Visa abuse is when someone in a family-like relationship exploits the fact that another person is without permanent residency or citizenship as a way to exert power and control over them.

Examples of visa abuse

  • Hiding your passport or visa documentation so that you are can’t access or use it
  • Making false claims about your visa status, for example saying that your visa status is tied to staying in a relationship
  • Making threats over access to shared children as a result of your visa status, for example refusing to sign documents relating to paternity
  • Hiding information, or providing misinformation about your visa
  • Being brought to Australia on the basis of incorrect visa information, for example arriving on a tourist visa then being forced into unregulated work by the perpetrator
  • Trafficking

Impacts of visa abuse

Individuals who are subject to visa abuse can often feel that they are unable to leave a violent relationship due to concern over being removed from Australia, or having children removed from Australia. The perpetrator may have made false claims that leaving the relationship will end the survivor’s visa. A lack of familiarity with Australia’s laws and customs may leave the survivor isolated, or not feeling confident enough to seek assistance without jeopardising their continued stay in Australia. The survivor may also be unable to leave because they are unsure of their visa status as documentation has always been controlled by the perpetrator. In some circumstances, if you have been brought to Australia under false pretences and are subject to exploitation, coercion or have had your travel documentation taken away, this can also be defined as trafficking.

If you are experiencing visa abuse, call safe steps

If you are experiencing visa abuse from someone close to you, you can call safe steps 24/7 on 1800 015 188 for confidential support, information, assistance and emergency accommodation. Depending on your needs, we can refer you to an appropriate legal service or migrant and refugee service.