Complex Immigration Matters & Issues

If you have received a letter from the Department requesting that you respond to a “PIC4020” matter, then the Department is requesting that you satisfy what is known as the “Public Interest Criteria 4020”.

This is commonly known as the “genuiness” criteria to avoid visa fraud and must be satisfied by the Department of Home Affairs (the Department) in almost all types of applications for Australian visas.

This criteria is used to identify if an applicant has provided false or misleading information in a visa application, which can lead to a visa refusal if the Department believe that there has been false or misleading information put forward or the Department does not believe that the documents provided are genuine. The Department commonly cites non-genuine documents as “bogus documents” and this is found in the wording of the PIC4020 criteria.

What is PIC4020?

Public Interest Criterion 4020(1) states:

“There is no evidence … that the applicant has given, or caused to be given … a bogus document or information that is false or misleading in a material particular….”

A visa refusal on the basis of PIC4020 can occur if false or misleading information is provided in relation to:

  1. the current application being processed; or
  2. a visa which has been held by the applicant within the last 12 months

If your visa application has been refused on the basis of PIC 4020, you may be banned from apply for another visa for three years (or up to 10 years where identity is concerned), unless a waiver has been granted.

It is important that you ensure that your visa application remains truthful and consistent and all subsequent visa applications remain consistent with your previous applications if you have made one in the past.

Common triggers for PIC4020

Examples of areas where the Department will look for PIC4020 issues include:

  • failing to disclose a previous criminal conviction
  • references about employment to demonstrate skills or experience in a particular position
  • education certificates and transcripts
  • ownership certificates or titles for property or other financial assets
  • identity documents such as passport, birth certificates and marriage certificates

One of the common issues with PIC4020 is the failure to declare family members correctly or not declaring certain family members at all. For example, claiming stepchildren or customarily adopted children as biological children. If the application form is not correctly completed, it can trigger the operation of PIC4020.

PIC4020 is also being used in decisions which previously would have been made on genuineness grounds, accusing visa applicants of visa fraud.  For example, a decision-maker determining that a partner or spousal relationship is not genuine and therefore refusing a Partner visa application under PIC 4020 for having provided false and misleading information and/or bogus documents as evidence of the genuineness of the relationship.  The consequence of this is that the applicant is then prevented from applying for any further visa which is subject to PIC 4020 for three years unless a waiver is granted.

Like the use of cancellation provisions, the use of PIC 4020 is increasing even for seemingly innocent errors such as incorrectly selecting “Yes” instead of “No” on a visa application, or incorrectly selecting the wrong English competency level.

An example of selecting the incorrect answer was in the recent case of Singh v Minister for Immigration & Anor [2016] FCCA 774, where the Tribunal had found that the applicant had provided the Department with information that was “false or misleading in a material particular” in relation to his English language proficiency – he selected “Proficient” as his level of English when in fact his English level was “Vocational”.  This was despite the fact that the visa could be granted with “Vocational English” proficiency and the applicant had provided the correct test date and results.

The waiver provisions of PIC4020

Despite the above, in certain circumstances, the decision-maker has the discretion to waive provisions of PIC4020 if they are satisfied that there are the following which justify the granting of the visa:

  1. compelling circumstances that affect the interests of Australia; or
  2. compassionate or compelling circumstances that affect the interests of an Australian citizen, an Australian permanent resident or an eligible New Zealand citizen.                            

Contact your immigration lawyer immediately

If you have been requested by the Department to provide a response, comments and further information about a PIC4020 issue, you should ensure that you seek legal advice before responding to the Department. This is because you need to put the best explanation forward before a decision is made.

If your visa application has been refused on the basis of PIC4020, you may be legally barred from applying for another visa for three or ten years, unless a waiver has been granted in certain circumstances.

If you are affected by PIC4020, it is best to speak to a lawyer to resolve your issue or find an alternative option for you to stay in Australia before the Department refuses your visa application on the basis of PIC4020. Strict time limits may apply so please contact us as soon as possible for assistance.

We have experience in appealing decisions made by the Department on the basis of failing the PIC4020 criteria, see more information here.

Craddock Murray Neumann Lawyers have more than 30 years’ experience in applying for all types of visas including family migration, skilled, protection, refugee and humanitarian visas on behalf of asylum seekers and refugees. We have extensive knowledge and professional immigration lawyers who can assist your family in coming to Australia and assist with putting forward the best possible visa application for your family.

This page provides a summary of immigration law as at September 2021. Australian immigration law is complex and it changes regularly. We therefore recommend that you contact us to speak with one of our experienced immigration lawyers.

 Back to Complex Immigration Issues

If you received a request to provide to provide information about a ‘PIC4020’ issue, seek legal advice before responding to the Department to ensure you put the best explanation forward before a decision is made.