Australia to introduce online health assessment

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Applicants for Australian visas will be able to put their medical data online, the first time this technology has been used anywhere in the World, Australia's Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs (DIMIA) announced January 14.

Under Australian immigration rules, applicants for certain visa categories have to visit an approved radiology clinic to get digital chest x-rays and photos so their identity can be confirmed. Up to now, this has been done on paper, but under the new system the images will be electronically linked to visa applications.

A doctor approved by the Australian authorities does a health check on the applicant and examines the radiology results, then forwards the data electronically to Australia. If everything is in order the visa application can then be processed further. The images are stored in a database where they can be examined if any future applications require this.

"If an applicant can arrange for the necessary appointments on the same day, the application and health assessment process can be completed in as little as 24 hours,' Australia's Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone said.

A pilot program for the system began in Singapore in November 2003 for online student visa applications, with 90 percent of applicants choosing the new method over the old one. In the next few months it will progressively be extended to other visa categories requiring health assessments.