Recent Federal Court of Australia Decision may Impact Validity of Notification Letters from the Department of Home Affairs

On 9 May 2023 Justice Markovic handed down a decision in the Federal Court of Australia on the question of when a person is deemed to have received notice of a decision to refuse a visa application by the Department of Home Affairs (Department).

In the decision of Sandor v Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs [2023] FCA 434, the Judge found that Mr Sandor had not been properly notified by the Department of the decision to refuse his Student visa application. As there had been no valid notification of the decision, the time to lodge an application for review to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) had not yet commenced to run.

Mr Sandor had appointed a registered migration agent as his authorised recipient of correspondence sent by the Department in relation to his Student visa application. On 13 February 2018 a delegate of the Department sent an email to the migration agent, attaching a letter notifying the applicant of the decision to refuse the Student visa application and the reasons for the decision (Notification Letter).

Mr Sandor unfortunately failed to lodge an application for review to the AAT within 21 days of the Department’s decision. He lodged an application to the AAT out of time. As such, the AAT found that it did not have jurisdiction to consider the application for review.

At first instance, the Judge in the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia held that the AAT had validly found that it did not have jurisdiction to consider the matter.

However, on appeal to the Federal Court of Australia, Mr Sandor was successful. Justice Markovic found that there had been invalid notification of the delegate’s decision as the notification failed to comply with the elements of section 66(2) of the Migration Act 1958 (Cth) because the Notification Letter did not completely or clearly include all relevant information required for Mr Sandor to calculate the time in which an application for review to the AAT can be made. The Notification Letter failed to provide any detail of when the letter was sent by email to Mr Sandor’s registered migration agent. The failure to include the date on which the Notification Letter was transmitted to the migration agent resulted in an invalid notification of refusal.

This is a significant decision as applicants who have failed to apply for review to the AAT within the relevant timeframe may find that the notification of decision was invalid and they may yet be able to apply for review to the AAT.

Australian Minister for Home Affairs Announced “A New Migration System”

“Focus is on quality and skills. It is not about bigger population or more people, the new direction will have smaller migration program over time.”
“Our current migration system is broken and unfair.”

The new direction emphasizes ending the “ad hoc” and “piecemeal” approach to the Australian migration systemes and seeks to establish a redesigned system that attracts skilled individuals. The proposed reforms include restructuring temporary skilled migration, reducing bureaucracy, ensuring the right outcomes for migrants in Australia, and restoring Australian values. This article provides an overview of the proposed directions and immediate changes announced by the Minister.

• Migration Program will be simplified and move away from specific occupation lists, but will have a broader skill list.
• Points test for PR will stay, but “bar” will be lifted.
• Income threshold for skilled migration of $53,900 is outdated. Increase to $70,000 on 1 July 2023.
• Welcome international students, but tightening up and lifting standards to make sure good students are actually here to study.

Restructure temporary skilled migration
To address the current challenges and streamline the temporary skilled migration program, the proposed reforms outline three (3) new pathways for temporary skilled migrants. These include:
a) Fast and simple pathway for highly specialized skills
b) Mainstream skilled pathways based on proper evidence of labour skill shortages. (Proposed increase income threshold from $53,900 to $70,000 p.a.)
c) Essential industry -But will tackle exploitation and “fake students” who are here to work.
Recognizing the need for a more efficient and responsive migration system, the proposed reforms suggested that the current “bar” for permanent residency (PR) is considered to be too low, and the test will be revised to ensure that only highly skilled individuals meet the requirements for PR.

Reduce Bureaucracy
Additionally, the government plans to simplify the visa system by reducing the number of visa categories and utilizing data-driven insights to determine areas where particular skills are required. These changes aim to streamline the application process and align migration with the needs of the Australian job market.

