How Does the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Work?

If your visa application has been refused, or your visa has been cancelled, you may be able to apply to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) to have the decision reviewed (commonly known as an appeal). This process, often referred to as a merits review, is where the AAT determines, based on the information presented before it, whether Immigration made the correct decision in accordance with the legislative provisions.

Note however that not all decisions can be reviewed, but in instances where a case is eligible, the migration provisions set out how the process is to be conducted, including imposing strict time limits for applying. Importantly, the Tribunal has no discretion to make any exceptions to the rules it is bound to follow in conducting the review process, meaning if you miss the deadline for submitting your application, you will lose this opportunity.

In this article, we will provide a general overview of the AAT review process and further detail regarding seeking assistance and appointing a representative for your review application, both in terms of what is permitted, as well as the potential benefits that the added support can bring.

Applying for a Review

If your visa application has been refused, or if the Department has cancelled your visa, you will be formally notified in writing. The notification letter will set out the following:

  • Immigration’s reasons for its decision (referred to as a Decision Record), including references to legislative provisions in support of its decision
  • Whether the decision is reviewable, in which case the notification letter will include information about how to apply for a review, with contact details for the AAT registry in your State or Territory.
  • The time limit for applying.

The AAT works within this legislative framework and has no discretion to make exceptions in this regard.

Method of Applying

You can lodge your review application online, in person, by email, fax or post to any registry of the AAT. You will need to complete an application form and include with it a copy of the Department’s Notification of Refusal/Cancellation letter as well as the accompanying Decision Record setting out the reasons for its decision.

Time Limits for Applying

As noted above, strict time limits apply for lodging an appeal. The time limit for applying will depend on the type of application that is the subject of the review. Time periods range from between 7 working days to 70 calendar days. If you apply for a review of your case past the time limit, there are no options for extending this deadline and you will lose your right to an appeal.

You will need to carefully calculate the deadline for submitting your review application based on the information provided in the letter that you receive. If the letter was sent to you by email, you are taken to have received it at the end of the day on which it was transmitted.

What Happens After You Lodge your Application?

You will receive an Acknowledgment letter with a request to provide files and documents relating to your case. Your review application will then be allocated to a Tribunal Member. From this point on, the process will depend on your individual circumstances however generally, the following steps will occur:

  • The AAT will contact you requesting further information
  • The AAT will invite you to comment on information which it considers to be the reason, or part thereof, for affirming the Department’s original decision (that is, to make no change to the decision)
  • If a hearing into your case is to be held, the AAT will invite you to attend, either in person, by telephone or video link to provide you with the opportunity to present oral evidence and your argument/s in support of your case. You may also nominate others to provide evidence at your hearing
  • Once the AAT has made a decision on your application, it will provide you with a statement outlining its reasons

Can You Receive Assistance with Your Review Application?

You have the option of either dealing directly with the AAT, or alternatively, you can appoint a representative to act on your behalf.

Note that only in limited circumstances can a person other than a Registered Migration Agent (RMA) provide immigration assistance at the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. An RMA will assist in preparing, advising and representing a visa applicant, a sponsor or nominator, or a cancellation review applicant. A good RMA, like the team at All Immigration Services can help you win your case!

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