Post Series: Asylum
Share thisEmail this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on LinkedInShare on RedditPrint this page

What is a Safe Haven Enterprise Visa (SHEV)?

A Safe Haven Enterprise Visa (SHEV) is one of two types of temporary protection visas available to those claiming asylum who come by boat. This is part of the Australian Government’s current policy that people who come by boat and claim asylum should not be given permanent protection.

The SHEV was introduced as part of a compromise with the Palmer United Party in December 2014, when the Australian Parliament passed laws introducing temporary protection visas. The visa gives protection for five years (compared to the three available under the other temporary protection visa or TPV). Its main feature is that people who hold it must intend to work or study in a part of ‘regional Australia’. ‘Regional Australia’ is defined by the law as including specific areas in Australia, but under the current policy the State or Territory Governments must agree to be included in the SHEV scheme first.

What are the requirements of the SHEV visa?

The main difference between a SHEV and other types of protection visas is that the person applying for this visa must intend to work or study in a regional area. The other main requirements are that a person is in need of protection and meets the health and character requirements. For more information, see the legal factsheets published by our members.

Another important difference between a SHEV and a TPV is that, at the end of the five years of the SHEV visa, the person holding the visa can apply for a permanent migration visa. This does not mean the person can apply for a permanent visa because they need protection. To get a permanent visa, you must also meet the requirements of the other visa you are applying for (for example, as the husband or wife of an Australian citizen).

To get a permanent visa, a person holding a SHEV (or one of their family membesr) also need to meet other conditions (called the ‘SHEV pathway requirements’). The main requirements are that, for 42 months (3 and a half years) of that period, you must have:

  • Worked in a ‘regional area’ without receiving social security assistance, or
  • Be enrolled in full time study in a designated regional area, or
  • Been involved in a combination of the above

Only one member of a family holding SHEV visas needs to meet these requirements. For example, if a person with a SHEV has a child under 18, they may attend a local school for 3 and a half years, and then the family are considered to have met the ‘pathway requirements’.

What is a ‘regional area’?

This is defined by law. From 27 October 2016, all States are now part of the SHEV Scheme. The Australian Capital Territory is also part of the SHEV scheme. The Northern Territory is not yet a part of the SHEV scheme.

You can see which areas are part of the SHEV scheme on the Department of Immigration and Border Protection’s map or list of postcodes. They include:

  • all of the Australian Capital Territory – from 27 October 2016
  • all of regional NSW (excluding Sydney, Newcastle, Central Coast and Wollongong) – from 1 July 2015. Additionally, postcodes 2320, 2321, and 2415 commenced on 27 October 2016.
  • all of regional Queensland (excluding greater Brisbane and the Gold Coast) – from 27 October 2016
  • all of South Australia – from 27 October 2016
  • all of Tasmania – from 10 October 2015
  • many parts of Victoria – from 27 October 2016
  • most of Western Australia (excluding Perth and some areas in the Pilbara and Goldfields-Esperance regions) – from 27 October 2016

In Victoria, only local areas that have agreed to be part of the SHEV scheme (or ‘opted in’) are included, so there are a number of regional areas that are not included. However, these may be included later if the local area agrees to become part of a SHEV zone.

Frequently asked questions

Do I have to move to a regional area if I apply for a SHEV?

No. You only have to say that you intend to work or study in a regional area when you apply. You will not have your visa cancelled or be penalised if you do not move.

If you don’t end up working or studying in a regional area for 42 months (and meet the other ‘pathway requirements’, including living without social benefits), then you will not be able to apply for a permanent migration visa at the end of the five years. However, for most people it will be hard to get a permanent migration visa even if you move, so you should think about this before you move. At the end of the five years, you can also apply again for another SHEV visa or a TPV visa.

Also, even to meet the ‘pathway requirements’, you don’t have to move. You only have to ‘work or study’ in the regional area. Depending on where you live, it may be possible for you to live in a city (for example, Melbourne) and take transport to a ‘regional area’ (for example, Geelong). As well, only one member of a family needs to ‘work or study’ in the regional area.

Am I able to get government assistance on a SHEV?

Yes, for a limited amount of time. If you get social security benefits for over 18 months, you won’t be able to get a permanent visa at the end of the five years. However, for most people it will be hard to get a permanent migration visa.

The benefits that can be applied for are:

  • Family Tax Benefit A & B
  • Single Income Family supplement
  • Double Orphan Pension
  • Parental Leave Pay (Work test requirements)
  • Dad and Partner Pay (work test requirements)
  • Health Care Card (Family Tax Benefit)
  • Child Care Benefit/ Child Care Rebate
  • School Kids Bonus
  • Child Dental Benefits Schedule
  • Jobs, Education and Training Child Care Fee Assistance
  • Stillborn Baby Payment
  • Low Income Health Care Card
  • Rent Assistance

Can I work?