Right Outcome for Migrants in Australia
It was suggested that Australia needs to better plan for population increase. There will be increased flexibility for migrants to move employers and enforce their workplace rights. Simpler pathways will also be established for international students to become permanent, ensuring that high-performing students can continue to stay in Australia. However, stricter measures will be implemented to ensure that only genuine students are allowed entry into the country, raising the standards and tightening regulations.

Restore Australian Value
• Strengthen integrity by increasing monitoring to prevent exploitation.
• Stricter governance on migration agents and education agents.
Addressing concerns related to exploitation, the proposed reforms emphasize the strengthening of integrity measures by increasing monitoring. Stricter governance of migration agents and education agents will be applied to ensure compliance with regulations.

• From 1 July 2023: Minimum income threshold increases to $70,000 p.a.
• By end of 2023: Current temporary workers and all skilled workers will have pathway to PR.

No mention was made about the current business and investment visa program in the announcement.
However, during Q & A, the Minister mentioned that Australia has enough capital. The focus is on the quality of skilled people. There will be changes to the 188 visa program, focused on quality of skilled entrepreneurs and drivers of economic growth, rather than simply their financial capital.

Importance of recent Federal Court decision Pearson v Minister for Home Affairs [2022] FCAFC 203

Under Section 501(3A) of the Migration Act 1958 (Cth)(“Act”), a visa holder is subject to mandatory visa cancellation if:

  1. The person does not pass the character test because of the operation of:
    1. paragraph (6)(a) (substantial criminal record), on the basis of paragraph (7)(a), (b) or (c); or
    2. paragraph (6)(e) (sexually based offences involving a child); and


  1. the person is serving a sentence of imprisonment, on a full‑time basis in a custodial institution, for an offence against a law of the Commonwealth, a State or a Territory.

A “substantial criminal record” on the basis of paragraph (7)(a), (b) or (c) of the Act is where a person has been sentenced to death (7)(a), imprisonment for life (7)(b), or a term of imprisonment of 12 months or more (7)(c).

Until the Pearson judgment was handed down on 22 December 2022, an aggregate (combined) sentence of at least 12 months’ imprisonment has triggered mandatory visa cancellation.

Pearson v Minister for Home Affairs [2022] FCAFC 203

The Full Court’s decision in Pearson v Minister for Home Affairs [2022] FCAFC 203 found that an aggregate sentence of imprisonment of at least 12 months did not constitute a ‘term of imprisonment of 12 months or more’ and therefore would not result in a mandatory visa cancellation under s 501(3A) of the Act.  

The Full Court’s reasoning behind this is that mandatory visa cancellation should only be enlivened for the most serious offences, such as those attracting the death penalty, life imprisonment, a term of imprisonment of 12 months or more for a single offence, or sexual offences involving children. The Full Court held the view that the mandatory cancellation was “reserved for the most serious offences”.

Moreover, the Full Court also found that an aggregate sentence itself says ‘little to nothing about the seriousness of the individual offences’.


The Pearson decision set a precedent that mandatory visa cancellation is not enlivened when the sentence imposed is an aggregate sentence of imprisonment of 12 months or more. The consequences of the decision made in Pearson case are substantial and there are reports that up to 100 people have been released from immigration detention since the decision.

However, the Migration Amendment (Aggregate Sentences) Bill 2023 was introduced to clarify that s501(7)(c) applies in relation to a person sentenced to a term of imprisonment of 12 months or more, whether the sentence is imposed for a single offence or for 2 or more offences.

This Bill was passed through both Houses of Parliament on 13 February 2023 and will receive Royal Assent shortly, effectively undoing the precedent set in Pearson.

New visa concessions offer permanent residency pathways for select skilled migrants and post-study visa rights for returning international students

On 25 November 2021, Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs Alex Hawke announced new special temporary concessions for around 200,000 highly skilled visa holders in Australia.


