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Afghanistan Crisis: Navigating the Australian Visa Process

1 September 2021


By Zmarak Zhouand, Principal Solicitor at rto.legal


Zmarak Zhouand was born in Afghanistan and continues to have a strong connection with that country. Zmarak relocated to Australia as a child after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. He grew up and was educated in Sydney. After working as a solicitor in corporate and commercial law in Sydney for almost 10 years, Zmarak returned to Afghanistan in 2008 where he later co-founded one of the country’s leading law firms, before returning to Australia in 2018. He is currently based in Brisbane with his young family.


The rapid changes to the political climate of Afghanistan in July and August 2021 shook the world. As the US and allied forces withdrew, the Taliban took Kabul, the country’s capital, on 15 August 2021. These recent events have caused mass exodus from the country as millions of Afghans fear for their lives, freedoms and futures - the Taliban’s grip on power is now (almost) absolute.


The Australian government has allocated a small number of Offshore Humanitarian Visas for Afghan nationals – a small fraction of what other comparable countries have allocated. At this stage, there are 3,000 visas on offer, however the indications are that this number will increase in the near future.


rto.legal has a dedicated team assisting our fellow Afghan family and friends apply for Australian Offshore Humanitarian Visas and, where appropriate, visas for other countries.


Some Visa Options


It is natural that during this time of uncertainty and unrest, those in Afghanistan and family members outside of Afghanistan will feel a certain amount of stress and anxiety about the future.


Knowing what options are available to you is important. There are a number of visas that may be available to you and/or your family members.


· Humanitarian Visas (available for people inside Afghanistan and for those who have recently fled to another country)

· Offshore Refugee Visa

· Partner Visas


Humanitarian Visas


There are several sub categories of humanitarian visas available for people inside Afghanistan and people who have recently left.


The Humanitarian (Class XB) visa is a major category of humanitarian visa on offer. For people who are currently in Afghanistan, it may be possible to apply for Subclass 201 In-country Special Humanitarian or Subclass 203 Emergency Rescue online These two options are permanent visas available for people who have been referred by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees due to an immediate need for resettlement. These visas do not require a proposer.


For those who have already left Afghanistan, there are several possible visas:

  • Emergency Rescue (subclass 203)

A permanent visa available for people who have been referred by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees due to an immediate need for resettlement.

  • Offshore Refugee (subclass 200)

A permanent visa given where the applicant can prove persecution of threat such as threats to life, liberty if sent back to Afghanistan, at risk of torture or inhumane treatment. Minority groups or classes of persons historically persecuted by the Taliban will have a good case for this visa.

  • Global Special Humanitarian Visa and Community Support Program (subclass 202)

Available for people who face substantial discrimination or human rights abuses. A “proposer” is required. This means the applicant must have an Australian citizen or permanent resident propose their visa application. The proposer may be required to pay the travel costs of the applicant and those travelling with him/her, if the applicant does not.

  • Women at Risk (subclass 204).

Afghan women may be granted this visa if there is a real and imminent risk of harassment and persecution if she returns to Afghanistan because of gender and she is not protected by a male relative.


Partner Visas


The Australian government is making special arrangements for persons who currently hold an Australian partner visa and permanent residents of Australia. If this category includes you, please contact the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) immediately to inform them of your situation. This website contains more information: https://afghanistan.embassy.gov.au/.


If you have previously applied for a partner visa for someone who is currently affected by the Afghanistan crisis contact the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) or log in to your IMMIaccount to request DHA expedite your visa application.


Proposer for Visas


Some visas require a “proposer”.


A proposer must be one of the following:

  • Australian citizen; or

  • Australian permanent resident; or

  • organisation in Australia known as the Community Support Program (CSP).

If you do not have a proposer, it may be possible for us to arrange for a community organisation (CSP) to propose your application.


Applying for family members


The humanitarian visa categories allow a principal visa applicant to include dependents such spouse, children and parents to the application. In most cases this will be viewed as one application and it will be processed together.


However, it is not always best (or possible) to bring family immediately. Once a humanitarian visa is granted, the visa holder has five years to propose their immediate family for the same subclass visa. For example, if a subclass 201 humanitarian visa was granted in 2021, the visa holder will have until 2026 to apply to DHA to have their spouse and children join them in Australia on the same visa.


Can we help?


We are currently assisting a number of Afghan families with Australian visa applications. Our firm has access to Pashto and Dari interpreters and translators. We are well informed and up to date on the current situation on the ground in Afghanistan and being familiar with Afghan culture, we will deal with your matter with both sensitivity and respect.


Contact us for a free consultation to discuss your options and how we can assist.

Zmarak Zhouand, Principal Solicitor, rto.legal | (e) z@rto.legal | (w) www.rto.legal | (t) Brisbane 07 3726 9559 | (t) Sydney 02 9121 6281 | (t) Mobile 0478 393 502 | (a) Brisbane – Level 10, 95 North Quay, Brisbane Qld 4000 | (a) Sydney – Suite 1A, 34 MacMahon Street, Hurstville NSW 2220.


rto.legal is the registered business name of Zhouand Pty Ltd ACN 630 717 976, an incorporated legal practice registered with the Queensland Law Society in Queensland, Australia and the Law Society of New South Wales in New South Wales, Australia.

Individual liability limited under a scheme approved under the professional standards legislation.


This document sets out general information. It is not legal advice. You should not rely on the contents of this document for any reason. We shall not be liable to anyone who relies on the content of this document. You should seek professional advice from a qualified legal practitioner or other suitably qualified person in relation to your specific circumstances.

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