Refugee Council of Australia
Winding bush track with horizon far away

How Australia determines if a person is a refugee

The primary decision

Applying to be a refugee

To make a refugee claim, a person fills in an application form. This requires them to give information about their identity and claims.

Read the application form (Form 866)

An officer of the Department assesses the application to determine whether the person meets the criteria for a visa.

The most important of these is that the person is a refugee. For most of history, the definition of refugee was set out in the Refugee Convention. However, in 2014 the law was changed, so that some parts of the definition now are defined more narrowly in Australia than elsewhere.

A person can also be found to be owed protection, even if the person is not a refugee. This is called ‘complementary protection’. It covers cases which go beyond the definition of refugee, such as when the person is at risk of torture upon return.

Who is a refugee?

An individual can apply, or a family group can apply together. The government must consider the claims of every person on the application. For example, the father may not be a refugee but the wife or any of the children may be. If one member of the family is found to be a refugee, the whole family is granted refugee status.

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