Positive Migration Guide: supporting people living with HIV to migrate to Australia

Australian migration law is a bureaucratic minefield, made even more challenging for people living with HIV. UTS Law and the HIV/AIDS Legal Centre (HALC) are empowering people living with HIV and their loved ones to navigate this complex terrain.

Supported by a UTS Social Impact Grant, a project team led by Dr David Carter and Dr Anthea Vogl (UTS Law) and Rhys Evans (HALC) produced a ground-breaking guide for people living with HIV to better understand the Australian migration process and increase their chances of a successful visa application.

Called the Positive Migration Guide, the document is accompanied by a series of fact sheets translated into 12 languages and provides direct referral pathways through which applicants can seek specialist legal advice. It’s important work: the complexity of migration law for people living with HIV means that applicants need to start preparing for the process sometimes years in advance.

“Australia’s migration system allows discrimination against people with a disability, including people living with HIV,” says Dr Carter, a senior lecturer and National Health and Medical Research Centre Early Career Fellow in the UTS Law, Health, Justice Research Centre.

“As a result, migration law for people living with HIV is a particularly complex area. The guide contains a detailed outline of the migration process, its relationship to HIV and the health criteria, as well as new graphics and diagrams to demonstrate the visa application process.”

Working within an evolving legal landscape

The Positive Migration Guide is an updated version of a resource that HALC originally produced in 2012. Ongoing changes to Australia’s migration laws had left the original guide significantly out of date; the challenge for the project team was to update the document with contemporary legal information while also future proofing it against the changing nature of the law.

The team began by reviewing, updating and restructuring the original guide, removing visa-specific content from the main document and moving it into a series of new, editable fact sheets that would maximise the guide’s longevity. The guide now provides a general overview of the migration landscape, while the fact sheets deliver detailed and up-to-date information on the specifics of the law.

“As changes to the law occur, we can simply update these fact sheets, which aren’t provided publicly,” says Evans, Projects, Policy and Law Reform Solicitor at HALC.

“So, when we get requests for them, we know they’re up to date for their purposes at that time.”

After finalising the content, the project team drew on their grant funding to have the guide and fact sheets professionally edited, ensuring they were accessible to the diversity of audiences they were intended for, and laid out by a graphic designer, who further enhanced the guide’s readability by adding a range of visual elements. They also funded the translation of the fact sheets into 12 languages, thereby expanding their reach into culturally and linguistically diverse communities.

A specialist legal resource

The guide is now available on the HALC website, and the guide and associated fact sheets are given to clients as part of HALC’s formal legal advice on migration law matters. It’s an important supplement to the highly specialised services that Evans and his colleagues provide.

“Clients can take the guide away, really consider their options and then come back to us for specific tailored advice or representation,” Evans says.

And the resources couldn’t have come at a better time: last financial year, 54 per cent of legal advices HALC provided were focused on immigration issues, totalling 572 counts, while a whopping 79 per cent of legal representation services – or 387 counts – were focused on the same topic.

“Over time, the types of matters that HALC have been assisting with have greatly changed – at the beginning, we were really primarily assisting with end-of-life planning and providing bedside wills,” Evans says.

“Then, as the treatment and care for people living with HIV has drastically improved, we’ve seen a shift.

“Today, migration law makes up the vast majority of our work due to the discriminatory policies faced by people living with HIV, and more broadly, people living with a disability, in this area.”

Beyond HALC, the project team also hosted a webinar to share the guide with community migration agents, lawyers and UTS Law students, as well as a vast number of health professionals – according to Dr Carter, more than 90 per cent of doctors who work in this field have patients in need of specialist migration law support. Now publicly available, the webinar has been viewed more than 800 times. The guide also forms part of the UTS migration law curriculum.

Building capacity through collaboration

The Positive Migration Guide is the latest in a series of collaborations between UTS Law and HALC; previously, Dr Carter and Evans, a graduate of UTS Law, have partnered on a range of law reform strategies and submissions for HIV-related legal matters.

And the partnership is just getting started: based on the strength of the Positive Migration Guide collaboration, the team has now submitted an application for multi-million-dollar national grant for a broader body of work on migration-related issues. Dr Carter now sits on HALC’s Board, and he and Evans have also been invited to join a national working group focused on the migration needs of people living with sexually transmitted infections or blood-borne viruses. Elsewhere, a joint internship program is supporting UTS Law students to gain professional experience at HALC.

“The Social Impact Grant provided real, material support that enabled us to work together and grow our partnership,” Dr Carter says.

“Without it, we couldn’t have done this work.”

The Problem

Australian migration law is one of only a few areas of the law that explicitly discriminates against people living with HIV. Complexities surrounding HIV status disclosure, health waivers, cost thresholds and the myriad other administrative requirements can result in unsuccessful migration applications that prevent individuals from moving freely around the world.

The Response

The Positive Migration Guide is a ground-breaking collaboration between UTS Law and the HIV/AIDS Legal Centre (HALC) in Sydney. The guide and its accompanying fact sheets support people living with HIV and their loved ones to better understand the Australian migration process, thereby increasing their chances of securing a visa.

What helped accomplish this?

A UTS Social Impact Grant funded the project in its entirety, providing material support for professional editing, graphic design and translation, among others. The work was also strengthened by a longstanding partnership between UTS Law and HALC that has been built on a foundation of trust, shared interests and experience.

What has changed as a result?

The Positive Migration Guide and associated fact sheets provide plain-language insights into the complexity of Australia’s legal system, supporting applicants to prepare more effective migration applications that respond to the nuances of the law. The work also supports migration agents and lawyers to deliver more effective and strategic advice to clients living with HIV.

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Impact Area



UTS Faculty or Unit



David Carter, Senior Lecturer
Faculty of Law
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