The Special Humanitarian Programme (SHP)

​​Many more applications are received under the Special Humanitarian Programme (SHP) each year than visas available. Only those applicants with a close family member proposer in Australia ​​​and compelling circumstances are likely to be successful.

The Humanitarian Programme has been set at 13750 places, of which a minimum of 11000 places are reserved for people applying outside of Australia. This includes 5000 places available in the SHP for those proposed by close family members.  Family members of protection visa holders receive lowest processing priority. 

The SHP was established in 1981 within the offshore Humanitarian Programme to allow people who face human rights abuse in their home country and have a connection to the Australian community to settle permanently in Australia.

To be eligible for an SHP visa, an applicant must be:

  • living outside their home country (unless 'split family')
  • subject to substantial discrimination amounting to a gross violation of their human rights in their home country
  • sponsored by a 'proposer'.

A proposer must be one of the following:

  • an Australian citizen
  • an Australian permanent resident
  • an Australian organisation
  • an eligible New Zealand citizen

And, not a person who entered Australia as an illegal maritime arrival (IMA) on or after 13 August 2012.

Applications must satisfy the decision maker that there are 'compelling reasons' to grant the applicant a visa, taking into account four factors:

  • the degree of discrimination the applicant faces in their home country
  • the extent of their links to Australia
  • whether they have other resettlement options
  • the capacity of the Australian community to provide for their settlement.

'Split family' applications proposed by an SHP visa holder are assessed on the extent of their connection with Australia. They are not required to make claims of substantial discrimination.

Processing priorities

SHP applications are prioritised in the following order which is based on the visa the proposer holds, whether the proposer is an Australian citizen, and the closeness of the relationship between the applicant and the proposer:

  1. 'split family' of a person who holds an SHP visa
  2. other family proposed by a close family member who does not hold a Protection or Resolution of Status visa (partners, children, parents and siblings who do not otherwise meet the 'split family' definition)
  3. other family proposed by an extended family member who does not hold a Protection or Resolution of Status visa (grandparents, grandchildren, cousins, aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews)
  4. applicants proposed by a friend or distant relative who does not hold a Protection or Resolution of Status visa or by a community organisation
  5. any person proposed by or on behalf of a person granted a Protection or Resolution of Status visa.

All applicants should anticipate lengthy processing times due to limited numbers of places.

Applicants proposed under the Community Proposal Pilot (CPP) are not affected by these processing priorities. CPP applications receive high processing priority.

Illegal maritime arrivals on or after 13 August 2012

Illegal maritime arrivals (IMAs) who arrived in Australia on or after 13 August 2012 are not eligible to propose any family under the Humanitarian Programme.

IMAs who arrived before 13 August 2012 may propose, but until they become Australian citizens, the applications they propose are given the lowest priority for processing and only applications found to be compelling will be further considered for grant of a visa. All applications proposed by Protection visa holders (including IMAs who were under 18 at the time they proposed their family and Protection visa holders who did not arrive as IMAs) are prioritised and assessed in the same way.

Applications whose proposers are Australian citizens fall into priority group 2, 3 or 4 depending on their relationship to the applicant.

'Split family' provisions in the SHP

What are the requirements for 'split family' applications?

Applications that include immediate family are commonly referred to as 'split family' applications.

To be an eligible applicant for a visa under 'split family' provisions:

  • the main applicant must be a member of the proposer's immediate family
  • the proposer must have declared this relationship to us before the grant of their visa
  • the application must be made within five years of the grant of the proposer's visa.

Who can propose 'split family'?

To propose an immediate family member under the 'split family' provisions of the SHP, the proposer must have been granted one of the following visas within the last five years:

  • SHP visa (subclass 202)
  • Protection visa (subclass 866)*, or
  • Resolution of Status visa (subclass 851)*.

*Proposers who arrived in Australia as an IMA on or after 13 August 2012 are not eligible to propose under the Humanitarian Programme.

Applications proposed by a Protection or Resolution of Status visa holder are given lowest processing priority.

Who is 'split family'?

A member of the proposer's 'immediate family' may include:

  • their spouse or de facto partner
  • dependent children
  • parents (if the proposer is under 18 years of age).

A dependent child is the proposer's biological, adopted or step child who is:

  • not married, in a de facto relationship or engaged to be married, and
  • under 18 years of age, or
  • aged 18 years or over and wholly or substantially reliant on the main applicant for financial, psychological or physical support.

​​​​See: Proposing an Immediate Family Member (Split Family)

Applying for an SHP visa

Electronic lodgement of Special Humanitarian Programme applications now available

Special Humanitarian Programme (SHP) applications can now be lodged electronically. You and your proposers need to complete the application forms on your computer and submit them with the relevant documentation using an online portal. For further information see: Lodging certain humanitarian applications in Australia.

Health and character requirements

Applicants and their dependent family members must meet health, character and national security requirements in order to be granted a visa. All applicants are required to attend a medical examination. Applicants aged 11 years and over are required to have a chest x-ray. We meet the cost of medical and x-ray examinations.

For more information see Fact Sheet 22 The Health Requirement and Fact Sheet 79—The Character Requirement.

What else can my family overseas do?

If you have family members overseas who have fled from their home country and are vulnerable or under threat in their current country of residence, they should register with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Proposer obligations

If successful, applicants or their proposers are required to pay for their travel to Australia. The proposer is expected to assist in the settlement of successful applicants after their arrival in Australia including:

  • meeting them at the airport
  • providing for their immediate accommodation needs
  • assisting them to find permanent accommodation
  • familiarising them with services and service providers.