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Under the new migration rules, most temporary visas will be subject to a condition that will enable the Immigration Department to cancel a person’s visa if they are found to be involved in online vilification based on gender, sexuality, religion, and ethnicity.
According to the Migration Legislation Amendment Regulations 2017 that came into effect on 18th November, an existing condition, 8303 has been amended to expand its scope.
The condition that earlier applied to only a few visas is now applicable to most temporary visas applied for on or after 18 November 2017.
The Immigration Minister now has the power to cancel a visa if there is evidence of a visa holder engaging in harassment, stalking, intimidation, bullying or threatening a person even if it doesn’t amount to a criminal sanction. These activities may include public ‘hate speech’ or online vilification targeted at both groups and individuals based on gender, sexuality, religion, and ethnicity.
According to the Immigration Department: “It sends a clear message, explicitly requiring that the behaviour of temporary visa holders is consistent with Australian government and community expectations. It advises visa holders what sorts of behaviour can result in visa cancellation.”
Over 47,000 visas had been cancelled between July 2016 and April 2017 due to a variety of reasons, including breach of visa conditions.
This condition now also applies to temporary graduate visa (Subclass 485) skilled regional (485), student visa and visitor visa, most common among the visas availed by the Indian community.
“Condition 8303 didn’t apply to many temporary visas earlier but it now does to most of the temporary visas, including those that are most commonly availed by the Indian migrants,” says Jujhar Bajwa, a migration agent in Melbourne.
He says visa holders now need to be cautious both in the virtual as well as the real world.
“No one should break the law but even behaviour that may not necessarily warrant a criminal sanction can be deemed a breach of this condition. So it is important to remember that your actions online may have consequences just like your real-life actions,” he says.
The Immigration Department says its officers have the discretion to determine whether the condition has been breached. They also have the discretion to not cancel the visa even when the condition has been breached.