21 August 2019

On 1 July 2019, the Australian Government made changes to the immigration health requirement, which prevents migrants with an illness, disease or disability from gaining a visa if their health care costs are considered too high, or their condition puts the general public at risk.

Prior to the changes, if a person was applying for a visa, the threshold for which their health care costs were deemed too high was $40,000 over the applicant’s lifetime. The threshold has now been increased to $49,000, and the timeframe reduced to ten years. This is a significant and positive change for people with hepatitis B seeking to migrate permanently to Australia, as the costs of treatment are very unlikely to exceed the new threshold in a ten year period.

A substantial proportion of migrants to Australia come from regions where hepatitis B is a common condition across the whole population, however the rate of diagnosis remains low. To protect their long-term health and reduce the risk of onward transmission, testing is recommended for all people with a risk of hepatitis B, including those from high prevalence regions. Hepatitis B testing in migrant populations is essential to facilitate global and national elimination goals. The prior visa restrictions worked against the elimination goals as a hepatitis B diagnosis might jeopardise visa applications. The change from 1 July is therefore very welcome and will help enable diagnosis and linkage to low cost health care which in turn is protective for all Australians.   

While this is a great step forward, for a smaller group of people with more advanced liver disease, the future cost of medical treatment is likely to still exceed the threshold and further work is needed to ensure hard-working migrant families are not negatively impacted.

Hepatitis Australia strongly encourages all people who could be at risk of hepatitis B to get tested.

For more information on this issue, you can read this article from SBS News:

Read the article