Australian visa health restrictions to be relaxed

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From 1 July, the Australian government is set to relax immigration laws which will lead to the admission of more immigrants with disabilities and a pre-existing medical conditions. Australian immigration has what is called a significant cost threshold to decide whether or not an immigrant with disabilities or an illness will be too much of a burden on the Australian health system. If the projected cost of treating a prospective immigrant will be greater than the significant cost threshold currently AUD$21,000 over five years the immigrant will not be granted the visa. From 1 July 2012 the significant costs threshold will be increased to AUD$35,000, therefore making it easier for immigrants to gain entry to Australia.

More than one in 10 people are on immigration blacklists because of health concerns, and research has shown that this has more to do with financial issues than health risks to Australians.

In 2010-11, of the 599 foreigners who were denied a visa on health grounds following health examinations, 392 were denied due to the cost of their potential treatment or due to the fact that they may potentially stand in the way of Australians awaiting medical care. Under current rules, an applicant can have their visa application rejected if the cost of any potential treatment they may need exceeds the threshold of AUD$21,000 over five years, or three years for applicants aged 75 or over.

People with HIV, a heart condition or cancer have been blocked from entering Australia, as well as those with epilepsy, a mental illness or mental retardation.

This AUD$21,000 Significant Cost Threshold has remained unchanged for ten years, however stakeholders have continued to push for health requirement reforms. This prompted the immigration department to conduct an external review of the requirements and the review recommended that the department increase the threshold.

The parliamentary committee, chaired by Labor MP Michael Danby, said the current process should be reformed as it reflected "old-fashioned approaches to disability in particular".

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