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The Refugee Review Tribunal | Australian Immigration Lawyers

Written by Michelle Makela

Michelle Makela is one of our Legal Practice Directors and the National Practice Manager. She holds a Bachelor of Laws, a Bachelor of Science (Psychology) and a Master’s in Criminology. Michelle has had a varied career, working in commercial litigation, criminal law, family law and estate planning. Michelle joined Go To Court Lawyers in 2011. She now supervises a team of over 80 solicitors across Australia.

The Refugee Review Tribunal is now part of the Migrant Review Tribunal and they are both part of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. The Tribunal is a statutory body which provides an independent review of decisions made by the Commonwealth Department of Home Affairs (DoHA) to either refuse to grant, or to cancel, a protection visa to a non-citizen within Australia.

When an application for review is filed, the tribunal will assess all the information in your case and decide whether you are eligible for protection in Australia. They can only make a decision based on the law, and cannot grant you a visa if you are not eligible under the Migration Act 1958 (Cth) and the Migration Regulations 1994 (Cth). You only get one chance at a review, so it is essential that you prepare the best possible application with all the relevant supporting material. It may be in your best interests to get legal advice before preparing and filing your application.


The process

There are very strict time limits in which you can apply for a review. If you do not lodge your application within these time limits you will lose your right to appeal. You may receive the advice that you have been refused your protection visa or had it cancelled by post, email or by fax. You must lodge your application for review within 28 days of the date that the decision was made. If you receive the advice in the post, you will be allowed an extra 7 business days to lodge it to allow for the postage time.

You need to complete the application form. When the Refugee Review Tribunal receives the application, you will receive a letter advising of the details of your hearing. You must complete the form that is enclosed with that letter and return it. If you have a valid bridging visa it will automatically be continued for the duration of the review. If you do not have a valid bridging visa, it is essential that you apply for one immediately.

The hearing is a formal interview between you and a tribunal member. They will ask you questions about your case and you will have the opportunity to tell them what you think they should know about your matter. You can use the review to correct any problems or mistakes in your original visa application and you can provide any new evidence that you have to support your protection visa application.

The Refugee Review Tribunal member will have a copy of all the forms and documents that you provided when you lodged your Protection visa application and copies of any recorded interviews. They will also have a copy of the reasons why your visa application was refused. If they have any information that does not support your claim they will tell you and you will have the opportunity to comment on it. If you are unable to answer properly on the day, you can ask for time to respond in writing or at a later hearing date. The tribunal member will make a decision sometime after all of the evidence is received and you will receive a written advice of the decision by post or by fax.

The decision

If a decision is made in your favour, the decision record will say that the tribunal will set aside the original decision and remit your application to DoHA.  DoHA will contact you and tell you if there is anything else that you need to do (such as completing character or health checks) before you are granted a visa.

If the decision is made against you, the decision record will say that the Refugee Review Tribunal will affirm the DoHA decision and it will provide detailed reasons for the decision. If this happens and you want to appeal you should consider getting some legal advice as soon as possible. You may be able to challenge the decision at the Federal Circuit Court of Australia through a judicial review. However the court cannot review the decision of the Refugee Review Tribunal based on the merits of your case. They can only consider if a mistake was made in the process of the refusal or cancellation. There is a time limit for applying for judicial review. The time limit is usually 35 days from the date of the tribunal decision.

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