On 24 February 2022, the Russian Government led by Vladimir Putin launched a full-scale military invasion into Ukraine. To date, the fighting has caused over two thousand civilian casualties and pushed tens of thousands of Ukrainians to flee to neighbouring countries including Poland, Romania and Slovakia. With the Russian invasion set to be long and bloody, the European Union estimates that up to four million people may try to leave Ukraine in the coming weeks and months.

As the conflict worsens, and the impacts are being felt increasingly across Europe and Eurasia, the situation is fast becoming a global humanitarian disaster. Australia is among the many countries worldwide that are seeking to help Ukrainian nationals who no longer feel safe in their home country.

Ukrainian nationals already in Australia

Ukrainian nationals on temporary visas

The Australian Government has announced automatic visa extensions for Ukrainians currently in Australia on a visa that is due to expire before 30 June 2022. The extension will allow them to stay in Australia for another 6 months from their visa’s current date of expiry. As the extension is automatic, no action needs to be taken to benefit from it.

Alternatively, if you are a Ukraine national currently in Australia on a temporary visa, such as a student or employer sponsored visa, and wish to apply for permanent residency here, it is crucial that you seek urgent legal advice, specific to your individual circumstances, as to your options in this regard. CMN’s team of experienced immigration lawyers can advise you as to your options – please contact us for further assistance.

Australian Citizenship for Australian permanent residents of Ukrainian nationality

If you are a Ukrainian national but have permanent residence in Australia and have already applied for Australian citizenship, you may be eligible to have your application fast tracked on a priority basis. Again, our team of specialist immigration lawyers is ready to assist you with this process – please contact us to discuss your next steps.

Applying for refugee status in Australia

If you and/or your family members are not yet in Australia but are wanting to apply for an Australian protection visa, or if you are in Australia but want to assist Ukrainian family members who are stranded in the Ukraine or a third country, we may also be able to assist. There are several Australian humanitarian and other visa categories that may be available to you.

It is important to remember that everyone’s situation is different, and therefore essential that you contact us to see whether those seeking refugee do in fact meet the specific requirements of a protection visa. A protection visa is a permanent visa that allows the holder to stay in Australia on a permanent basis, provided they meet the definition of a refugee.

Here we address some common questions which arise in relation to claiming refugee status in Australia.

What is a refugee?

A “refugee” is defined as someone who is outside the country of his or her nationality or country of former habitual residence and, owing to a well-founded fear of persecution, is unable or unwilling to avail themselves of the protection of that country, or is unable or unwilling to return to that country.

You or your family members may meet the refugee criteria if you have “a well-founded fear of persecution”, which is defined as being where:

a. the person fears being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or  political opinion; and
b. there is a real chance that, if the person returned to the receiving country, they would be
persecuted for one or more of the reasons mentioned in (a) above; and
c. the real chance of persecution relates to all areas of a receiving country.

If a person fears persecution for one or more of the above reasons, that reason(s) must be the essential and significant reason(s) for the persecution, and the persecution must involve serious harm to the person, failure of state protection, and systematic and discriminatory conduct.

Serious harm is defined to include, but is not limited to:

  • a threat to the person’s life or liberty, including arbitrary detention, arrest, interrogation and prosecution, and imprisonment;
  • significant physical harassment of the person;
  • significant physical ill-treatment of the person;
  • significant economic hardship that threatens the person’s capacity to subsist;
  • denial of access to basic services, where the denial threatens the person’s capacity to
  • denial of capacity to earn a livelihood of any kind, where the denial threatens the person’s
    capacity to subsist, including the denial of the right to work.

Alternatively, a person may be granted a protection visa if they can show that there are substantial grounds for believing that, as a necessary and likely consequence of being removed from Australia to their home country, there is a real risk that the person will suffer significant harm; that is, torture, the death penalty, arbitrary deprivation of life, or cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment, and that such harm is not faced by the population generally.

How do children meet the refugee criteria?

The vulnerability and developmental needs of children should also be taken into account, in addition to the factors outlined above.

Actions or threats that might not reach the threshold of persecution in the case of an adult may amount to persecution in the case of a child because of the simple fact that s/he is a child. Immaturity, vulnerability, undeveloped coping mechanisms, and dependency, as well as the differing stages of development and hindered capacities may be directly related to how a child experiences or fears harm.

Departmental case officer considerations

When assessing a protection visa application, the Departmental case officer will consider many things, including:

  • the claims put forward by the applicant;
  • independent published information available about the applicant’s country of origin;
  • the applicant’s travel history;
  • any unreasonable delay in seeking protection in Australia; and
  • the applicant’s apparent credibility.

How can CMN help?

As the situation in Ukraine is constantly changing, it is vital that any legal advice that you obtain is specific to your individual circumstances. It is important to remember that everyone’s situation is different, and that the advice you receive may change depending on current Australian Government policy and/or any changes to Australian immigration law.

The range of Australian humanitarian and other visas available can be confusing, and the visa application process is complex and, given the current situation in Ukraine, highly time sensitive. There is also the risk that if you pursue the wrong type of visa, or overlook any aspect of your visa application, you or your family members may face a visa refusal or prolonged visa processing.

With more than 30 years’ experience in applying for protection, refugee and humanitarian visas on behalf of asylum seekers and refugees, CMN’s team of immigration experts are ideally placed to provide legal advice tailored to your particular situation.

We will help you consider the options to enable you and your family members to choose the right type of visa, and then swiftly and carefully put forward the best possible visa application. As your immigration lawyers, we can also contact and make urgent representations to the Australian Government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) on behalf of you or your family.

Please contact us as soon as possible on 1300 123 529 or email us at visas@craddock.com.au so that we can assist you as a priority.

Please note that this page states the law as at 17 March 2022. Australian immigration law is complex and changes frequently, and the law may have been changed since this blog was drafted. Likewise, the situation in Ukraine is also constantly evolving and may also have changed. Please contact us to schedule an urgent consultation with one of our experienced immigration lawyers.

If you or your family members are affected by the events unfolding in Ukraine, it is important to know that there are a number of Australian humanitarian and other visa categories that you and/or your family members may be eligible to apply for.

CMN’s specialist immigration lawyers can assist with visa applications and can also make urgent contact with the Australian Government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade on your behalf. Please contact us as a priority to discuss your best course of action.

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