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A Grand Slam for Novak Djokovic’s Visa

Anyone who follows tennis, Australian immigration controversy or even just…

Anyone who follows tennis, Australian immigration controversy or even just the news, is likely aware that, last year, Novak Djokovic had his Australian visa cancelled after arriving in Australia.

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The long and short of that situation was that, at the time of Djokovic’s entry to Australia, he had to have a valid visa (which he did), and meet the requirements of Australia’s COVID 19 travel restrictions under the Biosecurity Act 2015.

Whilst Djokovic’s vaccination status was not relevant to his visa eligibility (hence why it was granted), it was relevant to Australia’s COVID inbound travel restrictions. Djokovic thought that, because Tennis Australia had granted him an exemption to be vaccinated in order to play in the Australian Open, that exemption also applied to his entry into Australia.

It did not.

Now, because his visa had been granted, he was allowed to board his flight and travel to Australia. But, on his arrival, his vaccination status was scrutinized by the Australian Border Force, which was responsible for policing Australia’s COVID travel restrictions. Skipping all the complicated legal bits that occurred immediately thereafter, Djokovic ultimately had his visa cancelled pursuant to s133C(3)(b) of the Migration Act 1958 (Cth) (Migration Act) on public interest grounds. Djokovic applied for Judicial Review to the to the Full Court of the Federal Court who upheld the Minister’s decision to cancel his visa.

Djokovic was removed from Australia.

The fact that Djokovic’s visa was not cancelled before he entered Australia, meant that he was also subject to the public interest criterion ‘risk factor’ against any future temporary visa application, for three years. In addition, because he was removed from Australia, he also faced a 12 month ‘exclusion period’ in relation to any type of visa he may have wanted to apply for. In order to waive these exclusion periods, Djokovic would have to show that there are compelling and/or compassionate circumstances affecting the interests of Australia, or compelling and/or compassionate circumstances affecting the interests of an Australian citizen or permanent resident.

Thus, at that time (January 2022) there was doubt as to whether Djokovic would ever complete in Australia again.

However, since then, Australia’s strict COVID boarder restrictions requiring vaccination are no longer in force.

Thus, instead of trying to satisfy the public interest criterion, Djokovic recently sought revocation of the decision to cancel his visa in the first place, on the basis that the original grounds for cancellation no longer exist, pursuant to s133C(3) of the Migration Act.

On Thursday, 17 November 2022, 11 months later, the (new) Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, and Multicultural Affairs, the Hon Andrew Giles MP, accepted that argument and revoked the cancellation decision pursuant to section 133F(4) of the Migration Act, which power can only be exercised by the Minister personally.

Djokovic has thus been granted a temporary visa to enter Australia to play in the upcoming Grand Slam Tournament.

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