We are responsible for administering the International Transfer of Prisoners (ITP) Scheme.
This scheme includes regulations governing the transfer of prisoners from foreign countries to Australia.
Information on transfers from Australia to foreign countries can be found on the Transfers from Australia page.
The fact sheets below provide links to the ITP policy statement as well as the information pack for transfers to Australia:
Prisoners applying for transfer to Australia are required to use the official application forms.
The forms may also be obtained from the Australian Embassy or High Commission in the country in which they are imprisoned or by contacting our department.
Different forms need to be completed by prisoners who are in prison and those who have been released on parole.
Prisoners who are serving a sentence of imprisonment in a prison or a hospital facility and have not been released on parole are required to submit the following application forms to our department:
Prisoners who are on parole are required to submit the following application forms to our department:
The personal information that prisoners provide on these forms may be disclosed to other parties for the purpose of processing their application.
Prisoners who wish to apply to transfer to Australia should speak to the Australian Embassy or High Commission in the country in which they are imprisoned as the way applications are handled will vary from one country to another.
This department will process the application and contact authorities in the foreign country and in the relevant state or territory to see if agreement to the transfer can be reached.
We will also be in regular contact with the prisoner while their application is being processed.
Completed applications should be sent to:
International Transfer of Prisoners Unit
International Crime Cooperation Division
3–5 National Circuit
BARTON ACT 2600
Requirements for transfer to Australia
A prisoner may apply to transfer from a foreign country to Australia if:
- the foreign country is listed as a transfer country under the ITP Act
- the prisoner is either:
- an Australian citizen
- is permitted to travel to, enter and remain in Australia indefinitely pursuant to the Migration Act 1958 and has community ties with a state or territory
- neither the prisoner’s sentence of imprisonment nor the conviction on which it is based is subject to appeal
- the conduct constituting the offence for which the prisoner is serving a sentence would also constitute an offence in Australia (this requirement may be waived in certain cases)
- at least six months of the prisoner’s sentence remains to be served, or one year if transferring from Hong Kong, Thailand, Cambodia or Vietnam (this requirement may be waived in certain cases).
For more information, check with local consular staff or the International Transfer of Prisoners Unit.
Generally the sentence a prisoner will serve in Australia will be as close as possible in nature and duration to that imposed by the transfer country.
The sentence of imprisonment cannot be harsher than that imposed in the transfer country.
The Australian Minister for Justice is guided by the ITP Statement of Policy when determining how a sentence imposed by a transfer country will be enforced in Australia upon transfer.
If an application for transfer to Australia is successful the prisoner will be held in Australia as a federal prisoner.
Federal prisoners are held in state and territory prisons under the same conditions as state and territory prisoners. They are eligible for the same programs as other prisoners in the state or territory.
The main difference is that decisions about their sentence, including parole, are made by the Commonwealth rather than by state or territory authorities.
The non-parole periods and parole conditions imposed on prisoners who transfer to Australia under the ITP Scheme are determined in accordance with the terms of transfer and therefore may differ from those imposed on other federal prisoners.
Community ties with an Australian state or territory
A prisoner has community ties with an Australian state or territory if:
- before being imprisoned in the foreign country, the prisoner’s home was in that state or territory
- the prisoner’s parent, grandparent or child lives in that state or territory
- the prisoner is married to, or has a de facto relationship with, a person who lives in that state or territory
- the prisoner has a close continuing relationship (involving frequent written or personal contact and a personal interest in the other person’s welfare) with a person who lives in that state or territory.
It is important to note that Australian citizens are not required to prove community ties with Australia to be eligible for transfer.
However, the consent of the relevant minister in the state or territory to which a prisoner wishes to transfer is required for the transfer to occur. The relevant minister may require the prisoner to demonstrate community ties with the state or territory before they will consent to the transfer.
Applicants should therefore provide as much detail as possible about their community ties with Australia.
Transfer on parole
A prisoner may be eligible to transfer to Australia if they are on parole or coming up for parole, depending on the requirements of the country from which they seek to transfer.
Some foreign countries do not allow prisoners on parole to transfer.
Prisoners who have received the death penalty
The definition of prisoner under the ITP Act does not include a person who has been sentenced to death. This means that people who have been sentenced to death cannot transfer to Australia under the ITP Act.
However, the ITP Act provides that if a sentence of death imposed on a person has been commuted to a term of imprisonment, the person may apply to transfer to Australia.
The time taken to process an application for transfer varies from case to case. Finalising applications for transfer to Australia can take some time, as they must be considered by a number of different parties, including the government of Australia, the foreign country and the Australian state or territory.
When this department receives an application for transfer to Australia, it will seek reports from the sentencing country, including information about the prisoner’s sentence, behaviour and health.
Once the reports are received, the Australian Government will propose terms of transfer to the relevant state or territory minister and seek that minister’s consent to the transfer.
If the state or territory minister consents to the transfer, the prisoner and the foreign country will both be asked to consent to the terms of transfer proposed by the Australian Government.
If both parties consent, the Australian Minister for Justice will consider the application and determine whether to provide final consent to the transfer. If the Australian Minister provides his consent, the Minister will sign a warrant authorising the prisoner’s transfer.
Once the warrant has been signed, arrangements for the prisoner’s physical transfer will be made between the relevant state or territory and foreign governments.
The process for applications for transfer to Australia is outlined in the following diagram:
The Australian Minister for Justice assesses each transfer application on its merits, taking all relevant factors into account.
For transfers to Australia, relevant factors may include:
- the extent to which the prisoner’s rehabilitation and reintegration into the Australian community would be assisted by the transfer
- whether the transfer will contribute to community safety
- whether the prisoner is a dual citizen of Australia and another country
- the views of relevant authorities and agencies, such as the Australian Federal Police
- any relevant humanitarian considerations that apply to the case such as the health and age of the prisoner.
Prisoners transferring to Australia may also be asked to pay all or part of the costs involved with their transfer, if the relevant state or territory minister considers that the prisoner is in a position to do so.
If the prisoner is required to pay transfer costs, arrangements must be finalised and agreed to by the prisoner, or the prisoner’s representative, before the prisoner’s physical transfer will be arranged.
The prison to which a prisoner is transferred will depend on the state or territory to which they are transferred.
Prisoners will generally be received, upon transfer, into a metropolitan prison for assessment and classification. In most cases, the prisoner will then be transferred to a prison appropriate to their classification and needs.
More information about state and territory prisons can be found on relevant legislation and links page.
Transfers and criminal records
Australian authorities may become aware of a prisoner’s foreign conviction regardless of whether the prisoner applies to transfer to Australia.
When a prisoner applies to transfer to Australia the Australian Federal Police are usually notified of the application.
If a prisoner is transferred, the sentence and conviction will be recorded in Australia.
Whether a prisoner transfers or not, they may be required to disclose any criminal convictions, including any offence committed overseas, on entry into Australia.
Decisions of the Australian Minister for Justice are reviewable under the Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act. Prisoners who are considering whether to seek a review of a decision made by the Minister may wish to seek their own independent legal advice.
Prisoners may also reapply for transfer.