Australian Government introduces new Medical Conditions and Disability thresholds for visas

Under new rules introduced on 1 July 2019, an applicant with a permanent medical condition or a disability will no longer be assessed in terms of their lifetime care cost.

This is a significant shift in Government policy and has been welcomed by immigration lawyers and human rights workers who say is a step towards reducing discrimination in the immigration system.

The government’s immigration health requirement prevents any migrant with an illness, disease, or intellectual or physical disability from obtaining a visa if it is deemed their condition will be impact the Australian taxpayer’s or put the general public at risk.

New cap and assessment period

Prior to 1 July this year, the policy underpinning the requirement set the threshold for significant cost at $40,000 but under the new changes. This has now been increased to $49,000.

The way the cost of people with permanent disabilities or medical conditions seeking permanent residency is calculated has also been updated as of 1 July 2019.

Previously, people with permanent conditions could be rejected if the hypothetical cost of their care exceeded the cost threshold over their lifetime. Now, the hypothetical cost will be calculated over ten years instead of their lifetime.

Significant costs

The Medical Officer of the Commonwealth (MOC) must provide an opinion as to whether an applicant’s condition or disease would be likely to result in ‘significant’ health care and community service costs if a visa were to be granted.

Community services includes the provision of an Australian social security benefit, allowance or pension. Under policy, it is also taken to include services such as supported accommodation, special education, home and community care.

The policy threshold for the level of costs regarded as significant is $49,000.

When assessing ‘significant costs’, an applicant is assessed against the health requirement for:

  •  a period for which the Minister (or delegate of the Minister) intends to grant the visa if the visa applicant has applied for a temporary visa
  •  a permanent stay (i.e. a period commencing when the application is made) in Australia if the visa applicant has applied for a permanent or provisional visa.

For temporary visa applicants (other than applicants for provisional visas), the estimated costs for their proposed stay in Australia is assessed over the period of stay that the visa officer intends to grant the visa. As an example, a student visa applicant with health care costs of $16,000 who will be granted a one-year visa 3 should be found to meet the health requirement. On the other hand, a student visa applicant with costs of $16,000 a year who will be granted a four-year visa would not meet the health requirement.

For temporary visas, certain health care and community services are excluded from the cost assessment – refer to the legislative instrument made under 4005, and 4007(1B).

For permanent and provisional visa applicants, the time period for estimating significant health care and community service costs against the significant cost threshold (AUD 49 000) is calculated as follows:

  • if the applicant is aged less than 75 years: a five-year period; or,
  • if the applicant is aged 75 years or older: a three-year period;


  • the applicant has a condition that is permanent, and the course of the disease is inevitable or reasonably predictable (65% likelihood) beyond the five-year period – in these circumstances, the applicant would be assessed for a maximum of 10 years. When assessing costs, the MOC should estimate costs for a period up to a maximum of 10 years.
  • the applicant has an inevitable or reasonably predictable (65% likelihood) reduced life expectancy due to their health condition or disease – in this case, the applicant should be assessed for a time period up to a maximum of 10 years.

This is a significant shift in the attitude to visa applicants with a medical condition and disability.

Want more information on Medical Conditions and Disability thresholds?

At FC Lawyers we have acted for many applicants and their families where issue relating to their medical conditions and disabilities have been a significant issue to the granting of a visa including appeals. Contact our team of registered migration agents and immigration lawyers to discuss your migration needs.

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