Yes, you can work. You have the same rights as other Australians when working.

According to the government, to count towards the ‘pathway requirements’ (to get a permanent visa), any work must be lawful, paid, and in a regional area within the SHEV scheme. The work can be full-time, part-time, temporary, casual or seasonal, or a combination. You can have breaks between work, and each calendar month that you work counts towards the pathway requirements. If you get Special Benefit payments at the same time, that work will not count.

Can I study?

You can study. Children (under 18) can attend school. Adults can learn English using the Adult English Migrant Program, which gives you 510 hours of study.

If you are an adult, you can study at TAFE or university, but in most cases you will not get any government help (such as Austudy or Youth Allowance), and you will have to pay international student rates. These can be very expensive.

However, some universities are providing scholarships. As well, different States may have different policies to help people on TPVs. For example, the Victorian Government will fund training for 3,000 people seeking asylum or on temporary protection visas.

If you are attending university, this will affect your income support. If you are enrolled full time you will likely lose your income support.

What kind of study will meet the SHEV ‘pathway requirements’?

For study to count towards those requirements, you need to physically attend study that is:

  • accredited by the Australian Qualifications Framework, including a maximum of one course leading to a Certificate I and any courses leading to a Certificate II or above, and
  • full-time, either:
    • at the campus of an education provider located in a regional area included in the SHEV arrangements, or
    • at a primary school, high school or college in regional Australia for a minimum of 161 weeks (consistent with three and a half standard academic years) of full-time registered study.

This means online study does not count towards the pathway requirements.

Studying English under the Adult English Migrant Program counts towards these SHEV pathway requirements, but:

  • the AMEP Foundation course does not count towards these requirements, and
  • you can only count one Certificate I course on any subject.

What services can I access?

You can:

You need to use your Evidence of Immigration Status (EIS) Immicard when registering for the above services. The EIS Immicard is a government-issued ID card that can be applied for through the EIS Immicard Request page. For further information about Immicards, please visit the Department of Immigration and Border Protection website.

Medicare is Australia’s national healthcare system. It provides free public hospital care and assistance with doctors fees. Medicare does not cover amubulance costs, most dental services, physiotherapy, spectacles, podiatry, chiropractic services or private hospital accommodation. To access Medicare, you must register through the Department of Human Services Service Centre. Registration requires your Immicard, evidence of your visa and Medicare enrolment form.

If you cannot get a job, you can get Special Benefit payments or ‘Work for the Dole’. If you get Special Benefit payments, any work you do at the same time does not count towards the SHEV pathway requirements.

For the first two years of your visa, you can also get free translations of important documents. You can also get free interpreters, but only for using health services.

Some people may also be able to get Complex Case Support, but this will be limited to people who qualify. People with permanent disabilities may also be able to get help in the workplace.

For more information, see the Department of Social Services’ factsheet.

Help from different States or Territories

Different States or Territories may also offer help for people on SHEVs.

For example, Tasmania has established a ‘Safe Haven Hub’ to help SHEV holders. It will provide support for study and work and help them to find accommodation, education, local services and employment. This service is being run by CatholicCare in Tasmania.

Can I sponsor my family members for permanent migration to Australia?

No. you cannot sponsor family members.

Can I travel outside Australia on this visa?

You cannot leave Australia and return unless the Minister for Immigration grants you permission to do so. Permission is only given on limited grounds. For more information, see the Department of Immigration and Border protection’s website.

What visa can I apply for at the conclusion of a SHEV?

You will not be able to apply for a permanent protection visa, under the current law. The Department of Immigration and Border Protection website lists the visas that you may be able to apply for.

However, you should get advice about these visas as there are many conditions that you will need to meet. We expect that it will be hard for many people to meet these conditions.

Can I become a citizen after this visa is completed?

Not under the current law. Instead, you will have to apply for another visa (another TPV or SHEV, or a permanent visa if you meet the pathway requirements and the conditions of a visa).

Can I count time in a SHEV regional area before that area became a SHEV area?

No. So, if you were studying (for example) in regional Victoria before 27 October 2016, that time doesn’t count.

What if the regional area I live in decides to leave the SHEV scheme?

If you start working or studying in a regional area which decides to leave, you can stay there and any work or study you do will still count towards the ‘pathway requirements’.

Key resources

Department of Immigration and Border Protection, ‘Information for Safe Haven Enterprise visa holders’

Department of Immigration and Border Protection, ‘Regional areas’

Department of Social Services factsheet on support for temporary visas

Factsheets from our members about visas