Refugee & Humanitarian Visas

Australia has a long history of accepting refugees and other humanitarian entrants from all parts of the globe, including those in need of assistance during and immediately after World War II. Since 1945 over 800,000 refugees and other humanitarian entrants have settled in Australia. It is important to understand that there are two main components of Australia’s Humanitarian Program—offshore and onshore.

The offshore component of the Humanitarian Program offers resettlement in Australia to refugees and humanitarian entrants from overseas. Most offshore refugees are referred to Australia by the ‘United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)’ and are formally accepted and resettled under the ‘Refugee’ category. These entrants have been assessed and accepted as refugees under Refugee Convention criteria.

The ‘Special Humanitarian Program (SHP)’ also offers resettlement to those offshore who, while not necessarily being refugees, face human rights abuses in their home country; have a connection with Australia and must have a sponsor (e.g. a permanent resident, Australian citizen or organisation). The onshore component of the Humanitarian Program offers protection to people who have arrived in Australia, lodged an asylum claim, and been granted protection. Onshore humanitarian entrants may have been found to be refugees under Refugee Convention criteria or may otherwise engage Australia’s protection obligations under other human rights conventions.