AAT Appeal

If your Australian visa application has been refused or stands cancelled, you have a chance to appeal this decision and get it reviewed by AAT (Administrative Appeals Tribunal). When your visa has been rejected, AAT has the power to evaluate the original decision and inspect whether the applicant fulfils all the requisite conditions.

What is AAT?

The Administrative Appeals Tribunal, popularly known as AAT, is a self-governing Australian Statutory body that reviews the decisions taken by the Department of Home Affairs in connection with visa cancellation or refusal. In 2015, the functioning of the Migration Review Tribunal and Refugee Review Tribunal were merged into the Migration Division of the AAT.

The primary role of AAT is to oversee the correctness of the decision made by the department. The AAT runs a fresh check of the application and may declare a changed decision or send the case back to DHA for re-assessment.

Who can apply for merits review?

Any applicant or holder of an Australian Visa whose visa stands cancelled or refused can apply for merits review by AAT, provided he/she is eligible. Most onshore applications qualify for this review, including some offshore applicants in which the sponsor is onshore.

Restricted Time-frame for Appeal:

Generally, the appeal to AAT must be lodged within 21 days. However, the time-frame may differ depending on the way you were informed of this decision and the type of decision. If you fail to apply for the appeal timely, you lose your right to get the decision reviewed.

How does AAT conduct merits review of a decision?

When you apply for the appeal to AAT, a new decision is arrived at depending on the facts of your case. Simply, AAT “steps into the shoes” of the Department of Immigration and takes a new decision.

All the concerning facts are taken into consideration, and the applicant gets a chance to propose fresh evidence to the Tribunal.

It’s important to know that this might be your only chance for merits review, to get the reality of your situation re-examined.

Hearings at AAT:

When you apply for an appeal at AAT, you get a chance to have a hearing. Hearings are generally done face-to-face with an AAT member who has the right to decide on your appeal.

At the hearing, you get a chance to provide verbal evidence in support of your case, along with calling a witness. The member will question you to obtain clarity on the facts of your situation. You should go thoroughly prepared for the hearing if you want a favourable decision on your appeal.

Probable review of an AAT review:

The AAT can either remit or affirm the decision made by the Department of Immigration.

If the AAT affirms its decision, it means that it agrees on the refusal or cancellation of your visa application. In that case, you can apply for further appeal. The two best options for further appeal would be Federal Court or an application for Ministerial Intervention.

Appealing to the Federal Court is applicable if you think your application was rejected in case of a legal error in AAT’s decision. While, applying for Ministerial Intervention post merits review is valid if you can establish compelling grounds in favor of the grant of your visa, even though you might not fulfill usual visa conditions.

If the AAT remits its decision, it means that AAT disagrees with the basis of the refusal or visa cancellation of your visa application by the Department of Immigration.

In case AAT remits the decision, your case will be sent back to the Department of Immigration for further evaluation. The Department will assess your remaining requirements like health and character for the grant of the visa.

Have you received a notice of intention to cancel you visa or has your visa been refused?

Common Visa refusal reasons:

  • you have not met the conditions of a previous visa
  • you did not provide enough information to prove the claims you made in your application
  • you do not meet Australia’s health or character requirements
  • you gave the wrong information or made a false claim in your application (bogus documents or misleading information)
  • For student visas, when your preferred course of study is not in line with your previous studies
  • Not showing that you are able to support yourself financially
  • For employer sponsored visas, when the business sponsoring you is not viable or there is no genuine need, the pay is not according to market salary rates and many more.

What if my visa application is refused or my visa is cancelled?

If your visa is refused or cancelled, you might be able to have the decision reviewed by a merits review tribunal, the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT).

Not all decisions are reviewable by the AAT. For example, if the Minister for Immigration personally decides to refuse or cancel your visa under section 501 of the Migration Act 1958, you cannot apply to have a decision reviewed by the AAT.

Administrative Appeals Tribunal

If your visa is refused or cancelled, you might be able to have the decision reviewed by a merits review tribunal.

The AAT is an independent organisation that reviews government decisions. Within the AAT, specialist offices review specific types government decisions.

Departmental decisions are usually reviewed within the AAT’s:

  • General Division, which reviews decisions relating to:
    1. character matters (including section 501 of the Migration Act 1958)
    2. citizenship matters; or
    3. Office of the Migration Agents Registration Authority (OMARA) matters.
  • Migration and Refugee Division (MRD), which reviews decisions relating to most migration and refugee visa refusals (including refusal of sponsorship or nomination) and visa cancellations.
  • Immigration Assessment Authority, an independent office within the AAT’s MRD that reviews fast track reviewable decisions relating to certain Protection visa decisions.

What will happen after review?

The review tribunal will make one of the following decisions:


This is when the AAT  agrees with the department’s decision to cancel or refuse your visa and so the decision that the department has made will stand.

Set Aside

the Department’s decision, meaning the AAT has the view that the decision should be changed. The AAT may replace (substitute) the decision with a new decision.


the Department’s decision, meaning the AAT has the view that the decision must be reconsidered. The department is required to reconsider the application having regard to the directions made by the AAT.

No Jurisdiction

Meaning the AAT had no power to review the departments’ decisions.

Apply for a review on time

It is very important to understand and know that when you receive a refusal or cancellation letter it will state how many days you have to make an appeal for that decision. If you don’t do it on time you could lose the chance of your application being reviewed.

Can I stay in Australia while my application is being reviewed?

Yes, you would generally get a Bridging Visa which will have the carry the same conditions as your previous visa, i.e work or study rights. You will be able to stay in Australia for as long as it takes for the review application to be processed.

What are my options if my appeal fails at AAT?

If the outcome of AAT review is ‘Affirm’, then you have 2 options further:

Application to Federal Court:

This is when you believe there has been a Legal Error in the decision by the department and AAT.

You can write a request to the minister for his personal discretion to grant you visa. You need to have a good reason or case for the minister to intervene in your case.

Application for Ministerial intervention:

You can write a request to the minister for his personal discretion to grant you visa. You need to have a good reason or case for the minister to intervene in your case.