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Posted by on May 18, 2010 | 14 comments |

What Is a Substantial Criminal Record?

Applying for a visa (even if it’s a working holiday visa) is definitely stressful and time consuming as you are required to gather all kinds of papers and proofs that you are a normal person with good intentions.

Sometimes you just need luck. We have all heard those stories where someone’s application was absolutely perfect and he or she was denied. Another one was quite negligent and still got the visa. Whatever the case, you don’t want to risk and take chances, so you better do as instructed. What’s more, don’t lie when filling out the papers. In an attempt to process everything faster, people sometimes omit important information regarding a criminal record from the past, thinking it wasn’t significant and it would take forever to gather additional information to describe the case. These people often end up with a denied visa to Australia and a ruined holiday they have dreamed of. Whether the criminal record was or was not significant, whether it was years ago, let the authorities decide. They appreciate the honesty, and even if they ask for additional documentation, that shouldn’t worry you—just plan more time for the visa application process, and you got real chances to actually get that visa.

As people are often confused what is considered a serious criminal conviction, we have provided a list of character requirements for you from


Substantial criminal records

A person is deemed to have a substantial criminal record if they have been:

  • -sentenced to either death or life imprisonment
  • -sentenced to a term of imprisonment for 12 months or more
  • -sentenced to two or more terms of imprisonment (whether on one or more occasions), where the total of those terms is two years or more
  • -acquitted of an offence on the grounds of either unsoundness of mind or insanity and, as a result, the person has been detained in a facility or institution.

You will have to pass a character test to determine whether you are “of acceptable character” to enter Australia. Here are the requirements for the character test:

A Character test

A person will fail the character test where:

  • -they have a substantial criminal record
  • -they have, or have had, an association with an individual, group or organization suspected of having been, or being, involved in criminal conduct
  • -having regard to the person’s past and present criminal conduct, the person is found not to be of good character
  • -having regard to the person’s past and present general conduct, the person is found to be not of good character
  • -there is a significant risk that the person will engage in criminal conduct in Australia, harass, molest, intimidate or stalk another person in Australia, vilify a segment of the Australian community, or incite discord in the Australian community or in a segment of that community, or represent a danger to the Australian community or a segment of that community.

Other possible refusals

A visa will be refused where the person is assessed by the competent Australian authorities to be directly or indirectly a risk to Australian national security.

Similarly, a visa will be refused where a person is determined by the Foreign Minister, or a person authorized by the Foreign Minister, to be a person whose presence in Australia:

  1. is, or would be, contrary to Australia’s foreign policy interests, or
  2. may be directly or indirectly associated with the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

So, if you have none of the above, you shouldn’t stress out, and answer all application questions without anxiety.

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  1. Hi,I’m currently in Canada.I’m planning on moving to Australia next year.
    While in Canada u got arrested for assault but never convicted.
    I am on a 12 month peace bond.
    Will this affect my application?
    I’ve also an unpaid traffic fine from Australia 2 years ago

  2. Hi there,

    The Canadian crime record should not be a problem. We will need a police check certificate and your personal explanation in order to proceed with your application.

    About the unpaid traffic fine – best thing to do is to pay it. Normally this should not be a problem either.

    You can also send us an e-mail at providing your telephone number, so that a visa specialist can give you a call back and provide you with more info and options.

    Best regards,

  3. Dear Sir,

    I am from india. I have submitted the police clearance and it was clean. Then I have received my Australian PR. However, I have been (3 years back) arrested and fined 50 $ for illegal possession of Marijuana. I didn’t mention this in the application since it not considered as serious crimes as stated in the immigration website. By the time of filling the application form I have had the idea of Conviction is equals to a Serious crime/Felony. However later found out that conviction is an conviction regardless the severity.

    What should I do now ? Since the police certificates are clean , Is it ok for me to travel to australia ?

    May thanks.
    – Stefan.

  4. Hello, I received a misdemeanor DUI Feb 2005 in California when I was 19 years old, no other parties were involved and it was non-injury. Because I was under 21 I received an automatic drivers license suspension for 1 year from the DMV, not the court. The court gave me a 1 month license suspension and a fine. That has been the only conviction since. I am looking to go to Australia (WA) for approximately 3 weeks to visit family at the end of December. I will be 27 and almost 7 years and 11 months will have passed. Am I ok to apply for the ETA visa or is there a different one that I need/have to apply for?


  5. Nick, what happened with this? Did you go with the ETA?

  6. I am looking to apply for a years working visa in Australia, I have one criminal which is importation of diazepam for personal use. will this affect my visa?


  7. hi i have just applied for my australian working holiday visa,i answered all the questions as accurate as possible. the only thing im worrying about is that when i was 16 i got arrested for a minor assult charge that was wipped off my record when i was 18, im now 20 i have put all this down on the visa application but do you think this will be a problem at all ?


  8. Hi William,
    usually this is nothing that you need to worry about, especially in your case.

  9. Hi,thanks for the reply,my peace bond expires in 4 weeks time.However I received my Canadian police certificate recently and it says I have an outstanding charge.I contacted the police department and was told that they are 12-18 months behind in updating there systems.I have court documents proving there is nothing outstanding.Can I still go ahead with my a skilled migration visa if the police cert says I have an outstanding charge?

  10. I am looking into going travelling for a year, with part of this spending time in Australia on a working holiday visa. Unfortunately, I have a criminal record for assault by beating (battery) & public order act – fear unlawful violence (3 years ago). A one off incident for which I received 2 charges for. I was taken to court and fined as a result. I have read up on the working holiday visa and I understand that I will have to declare these when applying which I have every intention of doing. I would just like an idea of how likely it is that these kind of convictions would prevent me getting the type of visa I require. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Many thanks Madeline

  11. Hi,
    I am at present working in SouthAfrica. I am an Indian passport holder. I am in this country for last 15 years with my family. In the year 2008, November I was convicted for shoplifting and fined R 2000 and a suspension period of three years.The remarks appears in the police clearance certificate. Except this my record is clean. I would like to know if I am illegible to migrate in Australia.



  12. Hi. I have recently applied for an Australian working holiday visa. I filled in the application, admitted a couple minor motoring offences on the character test (speeding). I then received an email back asking me to explain the offences in more detail, and in my reply I suddenly realised I totally forgot to mention another offence which I forgot to mention (Riding a motorcycle with the helmet not done up properly). I have now told them this in my reply, but now I’m worried they’re going to refuse my application in the first place because I didn’t originally put it Down. Any ideas what could happen? Cheers

  13. Hi Geoff,

    It is good that you have provided
    the missing information even at a later stage. Each application is assessed individually
    though and it’s up to the Immigration officer whether the visa will be approved.

    If you have any other questions or need any assistance with your
    application, please send us an email to

  14. Omitting details or falsifying details about your criminal record can get you into more hot water than anticipated.

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