Offshore health assessment and the HAPlite system

  • Background

    Immigration medical examination (IME)

    All permanent entrants to Australia (including skilled, family and humanitarian stream migrants) have an IME prior to travel. The IME is used to assess whether an individual meets the health requirement of the Migration Act (1958). The purpose of the health requirement is to:

    • Protect the Australian community from public health and safety risks, particularly active tuberculosis (TB)
    • Contain public expenditure on health and community services, including social security benefits, allowances and pensions
    • Safeguard the access of Australian citizens and permanent residents to health care and community services in short supply.

    In order to meet the health requirement, individuals must be free of health conditions that are:

    Individuals who are found to have active TB have their visa application deferred ('Deferral' - see below) - they must complete treatment prior to visa allocation and travel, and sign a health undertaking (to ensure follow up in Australia - see below). Certain visas have provisions for health waivers - including all humanitarian visas; the health waiver for humanitarian entrants has been in place since 2012.

    The IME is completed by  panel physicians for the main applicant, their spouse and any members of the family unit. In certain circumstances, non-migrating family members are also assessed against the health requirement.  See details of the health assessment, and Panel Member Instructions (July 2023) (technical instructions) and summary on initial assessment guideline. Onshore applicants for permanent visas also undergo an IME (through BUPA Medical Visa Services).

    Departure health checks

    Departure health checks (DHC) for humanitarian entrants were introduced in 2005, in response to increased numbers of people from African source countries presenting with malaria soon after arrival. The DHC is an additional (offshore) voluntary health assessment for humanitarian entrants occurring around 72 hrs prior to travel, to assess and treat acute health issues and confirm fitness to fly. Initially DHC were used in African ports of departure and for 200 (refugee) visa holders, the DHC was then rolled out to other ports of departure, and for all humanitarian entrants - see fact sheet and DHC supporting material (September 2023). The DHC includes:

    • Clinical consultation and physical examination, including mental health screening
    • Review of IME TB screening results; CXR if: history of treated/inactive TB, clinical suspicion of active TB disease, immune compromise, household contact since IME
    • Pregnancy testing for women of child bearing age
    • Measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccination in age >9m (unless pregnant/medical contraindication/born before 1966)
    • Yellow fever (YF) vaccine (or review of YF certificates) where relevant in age >12m (based on location)
    • Polio vaccination - our clinical experience suggests increasing use of hexa- or pentavalent vaccines in children
    • Malaria RDT and treatment if positive, generally with 3 days of oral artemether/lumefantrine (based on location: sub-Saharan Africa, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Burma, Thailand, Indonesia, Cambodia, Venezuela, PNG, Solomon Islands)
    • Parasites - empiric treatment for:
      • Soil transmitted nematodes with albendazole age 6m and older (not pregnant, age <6m, unexplained seizures or signs neurocysticercosis)
      • Strongyloides infection with ivermectin where prevalence is presumed to be high (10%+): East Asia, Pacific, sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America (not pregnant, early breastfeeding, weight <15kg, Loa loa areas)
      • Schistosoma infection with praziquantel in endemic areas: Venezuela, sub-Saharan Africa, including Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, Eritrea, South Sudan and Ethiopia (not pregnant, breastfeeding, age <12m, unexplained seizures or signs neurocysticercosis). 

    The DHC is also used to assess whether 'potential health alerts' are classified as 'critical health alerts' (see below). 

    Health undertakings

    The IME (or the DHC) may generate a health undertaking (HU) - which is an agreement between an individual who has been granted a visa and the Australian government) for the person to follow-up with a health authority after arrival in Australia. The vast majority of HU are for follow-up of TB, and are referred to State/Territory TB services. BUPA manage HU and also deferrals (see below). In Victoria, all TB HU are referred to the Migrant Health Service in Footscray, who then refer HU for children to the RCH TB service or Monash Children's Hospital. Other reasons for HU include hepatitis B, hepatitis C, HIV and leprosy. People with active TB disease cannot be granted a HU, their visa application is deferred until they have completed treatment. 


