General Character


A visa can also be refused or cancelled based on a general character assessment :

[501(6)](c)      having regard to either or both of the following:

(i)      the person’s past and present criminal conduct;

(ii)      the person’s past and present general conduct;

the person is not of good character; or

There is the potential for this power to be used even in cases where a person has no criminal convictions.

The leading authority on this provision is Goldie v Minister for Immigration & Multicultural Affairs [1999] FCA 1277 where the Full Federal Court concluded :

Common sense suggests that the Act and regulations are not concerned with infractions or patterns of conduct that show weakness or blemishes in character but with ensuring that the exercise of a sovereign power to prevent a non-citizen entering Australia is only invoked when the non-citizen is a person whose lack of good character is such that it is for the public good to refuse entry.

  1. S 501 does not charge the decision-maker with the task of making a judgment, general in nature, about the character of a person, ie, a judgment to which the statutory context is of no relevance. The concept of “good character” in s 501 is not concerned with whether an applicant for entry meets the highest standards of integrity, but with a less exacting standard than that. It is concerned with whether the applicant for entry’s character in the sense of his or her enduring moral qualities, is so deficient as to show it is for the public good to refuse entry. The standard is, moreover, not fixed but elastic, in the sense that identified deficiencies in the moral qualities of an applicant for a short-term entry permit may not justify the conclusion that he is “not of good character” within s 501(2), while similar deficiencies may suffice to justify that conclusion, where the person seeks long-term entry.

In Goldie, the visa applicant had not been convicted of any offences but had been charged with various fraud offences in the UK. No extradition proceedings had been commenced but the AAT found that his failure to return to the UK to face these charges was an indication that he was not of good character sufficient to warrant the visa refusal. This was overturned by the Full Federal Court.

Barbara Davidson