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Transfers to Australia

We are responsible for administering the International Transfer of Prisoners (ITP) Scheme. This scheme allows prisoners serving a sentence of imprisonment in a foreign country to apply to transfer to their home country to serve the remainder of their sentence.

Information on transfers from Australia to foreign countries can be found on the Transfers from Australia page.

The downloads below include the ITP Statement of Policy as well as the information pack for transfers to Australia:

Application forms

Prisoners applying for transfer to Australia are required to use the official application forms, listed below.

The forms may also be obtained from the Australian Embassy or High Commission in the country in which a prisoner is serving a sentence of imprisonment.

Different forms need to be completed by prisoners who are in prison or a hospital facility, prisoners who are serving the suspended part of their sentence, and prisoners 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 and are not serving a suspended part of a sentence, are required to submit the following application forms:

Prisoners who are on parole are required to submit the following application forms:

Prisoners who are serving the suspended part of their sentence are required to submit the following forms:

By signing the Collection, use and disclosure of personal information form, the prisoner consents to the disclosure of personal information they provide on these forms to other parties for the purpose of processing their application. For more information, refer to our department's privacy policy.

Prisoners wishing to apply to transfer to Australia should seek assistance from the Australian Embassy or High Commission in the country in which they are imprisoned as the process for applying for transfer can vary from one country to another.

Completed applications should be sent to:
International Transfer of Prisoners Unit
International Crime Cooperation Division
Attorney-General's Department
3–5 National Circuit
BARTON ACT 2600

We will be in regular contact with the prisoner while their application is being processed.

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 International Transfer of Prisoners Act 1997
  • the prisoner is either:
    • an Australian citizen, or
    • 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), and
  • at least six months of the prisoner's sentence remains to be served; or one year for transfers to or from some countries with whom Australia has a bilateral arrangement (this requirement may be waived in some circumstances).

Foreign countries may have additional conditions for transfer. For example, some countries may exclude prisoners who have committed particular types of offences, or require prisoners to serve a specified minimum period of their sentence before they can apply for transfer.

Please check with local consular staff for more information on the transfer requirements of particular countries.

Sentence enforcement

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 by 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. 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:

  • the prisoner's principal place of residence immediately before being sentenced to imprisonment in the transfer country was in that state or territory; or
  • a close family member* of the prisoner has a principal place of residence in that State or Territory; or
  • the prisoner has a close continuing relationship (involving frequent personal contact and a personal interest in the other person's welfare) with anyone whose principal place of residence is in that state or territory.

*Note: Close family member is defined in the International Transfer of Prisoners Act 1997

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, in all cases, required for the transfer to occur. The relevant state or territory 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, or serving the suspended part of their sentence, depending on the requirements of the country from which they seek to transfer.

Some foreign countries may not allow prisoners on parole, or prisoners serving the suspended part of their sentence, to transfer under the ITP Scheme.

Prisoners who have received the death penalty

The definition of prisoner under the International Transfer of Prisoners Act 1997 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 International Transfer of Prisoners Act 1997 provides that if a sentence of death imposed on a person has been commuted to a life sentence or a term of imprisonment, the person may apply to transfer to Australia.

Timeframes

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 Australian Government, the foreign country and the relevant Australian state or territory.

When the Attorney-General's Department receives an application for transfer to Australia, it will seek reports from the sentencing country, including information about the prisoner's sentence, health, behaviour and custodial progress.

Once the reports are received, the Australian Minister for Justice will consider the application, and determine whether to provide preliminary consent. If preliminary consent is given, the Australian Minister for Justice will propose terms of transfer and seek the consent of the relevant state or territory minister.

If the state or territory minister consents to the transfer, the Australian Government will seek the consent of the foreign country, and prisoner, to the transfer on the proposed terms of transfer.

If all 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 for Justice provides final consent, the Minister will sign a warrant authorising the prisoner's transfer.

Once the warrant has been signed, the relevant state or territory and foreign government will make arrangements for the prisoner's physical transfer.

The process for applications for transfer to Australia is outlined in the following diagram:

 

Diagram showing the process for prisoner transfer, as outlined above.
Click on diagram for full size

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 be asked by the relevant state or territory to pay all or part of the costs involved with their transfer, depending on the requirements of the relevant state or territory.

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 the 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.

Appeals

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. However, unless the prisoner is able to provide new information or demonstrate a change in circumstances relevant to their request for transfer, any application made less than twelve months since an earlier application was refused or withdrawn will not be progressed.