International Students Considering Legal Action Against ACT Government
On 29 June 2018 the ACT Government closed its permanent visa program to people living in Canberra who did not have one of a limited number of occupations on the ACT Occupations List.
The closure of the program was made without consultation or prior notice and retrospectively damaged the legitimate expectations of thousands of international students drawn into Canberra under the then nomination policy of the ACT Government.
On 31 August 2018 two hundred international students living in Canberra took the unprecedented step of protesting publicly against the closure of the program.
Nicholas Houston, Director of VisAustralia, said “The issue is not that the ACT Government closed the program but that the ACT Government continued to encourage people to come to Canberra to spend money after it knew, or should have known, it did not have sufficient nomination places in the program to allocate to students living in Canberra. The decision to continue promoting Canberra as a migration destination represents a thoughtless mismanagement of the visa program by the ACT Government.”
The ACT Government re-opened its program on 29 November 2018 under new policy guidelines, however, many students in Canberra are unable to apply and have effectively lost the opportunity of applying for permanent residence in Australia.
Following the protest, international students pooled resources to request a formal Legal Opinion from experienced Canberra Barrister and Adjunct Professor of Law at Canberra University, Mr. Allan Anforth. The Legal Opinion addresses the question of the potential ACT Government liability over the management of the program.
Mr. Anforth has now advised that international students who arrived in Canberra after July 2017 and who would have met the requirements of the ACT program had it not closed, have “good prospects” of success in litigation against the ACT Government in both tort and consumer law.
Based on this Legal Opinion international students in Canberra are considering taking legal action against the ACT Government for its negligent mismanagement of the migration program.
While the closure of the ACT Government program has affected thousands of students in Canberra, there are hundreds of thousands of international students across Australia facing similar issues. Discretion, delay, on-going uncoordinated changes to the visa rules, and thoughtless mismanagement of state migration programs, have become part and parcel of the management of the overall migration program.
Suing an Australian government for mismanagement of its migration program would be an unprecedented step for international students in Australia. The impending legal action of international students in Canberra will be observed very closely by the international student community in Australia and the international education industry.
Public meeting in early 2019
VisAustralia is in the process of communicating with the content and impliations of the Legal Opinion to the cohort of affected students and would be looking at hosting a public meeting early next year to provide a fuller briefing to the students. The shape of any litigation will be determined after the meeting.
We are asking students who would like to be further involved to register their interest in attending the meeting at the following link: http://eepurl.com/gbfgzr
For more information please contact
VisAustralia: firstname.lastname@example.org or +61 2 6247 7577
VisAustralia is an advocacy focussed migration law firm based in Canberra.