These positive changes will take affect gradually from 1 December 2021 to 1 July 2022 and will primarily benefit the following visa holder groups:


  1. Temporary Skills Shortage visa (subclass 482) (TSS) and Legacy TSS (subclass 457) visa


The concession presents an exciting opportunity for 20,000 skilled migrants who remained in Australia during the pandemic, to be eligible for permanent residency. This will apply to:


  • primary holders of the TSS (short-term stream) who will no longer be subject to the two-year stay limitation in Australia; and
  • primary visa holders of the now discontinued subclass 457 visa who previously did not meet the age cap.


  1. Skilled Regional (provisional) visa (subclass 489, 491 and 494)


Current and expired visa holders of the skilled regional provisional visas, including the 9,000 holders who have remained overseas and unable to travel to Australia due to COVID border restrictions, will now be able to apply for a visa extension; offering additional time to meet the regional work requirements for a permanent residency application.


  1. Temporary Graduate visa (subclass 485)


The new concessions delivers targeted measures in support of Australia’s international education sector by awarding further study and post-study visa rights for students returning in the 2022 academic year including:


  • 30,000 current and former subclass 485 visa holders, whose visas expired on or after 1 February 2020 and unable to enter Australia due to border restrictions, will be able to seek a replacement subclass 485 visa to remain in Australia to live, study or work after graduation;


  • The stay period for students completing a masters by coursework will be extended permanently to three years to match that of masters by research graduate;


  • Vocational Education and Training (VET) sector graduates will also be receiving a two-year Subclass 485 visa.


  • Students who spent time completing online studies while offshore will continue to have their study recognised in meeting qualification requirements for the subclass 485 under the extension of existing measures; and


  • Streamlined application processing with the removal of the skills occupation list nomination requirements for the subclass 485 from 1 July 2022.


TANG LAW is pleased to hear of the Government’s continued recognition of skilled migrant workers and the return of international students to Australia in support of our COVID economic recovery efforts coming into the new year.


The Migration Team of TANG LAW has significant experience in preparing and lodging a variety of visa applications. If you would like to see advice on your immigration options, give us a call today and we can help you find the best pathway for your migration journey to Australia.



Exciting New Changes at Australia’s Border

TANG LAW is pleased to hear of a selection of new, long-awaited updates to border policies in Australia.

International Borders Re-opening

On 1 October 2021, the Australian Government announced its intention to begin the gradual process of opening its international borders conditional on the success of the nationwide vaccination plan for States and Territories reaching 80% full vaccination rates.

NSW will kick off this process from the start of November, with fully vaccinated Australian citizens and permanent residents permitted to leave and re-enter the State still having to quarantine for 14 days and get a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours upon arrival. These restrictions will be removed upon the state reaching 90% full vaccination levels. Those under 12 years old and exempt from getting the vaccinations will be receiving a ‘recognised vaccination’ permitting them to travel.

However, the implementation and quarantine arrangements of this policy will vary nationwide with many jurisdictions not due to reach the full vaccinate rates until December 2021 and some may enforce home quarantine programs on re-entering Australia. WA Premier Mark McGowan has stated to not expect the State will open its borders until 2022.

Temporary Visa Holders

Under these rules from November, those holding a temporary visa will generally be permitted to leave the country, but still subject to restrictions in re-entering Australia. The Australian Government has yet to make a decision on the following groups of visa holders:

  • Skilled visas;
  • Student visas; or
  • International visitors travelling under an ETA or international visa arrangement.

Therefore, travel to Australia will generally not be open to temporary residents during the initial stages of this border re-opening policy and such changes not expected to be introduced until next year.

Travel Exemptions Update

On 15 October 2021, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that parents of Australian citizens and permanent citizens will be classified as immediate family for purposes of travel exemptions to enter Australia.

This is great news for many families who have been seeking options for their mothers and/or fathers to join them in Australia since the start of pandemic restrictions from March 2020. These updates also come as hopeful news for many in time for Christmas celebrations!

The Migration team at TANG LAW has significant experience in preparing and lodging a variety of visa applications. If you would like to seek advice on your immigration options, give us a call today and we can help you find the best pathway for your migration journey to Australia.

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