Recovery of AoS Debts

Rationale behind AoS debt recovery

Any social security payments specified under the Social Security (Assurances of Support) Determination 2018 and made to the assuree during the AoS period becomes a debt to the Commonwealth under SSAct section 1227. As for other debts under the SSAct, Chapter 5 provides the framework for recovering the debt.

The policy rationale behind AoS debt recovery is to ensure that recovery action begins as soon as practicable after the assuree receives a payment specified under the Social Security (Assurances of Support) Determination 2018, i.e. as soon as the AoS debt arrives.

In the case of a mandatory AoS which has a bond, recovery from the bond in the first instance can begin as soon as the assuree is granted a recoverable payment. Once the bond is extinguished, recovery is sought from the assurer.

In the case of a discretionary AoS, which has no bond, recovery from the assurer can begin as soon as the assuree is granted a recoverable social security payment.

The rationale behind the raising and recovery of AoS debts was discussed by the AAT in Gunn and Department of Social Security (1999):

In the ordinary course of events, those who are granted a Class 806 Entry Permit should not be supported by public funds while they are seeking their visa and for the first two years of their being granted it.

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Recovery of debt - single assurer

Where there is only one assurer, recovery of a payment provided to an assuree is straightforward. The Centrelink officer responsible for recovering the payment will first deduct the amount of recoverable payment provided to the assuree from the bond (if any exists). If there is no bond, or if the amount of payment provided to the assuree exceeds the bond, debt recovery action will commence to recover the amount of the outstanding liability.

A situation may arise where an AoS covers more than one person.

Example: An applicant may be granted a permanent visa on the basis of meeting primary criteria, and his or her dependent children may be granted visas of the same sub-class on the basis of meeting secondary criteria.

Any AoS relating to the applicant will also apply to the dependents. Any recoverable payment/s made to the dependent children during the period of the assurance should also be recovered from the assurer/s. This should be done in the first instance by recovering part or all of the bond provided by the assurer (if any) in relation to the applicant who met the primary criteria for grant of the visa. Once the bond amount is exhausted any balance remaining debts should then be recovered by normal debt recovery procedures.

Recovery of debt - multiple assurers

Where there is more than one assurer, the amount of payment provided to the assuree must still first be deducted from the bond. If any debt remains after the bond (if any) is recovered, Centrelink must pursue recovery from each of the assurers. As a matter of policy, Centrelink should seek recovery from all assurers until the debt is fully repaid.

If recovery from a particular assurer is not possible (e.g. the assurer is bankrupt or cannot be located), Centrelink should defer or stop recovery action for that assurer. However, debt recovery action should still be pursued from the remaining assurers.

Act reference: SSAct section 1227 Assurance of support debt, section 1061ZZGD(3) Accepting or rejecting an assurance of support

Last reviewed: 1 June 2018