Fact sheet - Immigration Advice and Application Assistance Scheme (IAAAS)

Under the Immigration Advice and Application Assistance Scheme (IAAAS), the Government provides funding to qualified, independent immigration professionals to deliver immigration advice and primary visa application assistance to people who arrived lawfully in Australia.

From 31 March 2014, IAAAS is not available to people who arrive illegally in Australia.

There are two types of IAAAS assistance generally available:

  • IAAAS category A provides immigration advice and primary visa application assistance (for Protection or other onshore visas) to eligible ‘disadvantaged persons’ living in the community.
  • IAAAS category B  provides assistance to people who want to lodge a Protection visa application while in immigration detention, including community detention.

If you are eligible for IAAAS, registered migration agents contracted through the scheme can help you with:

  • complex immigration matters
  • completing and submitting a visa application
  • liaising with us
  • explaining the outcome of the visa decision.

Eligibility for IAAAS

The criteria you will need to satisfy to be eligible for IAAAS will depend on your specific circumstances. However, be aware that the following exclusions apply:

  • IAAAS is not available for illegal maritime arrivals or unauthorised air arrivals.
  • Only unaccompanied minors for whom the Minister is the guardian under the Immigration (Guardianship of Children) Act 1946, can receive assistance at merits review (review of departmental decisions by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal). IAAAS is not available to anyone else at merits review.
  • IAAAS is not available for judicial review (court challenges to administrative decisions) or ministerial intervention.

People who arrived in Australia lawfully must have a reasonable prospect of being granted the respective visa and must be assessed as a ‘disadvantaged person’ to be eligible for IAAAS category A assistance.

People who cleared immigration on last entry to Australia and are currently in immigration detention, including community detention, might be eligible for IAAAS category B assistance, depending on their circumstances.

IAAAS providers

We have appointed IAAAS providers located throughout Australia. All  IAAAS providers have registered migration agents who offer independent, professional immigration advice and primary visa application assistance. IAAAS providers include commercial migration advice businesses, legal aid offices or community-based organisations, including migrant resource centres.

IAAAS providers are not employed by us. They will tell us some of your personal information, such as your name and address, financial situation and the reasons why you are claiming hardship, as part of verifying your eligibility for IAAAS. However, the Registered Migration Agents Code of Conduct protects matters discussed with the IAAAS providers. Information contained in any visa application is also protected. For more information, see our Privacy notice (229 KB PDF)

Difference between ‘advice’ and ‘assistance’

IAAAS immigration 'advice' is where an IAAAS provider gives a person information and advice relating to their visa application in person or by telephone. The advice could be given to one person, a family or a group of people.

IAAAS visa application 'assistance' is where an IAAAS provider helps a visa applicant complete and lodge a visa application. The assistance could involve the use of interpreting and translating services.

IAAAS category A

To be eligible for IAAAS category A assistance, you must be in Australia and must meet eligibility criteria as a ‘disadvantaged person’. You must also have a reasonable prospect of being granted a Protection or other onshore visa. An IAAAS provider can consider your circumstances and decide if you are eligible to receive IAAAS assistance.

A 'disadvantaged person' is in financial hardship and is disadvantaged due to:

  • being from a non-English speaking background, youth or other cultural issues such as gender barriers
  • illiteracy in the main language of their country of origin
  • living in a remote location (outside any Australian capital city, except areas with known registered migration agents)
  • physical or psychological disability, including from past torture or trauma, or
  • physical or psychological harm resulting from family violence.

There are limits to IAAAS expenditure. As such, eligibility for IAAAS assistance is not a guarantee of services: it is a service, not an entitlement.

Accessing IAAAS category A services

To access IAAAS category A services, you can telephone or visit any of the IAAAS providers. The IAAAS provider will then determine if you are eligible for IAAAS assistance.

Each IAAAS provider operates within a whole-of-year IAAAS budget. This can mean that a provider might decline a request for IAAAS services because funds need to be kept for use later in the year.

Using IAAAS category A services

Most people lodge visa applications without assistance. There is no requirement to use IAAAS to lodge a visa application. Information is available on our website to help you prepare and lodge your own visa application.

If you want to seek advice and application assistance from someone who is not an IAAAS provider, you can pay for a registered migration agent or find a registered migration agent willing to provide the service without a fee (called ‘pro bono’ services). IAAAS is separate from free general legal aid funded by Commonwealth or state and territory governments, and from any free service that might be offered by some law firms or migration agents, including IAAAS providers.

When IAAAS category A services cease

IAAAS immigration advice ceases if you have been given information and advice, and you do not need assistance in completing a visa application.

If you do need assistance in completing the visa application, IAAAS visa application assistance ceases when your visa application is decided (that is, when you are granted a visa or your application is refused). If your application is refused, your IAAAS provider will give you information about your review options. However, IAAAS assistance is not available for merits review of our decision, judicial review or ministerial intervention. The only exception is that some unaccompanied minors who arrived lawfully might be able to access IAAAS services for an independent review of their case.

If your visa application is refused, you can seek further assistance for merits review by privately engaging the services of a registered migration agent. In some cases, these services might be free. You can also find registered migration agents through the Office of the Migration Agents Registration Authority.

IAAAS category B

You might be eligible for IAAAS category B assistance if you meet all criteria below:

  • you cleared immigration on your last entry into Australia
  • you are in immigration detention, including community detention
  • you intend to apply for a Protection visa.

Accessing IAAAS category B services

If you are currently in immigration detention, including community detention, and intend to apply for a Protection visa, you should talk to your departmental case manager about accessing category B IAAAS services.

You will be advised whether you will be offered an IAAAS provider and, if so, will be asked to sign a ’Consent to release information’ form. This will let us give your details to an IAAAS provider, who will then contact you to provide assistance.

Lodging a Protection visa application

Most people lodge Protection visa applications without assistance. There is no requirement to use IAAAS services. The Protection Application Information and Guides (PAIG) give detailed information about the Protection visa application process.

If you want to seek Protection visa application assistance from someone who is not an IAAAS provider, you can pay for a registered migration agent yourself or find a registered migration agent willing to provide the service without a fee (called ‘pro bono’ services). IAAAS services are separate from free general legal aid funded by Commonwealth or state and territory governments, and from any free service that might be offered by some law firms or migration agents, including IAAAS providers.

When IAAAS category B services cease

IAAAS category B services cease:

  • if you indicate that you no longer need assistance in applying for a Protection visa
  • if you decide to withdraw your Protection visa application
  • when the Protection visa application is decided (that is, when you are granted a Protection visa or your application is refused).

If you are released from detention in to the community on a bridging visa before your Protection visa application has been finalised, your IAAAS agent will continue to provide assistance until IAAAS services cease as outlined above.

If you apply for a Protection visa through an IAAAS provider and that application is refused, your IAAAS provider will tell you about your review options. However, IAAAS assistance is not available to seek a merits review of our decision, judicial review or ministerial intervention. The only exception is that some unaccompanied minors who arrived lawfully might be able to access IAAAS services for an independent review of their case.

If your Protection visa application is refused, you can seek further help for merits review by privately engaging the services of a registered migration agent. In some cases, these services might be free. You can find registered migration agents through the Office of the Migration Agents Registration Authority.