20 Jun 2019
Increasing visa rejections due to hepatitis B
After media reports of a Chinese father ceasing his hepatitis B medication in a last-ditch bid to keep him and his family in Australia, Doherty Institute researcher Professor Benjamin Cowie spoke to the increasing number of permanent residency visas being rejected by the Department of Home Affairs due to hepatitis B in a recent interview with SBS News.
The government’s immigration health criteria dictates that an applicant for Australian residency must be free from a disease or condition which “would be likely to require health care or community services” that would “result in a significant cost to the Australian community”. Currently, this threshold is set to $40,000. The vast majority of people living with hepatitis B will never need any form of treatment during their lives, however Prof Cowie believes that increasing numbers of people are having their residency rejected purely on the basis of testing positive for hepatitis B.
“A person going off their treatment purely to try and get residency here is a real tragedy, that someone is not engaging with something that could save their life in a desperate attempt … to be able to contribute to Australian society,” Prof Cowie said.
“People living with hepatitis or other chronic viral infections are often stigmatised and discriminated against in many areas of life - including in health care situations, tragically - let alone in the migration process.”
“These decisions need to be brought up to date with the current economic environment, the current therapeutic environment and what we see happening with hepatitis B, so we don’t continue to deny people the opportunity of contributing to Australian society just because they have a health condition they’ve had since they were born.”