Help! My visa application has been refused. What can I do?

Man sitting on brown couch with hand on forehead looking worried and stressed

This scenario might sound familiar to you. You’ve recently invested all your time, effort and money in lodging a visa application. You’re feeling very positive and hopeful of an outcome that is likely to completely change your life. One day, an email arrives in your inbox and you receive the awful news that your visa application has been refused by the Department of Home Affairs. You then start to worry about what this means for you and ask yourself, what do I do now?

This is a common scenario faced by many people who have applied for Australian visas. According to statistics published on the Department of Home Affairs website, the number of student and temporary graduate visas lodged in the 2017-18 financial year was 413,327 in total. In the same year, there were 378,292 student and temporary graduate visas granted. If you do the math, approximately 35,000 visas were either refused or not yet decided in the same year. You are likely to find similar rates of refusals across other visa subclasses. Despite the disappointment of being refused a visa, there are a couple of possible options for you to consider.

Appealing the decision at the AAT

If you were in Australia at the time you applied for the visa and at the time you received the decision, you may have the right to have the decision reviewed at the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT). On the bottom of the refusal letter from the Department of Home Affairs, there will be a paragraph that states whether you are able to apply to the AAT for a merits review of the decision. The letter will also state how many days you have to apply to the AAT after receiving the refusal letter. Usually, you will need to apply within 21 calendar days of receiving the refusal letter. You must be in Australia at the time you apply for a review at the AAT. According to migration law, any applications to the AAT after this period will not be accepted and your options become even more limited after this point.

The AAT application fee is currently $1,764. Applicants who can prove financial hardship are able to apply for a fee reduction of 50%. In the event that the appeal is decided in your favour, the AAT will refund 50% of the fee amount paid. Applying for a review at the AAT will allow you to stay in Australia on a bridging visa until the AAT makes a decision on your review application. The AAT review process may take months or even years in some cases.

Making plans to depart Australia and re-applying offshore

If you choose not to appeal the decision or if you do not have appeal rights, you will be required to make plans to depart Australia. If you are holding a bridging visa that was granted before 19 November 2016, you will be required to leave Australia within 28 calendar days of receiving the refusal letter. Alternatively, if you are holding a bridging visa that was granted on or after 19 November 2016, you will need to depart Australia within 35 calendar days of receiving the refusal letter. Any time spent in Australia after this period will be deemed as unlawful stay and may affect any future visa applications.

Under law, a visa refusal means that you will be prevented from re-applying for another visa while you remain in Australia. The only option is to re-apply for the visa while you are outside of Australia.

How we can help you with a visa refusal

If you need some assistance after receiving a visa refusal letter, we can provide you with the advice and help that you need going forward. We can also assist with applying for a review at the AAT, preparing the relevant documents and evidence for the review process and attending the AAT hearing with you. Contact us on +61 404 010 815 or email us at