If you have applied for a review of your visa refusal with the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT), you may be anxious and unsure about what to expect at your hearing. This article will take you through key information about what you can expect at your AAT hearing within the Migration and Refugee Division.
What is the AAT?
The AAT is an independent tribunal that reviews decisions made by the Australian Government. Specifically, the Migration and Refugee Division of the AAT is responsible for reviewing decisions made by the Department of Home Affairs in relation to visa applications, including Protection visas. They also review visa cancellations.
The AAT aims to provide a fair and impartial review process, and considers all evidence and circumstances relevant to your case.
What is an AAT hearing?
An AAT hearing is similar to court proceedings, although less formal.
Your AAT hearing is an opportunity for you to provide evidence regarding your case. Hearings may be conducted:
- in person;
- by video conference; or
- by telephone.
It can take months or even years to receive an invitation to attend an AAT hearing. You can see the AAT’s published processing times for various visas here.
How long is a hearing?
The length of your AAT hearing will vary depending on how complex your case is. Some hearings are very short, while others can take several hours. It may even take several hearings to go through all relevant issues in your case.
At the hearing, the Member may pause your hearing for a short break, or you may request a break if you need one.
Who will be at the hearing?
Who attends your hearing will differ on a case to case basis. However, generally speaking, the following persons will be at your hearing:
- the AAT Member. This is the person who will be questioning you, and making a decision on your case;
- an interpreter (if required);
- a support person or friend. You must tell the AAT before the hearing if you want to bring someone else with you to the hearing;
- Again, you must notify the AAT before the hearing if you wish to bring a witness – they should ideally be relevant to the facts and issues relevant to your matter; and
- your legal representative (should you appoint one).
A hearing attendant will also be present at the beginning of the hearing. The hearing attendant will take you through all the formalities before the Member enters the hearing room. However, the attendant does not take part in the proceedings, and will leave the room or call once the preliminary parts are concluded.
Except in Protection visa matters, hearings are typically open to the public. This allows you to have multiple friends or family present.
What do I take to the hearing?
It is recommended that you take the following documents to your hearing:
- invitation letter;
- photo ID; and
- any additional documents you wish to provide the AAT (if not submitted beforehand).
What happens before the hearing?
You will receive an invitation to attend an AAT hearing. This invitation will state the date, time, and location of your hearing, as well as any other specific instructions (such as how to attend if it is being held via a video conference).
The invitation will also outline any relevant deadlines. This includes due dates for responding to the hearing invitation, and to provide any documents and evidence in support of your case.
You may wish to seek legal advice or representation to help you prepare for the hearing. This is particularly important in complex cases. A legal representative can prepare legal submissions on your behalf, and ensure all your supporting documents are organised and well-presented in advance of your hearing.
It is a good idea for you to prepare any relevant documentation/information and make any submissions or arguments in favour of your case well in advance of the hearing to give the Member sufficient time to review them.
What happens at the hearing?
If your hearing is in person, you should arrive at the venue at least 15 minutes before the scheduled start time. You will need to present photo identification and any other documents that were requested in the invitation. Once you are checked in, you will be directed to the hearing room.
The hearing attendant will ask if you wish to take an oath on a religious book, or an affirmation (non-religious) to tell the truth, before collecting the Member. If your hearing is in person, you must stand when the Member enters the room, and be seated when the Member sits.
The Member will start the hearing by:
- clarifying the AAT’s role;
- explaining the purpose of the interpreter (if relevant); and
- outlining the relevant legal issues.
You will then have the opportunity to present your case. You will be asked questions by the Member to clarify any issues or evidence. It is important to answer questions honestly and to the best of your ability. If you do not understand a question, you should ask the AAT member to clarify. It is also critical that you notify the Member if you are having difficulty understanding the interpreter.
At the end of the hearing, you should ask the Member if they have any specific concerns. This will provide you with the opportunity to address them. You may also choose to respond to these concerns in writing at a later date. In that case, the Member will provide you a due date to provide any further written material or supporting documents.
When will I receive a decision?
It is difficult to estimate how long it will take to receive a decision from the AAT. In some cases, a decision will be given at the end of the hearing orally (with written reasons to follow at a later date). However, this is quite rare. In most cases, it will take weeks or even months to receive a written decision.
The decision will be communicated to you in writing via email, and will include the reasons for the decision.
If the decision you receive is positive, the decision record will state that the AAT will ‘remit’ your application to the Department. The Department will then continue to process your visa application. You may be required to provide further information or documents, such undergoing health examinations or providing updated police clearance certificates.
If the decision is not in your favour, you may have the option to appeal the decision to the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (FCFCA) if there is “jurisdictional error”. It is essential that you obtain legal advice as soon as possible if you wish to appeal the decision.
Attending an AAT hearing can be a daunting process. However, the right preparation and guidance can ensure you are better equipped to present your case.
If you need advice or representation for your AAT hearing or have any other immigration related queries, get in touch with our experienced team. Contact us by email at [email protected] or by phone at +61 3 9016 0484.