Tuberculosis. Pulmonary Tuberculosis. TB. A nasty and debilitating bacterial infection which used to be the second largest cause of death in Australia before it was brought under control. It attacks the lungs, and can progress to other parts of the body. Untreated it is fatal. Australia now has one of the worlds lowest incidences of TB cases in the world, due to strict controls.
The Philippines by contrast has one of the highest incidences of TB infection in the population. This is why chest x-rays are required for tourist visas of 6 months or longer, and for all partner visa applications. Therefore this is an important issue for Down Under Visa clients. Having thousands of undiagnosed TB cases every year arriving in Australia would lead to a lot of suffering in the Australian community, and this is why they are so strict about this.
What happens if Active TB is suspected by DIBP?
They won’t let the visa applicant into Australia unless the applicant is free of the disease!
This means that:
- If the applicant has a visa already, they will be prevented from entering Australia, or
- If the applicant is waiting on a visa grant, they will delay the visa grant until the applicant is free of the disease.
This is the chain of command:
- The doctor will identify suspected Active Tuberculosis infection from the x-ray results. This will go into the doctors report, which will be sent to the Global Health Unit (part of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection) in Canberra.
Note that this means the doctor cannot give you permission to enter Australia. In fact they will not even give the results to you….or to us….or even to the Australian Embassy in Manila.
- The Medical Officer of the Commonwealth (in the Global Health Unit) will make a decision based on the results, but invariably they will:
- Ask the applicant to return to the same doctor for further tests
- Put a notice on the applicant’s file which will prevent them from entering Australia
The first notice of a problem will be an email to the Registered Migration Agent (or directly to the applicant if they are doing their own application) notifying us that there is an issue. We will forward these instructions on to the visa applicant and tell them to see the Panel Physician again.
What happens next?
This depends on the outcome!
The doctors will take further x-rays and will most likely ask for sputum samples so that the infection may be cultured and identified positively as Tuberculosis. If these results are not clear, they may ask the applicant to return again where this will be repeated to see if Active TB is present.
If there is NO evidence of Active Tuberculosis being present, then Global Health will advise the Embassy of this and the “ban” will be lifted.
But if there IS evidence of an Active TB infection, then the applicant will be required to undergo treatment under supervision of a specialist physician, whom the Panel Doctor will refer the applicant to. This will involve daily medication and possibly injections for 6 to 9 months. The treatment will continue until the applicant can be diagnosed as being free of the infection.
And please note that Global Health has one job to do, and it’s to ensure that visa applicants meet the health requirements for visas, and to keep out those who do not. They won’t hurry up, and they won’t keep you….or us….or even the Australian Embassy informed about what’s happening.
Will this affect the visa application? Will the visa be refused?
If all things go well, no this will not lead to a refusal. They will delay the decision until the applicant is free of the disease, then if everything else is OK with the application the visa will be granted.
However, you need to keep up the treatment, and keep in contact with the doctor! If you change your phone number, or fail to turn up to appointments, then the doctor will inform the Department that you still have Active TB and you will face a refusal. This happened to a client of ours once, and it came as a terrible shock.
So if this happens to you, don’t panic. Don’t get all upset. Be grateful that the disease was diagnosed, because it can be horribly debilitating. Diagnosis means treatment can happen, and the applicant will get better. Doctors in Australia are not accustomed to seeing TB in their patients, and it may have gone undiagnosed for years had it not been picked up this way.
And try to understand that this is the price you pay to keep horrible diseases like this out of Australia. You can’t have it both ways.