The Federal Circuit Court filing fee in migration matters has increased from $690 to $3,300.
By way of background, when the Immigration Department makes an unfavourable visa decision, the applicant can’t just go to court. Rather, in the first instance they can only seek a review in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (where they pay just over $1,800 in application fees).
The problem is, the Tribunal is not a judicial body. Even though it is not part of the Immigration Department, it is not independent from the Government. Some of its decision makers (called Members) are not lawyers.
A visa applicant can only go to court when they have exhausted their review rights in the Tribunal.
It is true that there are thousands of migration decisions waiting to be decided by the courts and many of these have been filed only to enable the applicant to stay longer in Australia. But this does not change the fact that Courts are an important safeguard in the system.
There are cases before the courts which have strong merits: cases in which both the Immigration Department and the Tribunal made significant legal errors. (Indeed, in one of our matters the Court in its judgment ended up describing the Tribunal as erring and committing “extreme illogicality” in the process.)
By this drastic fee increase, people with potentially strong cases may not be able to afford to file a claim. Alternatively, they might not be able to pay for legal representation. Not a good look from an “Access to Justice” perspective…