantee of services, that is, it is a service and not an entitlement. Limits on IAAAS expenditure and budget and the relative strength of claims for a visa might result in refusal to assist a person who meets hardship requirements. For example, an IAAAS provider is not permitted to assist a person seeking protection as a refugee when that person has no reasonable claims for protection.   

Who provides the advice or assistance?

We have appointed 19 IAAAS providers located throughout Australia. All of these providers have registered migration agents, skilled in IAAAS services.   IAAAS providers may be commercial migration advice businesses, legal aid offices or community-based organisations, including migrant resource centres. 

A list of community Immigration Advice and Application Assistance Scheme service providers is available.

How can I apply for IAAAS services?

Applicants may telephone or visit any of the 19 IAAAS providers. The providers will then determine an applicant's eligibility for IAAAS advice or application assistance based on the eligibility criteria related to disadvantage. 

Each IAAAS provider operates within a whole-of-year IAAAS budget. This can mean that a provider may decline a request for IAAAS services because funds need to be retained for use later in the year.

Is the assistance or advice independent?

Yes. IAAAS providers are not employed by us. IAAAS providers have registered migration agents who offer independent, professional immigration assistance and advice.  Some personal information, such as a person's name and address, financial situation and the reasons why they are claiming hardship are made available to us, as part of evidencing your eligibility for IAAAS. 

However, the Registered Migration Agents Code of Conduct protects matters discussed with the IAAAS providers.  Information contained in any visa application is also protected. 

More information about the Registered Migration Agents Code of Conduct and the privacy (229KB PDF) of information lodged with us is available.

Do I have to use the Immigration Advice and Application Assistance Scheme?

No. Most applicants lodge visa applications without assistance. There is no requirement to use IAAAS services. Information is available on our website to assist applicants to prepare and lodge their own visa applications. 

If non-citizens want to seek immigration assistance from someone who is not an IAAAS provider, they may pay for a registered migration agent themselves or find a registered migration agent willing to provide the service without a fee (called pro bono services).  IAAAS is separate from free general legal aid funded by Commonwealth or State and Territory governments, and from any 'pro-bono' or free service that may be offered by some law firms or migration agents, including IAAAS providers.

What is the difference between advice and assistance?

IAAAS 'Advice' is where an IAAAS provider gives a person information and advice relating to their visa application in person or by telephone. The advice may be given to one person, a family or a group of people.

IAAAS 'Application Assistance' is where an IAAAS provider helps a visa applicant complete and manage the lodgement of a visa application. This assistance may include the use of interpreting and translating services.

When does the IAAAS stop?

IAAAS advice ceases when a person has been given information and advice, and the person does not require assistance (or is not eligible for assistance) in completing a visa application.

IAAAS assistance ceases when the visa application is decided, that is, when it is refused or approved.  IAAAS providers make visa applicants aware of their review options, when they discuss visa refusal decisions with visa applicants. However, IAAAS assistance is not available to the applicant when seeking a merits review of our decision, or for judicial review.

A person refused a visa may seek further assistance for merits review by privately engaging the services of a registered migration agent. In some cases, these services may be pro bono (free). The names of registered migration agents can be found in the yellow pages of the phone book under 'Registered Migration Agents' or can be sought from the Office of the Migration Agents Registration Authority.

Fact Sheet 63. Produced by the National Communications Branch, Department of Immigration and Border Protection, Canberra.