    Deferrals are used for visa applicants where concerns have been raised about a medical condition (usually active TB). They apply to individuals who are still in the visa process (i.e. who have not yet had a visa granted). Deferrals for active TB are legislated under the Migration Regulations 1994 (active TB precludes the grant of a visa). This process applies to both offshore and onshore visa applicants. 

    Follow-up of health undertakings and deferrals

    BUPA manage HU and also deferrals; information on completed HU can be returned to BUPA on fax 03 9642 5379 or email Phone contact for clinicians (Mon-Fri - 0800 -1700) is 03 9937 3995. 

    Health alerts

    Offshore IME and DHC may generate health alerts for humanitarian entrants - the purpose of health alerts is to ensure individuals with serious medical conditions are linked with appropriate medical services on arrival in Australia. Health alerts are generated in the DHA HAP system, and then managed by the Humanitarian Settlement Program (HSP) system (also DHA, previously Department of Social Services from 2013-19).

    The health alert system changed in 2017 - there are two types of health alerts in the HSP system:

    • Potential medical issue - generated if the IME identifies a serious medical condition that may require immediate medical follow-up after arrival in Australia. This alert is generated at the time of the IME (which is prior to visa allocation).
    • Critical medical issue- generated if the DHC identifies a serious medical condition that requires immediate medical follow-up after arrival in Australia. This can either be confirmation of the 'potential medical issues' as a critical issue, or related to a new issue. By this stage, individuals have been allocated a visa, location of settlement, and an HSP provider in Australia. People with critical health alerts may be accompanied by a health escort (either nursing or medical), and HSP providers are required to ensure medical follow-up within 24-72 hrs of arrival.

    In clinical practice we have seen gaps in the health alert process, although there is often information indicating serious medical issues in the HAPlite system. Possible reasons for this situation include:

    • Gaps between the DHA HAP and HSP systems
    • Deterioration between the IME and travel 
    • Health conditions that have not been identified/flagged in the offshore IME or DHC
    • Individuals not having a DHC (meaning potential alerts are not categorised as critical health alerts) noting that DHC are voluntary. 

    Feedback can be provided to the DHA on (including feedback on health conditions not identified on the IME). Also see fact sheet on HSP process (Feb 2018).           


    The Department of Home Affairs (DHA) uses a system called the Health Assessment Portal (HAP) to record IME and manage health undertakings (see fact sheet). The HAP is an electronic health record that can include images, radiology, and background documents, as well as the IME. HAPlite is a subset of the HAP system, that can be accessed by registered health providers - it has been available to State/Territory TB services since 2015, and for refugee health services since 2017. See HAPlite online registration request (also older access request form and tip sheets below) our understanding is that system administrators cannot access clinical information).

    Providers need to know an individual's HAP identification number to look up their HAPlite health information - HAP numbers can be obtained from HSP providers, and for arivals on a 449 visa, they are on the visa grant letter. HSP providers use a separate HSP number to look up the HAP number. HSP providers do not have access to the HAPlite system, they are directed to pass on the HAP identification number to health providers. Contact details for HSP providers are listed below. 

    Prior to 2018, humanitarian entrants had a (paper) copy of their offshore health assessment. From mid-2018, only critical alerts have had paper-based information. From 2023, paper-based information is also provided to 202 visa holders arriving under the Community Support Program (see DHC information). Otherwise all health information is in the HAPlite system.

    Tip sheets for HAPlite

    Contacts for HSP providers (to obtain HAP numbers)

    In practice, there have been challenges accessing the HAP identification numbers - If there are issues accessing health information, feedback can be provided to the DHA on  

    Complex medical issues - specialised case management

    Humanitarian arrivals (offshore), and people with complex health issues on permanent or temporary protection visas, various partner visas, orphan relative visas, or Resolution of Status visas can be referred for specialised and intensive case support through the HSP program within 5 years of arrival or initial visa grant - see information and referral form.

    Immigrant health clinic resources. Author: Georgie Paxton, August 2018, updated January 2024. Contact: