Part 3: Financial assistance

Chapter 12: Provision of financial assistance overseas

This section provides instructions on general procedures when providing financial assistance to Australian travellers. Most financial assistance takes the form of a loan, called a traveller's emergency loan (TEL). Detailed instructions for each type of traveller's emergency loan is in relevant chapter. Processes to follow in SAP when making loans are detailed in the relevant SAP Help Cards.

Providing financial assistance to travellers falls under the Financial Management and Accountability (FMA) Act 1997 and loans are funded by the administered budget.

Consular officers should adhere strictly to these instructions. Forms for all categories of financial assistance are in CMIS. Case managers should ensure the correct forms are used and all required details are provided. Particular care should be taken when authorising expenditures and fulfilling the procedures relating to acknowledgment of debt.

Financial assistance can be granted to Australian citizens, but not to permanent residents or other foreign passport holders with the exception, in some circumstances, of Canadian citizens. (Chapter 23 in the policy handbook)

Australian citizens living long-term or permanently overseas are not normally eligible for financial assistance. When a post wishes to present a case for special consideration to issue a loan to a person who is not otherwise eligible, it needs to present a strong reason for approval to consular operations before the post provides any funds or documentation.

The object of granting financial assistance is to aid Australian citizen travellers (and in certain instances Canadian travellers) who are assessed as in need or whose welfare is under threat. Loans to Canadian citizens are only on the conditions specified by the supervising Canadian mission.

In principle, applicants for assistance whose financial difficulty has arisen from their own mismanagement or irresponsibility are not entitled to financial assistance, even if they are destitute and have no means of support.

In practice, however, there is often no alternative to making a loan to these persons. In these cases, officers should make only limited, controlled loans, and should guard against the possibility that these loans merely serve to prolong an overseas stay.

Travellers are required to demonstrate they have made all reasonable efforts to seek financial assistance through other means (family, friends, acquaintances, work colleagues and financial institutions) before they will be considered for financial assistance from DFAT.

If the traveller has travel insurance, the post should ensure that the traveller's situation is not covered by the policy before financial assistance from DFAT is considered.

Any person issuing funds or signing documentation approving financial assistance must have the appropriate delegation from DFAT.

Contact details are vital for the purpose of debt recovery.  If the client does not have an Australian address themselves, they can provide a family or friend’s address in Australia where they can receive information on the repayment of their loan.

Where Canberra’s approval is required for the loan this address is verified by consular operations before the loan is approved.

Loans should be entered into SAP following the SAP Help Card. The forms will then be automatically generated .

Always use the correct documentation for the situation. Legally the documentation is not interchangeable.

If SAP is not available, for subsistence and replacement of travel document loans, use a pre-printed undertaking to repay from the Undertaking to Repay book. For large loans, eg. medical evacuation, contact the Consular Emergency Centre for advice. The centre can arrange to enter the loan into SAP and fax the documentation for signing. As a last resort, blank forms are in the template section of the Satin Welcome page, under Consular.

12.1 Types of loans available

In countries with no Australian mission, financial assistance may be available from Honorary Consuls or Canadian posts/missions.

Other types of financial assistance:

Permanent residents and other foreign nationals are not eligible for financial assistance.

12.2 Loan documentation

Before a loan approval is signed, the consular officer must go through the documentation and all the relevant terms and conditions set out below carefully with the client or, if another person is signing the documentation, with that person and have the client or other person sign the Explanation of Terms and Conditions.

The terms and conditions to be explained are:

An example of a loan situation is: DFAT hires a helicopter pilot from a local company for a medical evacuation and the pilot requires an armed person to ride shotgun. The person signing is responsible for the cost of helicopter hire, the pilot, the person riding shotgun and any sundries that may not have been included, such as fuel.

For example, the helicopter pilot has an accident and the evacuee sustains further injuries. The person signing will not be able to sue DFAT or any of its officers or agents for organising the helicopter. However, if the crash was due to negligence of the pilot or his company, then the person signing may sue the pilot or the company providing the helicopter service.

Posts are to invite the person signing the documentation (other than subsistence or travel document replacement loans) to obtain independent legal advice on their obligations for the financial assistance provided by DFAT, if reasonably practicable.

It is not necessary for posts to advise a signatory of a subsistence or travel document replacement loan to obtain legal advice as the loans are usually less than AUD 500 and are, therefore, considered small enough for recipients to repay in the time allowed.

12.3 Personal assistance from consular officers

Officers should not lend their own money to Australian travellers in need of temporary financial assistance, whatever the circumstances.

Similarly, officers should not, as a matter of principle, offer accommodation, hospitality or other aid at their homes.

12.4 Who can sign for a loan?

The person signing must be an Australian citizen who is 18 years of age or over and of sufficient mental capacity.

Under no circumstances are persons under the age of 18 years (minors) or adults of insufficient mental capacity to sign any documentation pertaining to loans or indemnity.

Australian permanent residents are not able to sign for loans. Exceptions require approval from the Assistant Secretary, Consular Operations Branch.

Who can sign a loan on behalf of another adult of sufficient mental capacity?

In most cases, an eligible adult of sufficient mental capacity will sign all documentation on behalf of themselves. However, there may be instances when a third party adult signs some or all the documentation.

The following may sign a loan agreement and indemnity documentation on behalf of an adult of insufficient mental capacity:

Subsistence loans and loans for replacement travel documents do not require any indemnity documentation.

Medical assistance, medical evacuations, repatriations and prisoner loans all require some indemnity documentation, and prisoner loans require a specific Deed of Undertaking to Repay to be signed. The documents required for each loan are automatically generated by SAP. When SAP is not available, posts should contact the Consular Emergency Centre for advice. In an emergency, blank forms can be printed from the template section of the Satin Welcome page, under Consular.

Only the adult being assisted may sign a release.

What if there is no one who can sign a loan on behalf of an adult who is unable to sign?

In some cases medical opinion may be that the person who requires assistance is unable to sign a loan agreement. If there is no one who can sign a loan on their behalf, assistance may need to be provided in accordance with Consular Emergency Services.

Who can sign a loan on behalf of an adult of insufficient mental capacity?

Under Australian law, a loan agreement or indemnity and release documentation signed by a person of insufficient mental capacity to understand the legal obligations and waivers they are entering into, is not enforceable by DFAT or the Commonwealth. For this reason, loans must not be made directly to an adult of insufficient mental capacity (with this adult signing any documentation) as DFAT and the Commonwealth would have no legal recourse to recover the debt.

The following may sign on behalf of an adult of insufficient mental capacity:

Subsistence loans and loans for the replacement of lost/stolen travel documents do not require indemnity documentation.

Medical assistance, medical evacuations and repatriations all require some form of indemnity documentation, and prisoner loans require a Deed of Undertaking to Repay to be signed. The documents required for each loan are automatically generated by SAP. When SAP is not available posts should contact the Consular Emergency Centre for advice. In an emergency, blank forms can be printed from the Template section of the Satin Welcome page, under Consular. Only the adult being assisted may sign a release.

What if there is no one who can sign a loan on behalf of an adult of insufficient mental capacity?

When there is no one who can sign on behalf of an eligible adult and medical opinion is that they are of insufficient mental capacity, assistance may need to be provided in accordance with Consular Emergency Services.

Who can sign a loan on behalf of a minor?

Under Australian law, a minor (a person under the age of 18 years) has no legal capacity to enter into any loan agreement or to sign indemnity and release documents. For this reason, loans must not be made directly to the minor (with the minor signing any documentation) as DFAT and the Commonwealth would have no legal recourse to recover the debt.

The following may sign on behalf of a minor:

If the person signing is not an Australian citizen, approval must be given by the Assistant Secretary, Consular Operations Branch, before funds or documentation are issued. This situation would normally only apply to a minor who is an Australian citizen but whose parents or legal guardians are not.

When there is no one who can sign on behalf of an Australian citizen who is a minor, assistance may need to be provided in accordance with Consular Emergency Services.

12.5 Repayment of loans

Loans may be repaid in full outside Australia at an Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate, or within Australia at a DFAT or Passport Office, or via internet banking, BPay, or mailed cheque. All repayment records are to be maintained in Australian dollars, using the receipting office's applicable conversion rate (spot rate) on the day funds are made available.

The recipient must present the Undertaking to Repay number and, if possible, their travel document when making the repayment. The receipting office should not re-issue travel documents until the funds have been collected from the financial institution, ie. automated approval of the signed credit card repayment (usually only in Australia) or the receipt of funds collected from cheques. Because cheques take time to clear, posts and state offices cannot accept the priority processing fee for a travel document from a client settling an outstanding loan with a business or personal cheque.

All repayment details on full and partial loans are to be recorded on the last blank leaf of the signatory's travel document, directly under the loan details. It is recorded without the dollar sign and decimal point and enclosed in brackets, which should be hard against the first and last figures as a precaution to prevent unauthorised alterations. A legible official stamp of the post or state office must be placed over this hand-written entry. The amount to record is the AUD amount and is written in the following format.

Receipt number 1234567 for AUD36.85 repaid in Moscow against Undertaking to Repay No A00927 would be recorded under the post/state office 'official stamp' as follows:

A00927 Moscow (3685 PAID) 1234567

Repayments must be entered into SAP on the day funds are available. Posts should also send an unclassified cable advising the full name, date of birth, passport number, amount repaid (in AUD), receipt number and Undertaking to Repay number to enable Passport Issuing Controls alerts relating to the loan to be removed.

Austrade posts should send repayment details to their accredited DFAT office for entry into SAP. Accounting procedures for repayments are as per the SAP Help Card.

12.6 Repayment of loans - request for repayment schedule

Due to the nature of financial assistance for medical treatment/medical repatriation, loans will usually be sizeable (AUD 1,000+).

DFAT must practice due diligence when seeking repayments of loans but, at the same time, the Department understands that in many cases the loan recipients will have access to minimal or no funds upon their release from hospital or return to Australia.

DFAT provides the option to repay the loan in instalments. Loan recipients are provided with the form Guide to Requesting Scheduled Repayments to Repay a Loan which shows the documentation required to support their request and is available in SAP. When possible, the recipient should provide:

The recipient is advised that any repayment agreements must be approved by DFAT, and DFAT has the right to reject requests for repayment schedules and demand payment in full on the due date.

The recipient is also advised that written notification of the result of their request will be forwarded to the address provided by the recipient on their initial Request for Repayment Schedule to Repay a Loan, and that DFAT accepts no responsibility should the recipient not receive the notification.

Upon approval of a Request for Repayment Schedule, DFAT forwards written advice outlining:

DFAT will use its best endeavours to assess and send notification of the assessment within 30 days of receipt of the initial request.

Should the recipient not receive notification within a reasonable time, it is their responsibility to contact Consular Operations, DFAT Canberra to enquire about the status of their request.

12.7 Repayment of loan - final scheduled repayments

Upon receipt of the final payment, Passport Issuing Control System is updated to remove alerts pertaining to the loan.

Chapter 13: Travellers emergency loans

Consular officers should handle cases of Australian travellers in need of temporary financial assistance in an emergency with sensitivity, and meet requests for help with sympathy and compassion. Under certain circumstances, however, citizens asking for help are not entitled to assistance. Decisions in this area require consular officers to exercise sound judgment.

While Consular Operations is responsible for authorising additional amounts for subsistence loans and the use of Consular Services Special Account, responsibility for accounting for these types of transactions lies with consular officers at post.

Travellers are required to demonstrate that they have made reasonable efforts to obtain financial assistance through other means (family, friends, acquaintances, work colleagues and financial institutions) before they can be considered for financial assistance by DFAT.

With ever-improving systems for the prompt transmission of funds via banks and non-bank institutions (Amex, Western Union, etc.) the need for subsistence and travel document replacement loans has reduced and in many countries is negligible. Consular officers should ensure they are aware of the fastest method of cash transfers within their area of responsibility.

13.1 Eligibility for loans

To be eligible for financial assistance in an emergency, a person must be an Australian citizen.

Normally, assistance is restricted to short-term travellers rather than Australian citizens who live overseas semi-permanently or permanently.

Each person in a family group travelling together, irrespective of age, may receive a loan.

Subsistence loans and travel document replacement loans are intended to assist:

Australians have no legal entitlement to financial assistance from the Australian Government and loans are made only against signed Deeds of Undertaking to Repay and Indemnity and Release documentation. Details of loans are recorded in a person's passport until they are repaid. Persons with an outstanding loan may have their passport cancelled or be refused a new passport until the loan is recovered. Under the Passport Act 2005 a Competent Authority (CAR) approval is required before denying a request to issue or cancelling a passport.

13.2 Seeking funds from home

Loans for subsistence and travel document replacement are short-term measures. Loan signatories are expected to take immediate action to obtain their own funds to repay the loan from family, relatives, friends or associates or financial institutions.

The Australian mission should not serve as a communication channel in the quest for funds. If travellers cannot make a reverse charge phone call, they should meet the costs of communications from the loan.

When no public communication channels are available, travellers may use official channels. In these cases, they must give an Undertaking to Repay the cost of their communication.

In exceptional cases, when it becomes necessary to seek funds on behalf of a traveller, approaches to possible sources of funds in Australia are usually made only by Consular Operations in Canberra. Consular officers at posts should not make direct approaches, except when the possible source of funds is in their consular district. When possible sources are neither in Australia nor in the actioning post's territory, the appropriate post should be asked to make the request for assistance.

Some international financial agencies will cash personal cheques on the authority of the traveller's bank, provided the traveller meets the cost of communication.

In rare cases when Consular Operations approve the use of Consular Services Special Account for transfers from a traveller's bank or other source (eg. family or friends) the post may, if necessary, assist by faxing an instruction or statutory declaration to Consular Operations for forwarding to the client's bank.

Consular officers may not give any guarantee that could be seen as official Australian endorsement of the traveller's credit.

Officers must not accept loans on pensions as, by statute, pensions cannot be assigned. The same veto applies to Australian superannuation and repatriation benefits. Consular clients seeking to access pension or superannuation funds or repatriation benefits need to make arrangements with the institutions concerned. Consular officers can, however, facilitate communication between clients and the institutions.

13.3 Conditions governing loans

The applicant must prove to the consular officer's satisfaction that they have made all reasonable efforts to obtain financial assistance through family, friends, work colleagues, acquaintances, financial institutions and other sources

Consular officers may approve subsistence and travel document replacement loans on the following basis

Conops case managers should be contacted if clients seek to amend or annotate the wording of the UTR.

13.4 Procedures for loans

Before posts disburse funds they are to observe the following procedures:

The initial loan should be limited to the sum necessary to tide the applicant over the difficulty.

The post should make every effort to obtain and sight evidence of the loan recipient's and the loan signatory's permanent address in Australia. When loan recipients are not able to provide a permanent address, they should be asked to provide an alternative address (eg. the permanent address of their Next of Kin) through which the loan recipient could be contacted to recover the debt.

The time limit for repayment of a subsistence or travel document replacement loans is within two months of the date the Undertaking to Repay was signed.

Posts may issue loans without reference to Consular Operations, provided they do not exceed a total per person of AUD150 (plus any amount lent for Australian travel document fees), irrespective of where the loan is made. For loans greater than AUD150 per person, prior approval must been obtained from Consular Operations.

A Deed of Undertaking to Repay (UTR), automatically generated from SAP with a Undertaking to Repay number and loan details, must be completed for each new loan.

Pre-printed and numbered Undertaking to Repay receipt books are retained by posts for use in an emergency or when SAP is not available. The loan record is in Australian dollars, using the conversion rate (spot rate) applicable on the day of the loan. The Deed of Undertaking to Repay and other loan documentation can be printed from this handbook.

The DFAT representative (normally a consular officer) reads aloud the Explanation of Terms and Conditions to the person signing for the loan. The person signs it as an acknowledgement that they understand the terms and conditions. The DFAT representative prints and signs their name and writes the time and date on which the terms and conditions were explained.

The signatory of the loan signs the Deed of Undertaking to Repay in duplicate, and the DFAT representative ensures the signature appears on all copies.

One copy of the Deed is retained by the consular section at post and a copy is given to the signatory. The signatory is advised that this copy is their only advice on the amount of the loan and no further correspondence will be entered into, unless the loan goes into default.

The loan is recorded on the last blank leaf of the passport without the dollar sign and decimal point and enclosed in brackets, which should be hard against the first and last figures as a precaution against unauthorised alterations. The amount recorded is the AUD amount and is written in the following format:

A00927 Moscow (3685).

The amount enclosed within the brackets is to be the same as the total in SAP.

Posts must enter details into SAP before the travellers’ emergency loan is issued. Accounting procedures for loans follow the SAP Help Card.

13.5 Checklist subsistence/travel document replacement loan

The checklist is for consular officers issuing subsistence and travel document replacement loans. Staff issuing these loans should, in addition to the items in the checklist, ensure they are fully familiar with all guidance in this chapter.

13.6 Austrade issuing Travellers Emergency Loans

Austrade consular officers should contact their supervising DFAT mission to advise that they wish to issue a travellers' emergency loan for a specific AUD amount, including any amount lent in AUD for Australian travel document fees:

13.7 Undertaking to Repay books

These books are for use during an emergency or when SAP is not available.

UTR forms are legal documents. The books should therefore be stored at Post under the guidelines of the Australian Government, DFAT Records Management Policy.

New books can be obtained from Crisis Management Section in Canberra with a written request by email or cable.

13.8 Explanation of terms and conditions

Prior to signing any paperwork, the DFAT representative reads aloud the following information to the person signing the documentation

'Do you understand that in signing the legal documentation that:

The total sum owed by you is ………………….

As the person signing you are the person who is responsible for repayment.

Outside Australia, repayments are made at an Australian Embassy, Australian High Commission or Australian Consulate only.

In Australia, repayments are made at a Passports Office or DFAT office only.

The date on which any and all monies are due to be repaid will be ……………….

As the person signing you are the person who DFAT will pursue for repayment if the loan is not repaid on time

Repaying by instalments is not usually allowed for loans of less than AUD500.00, however, if this will cause you significant hardship an application may be made to Consular Coordination Unit, DFAT, Canberra prior to the date the loan is due for repayment.

As the person signing you are the person in whose passport the loan will be recorded.

As the person signing you will be the one who may have their passport cancelled or be unable to renew or obtain a new passport until the loan has been repaid, irrespective of whether the financial assistance was provided to you directly or indirectly, or whether or not you personally received any benefit from the financial assistance. Under the Passport Act 2005 a Competent Authority (CAR) approval is required before denying a request to issue or cancelling a passport.

In the event of your death, any money still owing will be a debt against your estate.

Any legal action taken by DFAT to pursue the debt will be done through the courts in the Australian Capital Territory within Australia, irrespective of where you reside.

The terms and conditions of the legal documentation have been read and explained to me

…………………………………

…………………………………

printed name of loan signatory

signature of loan signatory

I …………………………………….. have read and explained the Terms and Conditions of

(printed name of DFAT representative)

the legal documentation to the person signing on / / at the time of …………………………

13.9 Deed of Undertaking to Repay for an adult

Wherever possible, current deeds from SAP should be printed and used. These deeds contain the most current legal disclaimers and privacy disclosure statements. This Deed is used for adults signing for the loan on their own behalf. This means they are the one who is receiving the loan.

13.10 Deed of Undertaking to Repay on behalf of a minor/3 rd party

Chapter 14: Medical treatment and medical evacuation

Given the number of Australians routinely travelling overseas, it is important to recommend that all Australian travellers take out travel insurance.

Policies are available in most countries, but careful prior scrutiny of the benefits is suggested to ensure that they cover the traveller's particular activities and the countries to be visited.

Particular note should be taken of any limits of liability, such as:

In some countries, medical authorities will not accept patients, however urgent the need, until assured of payment.

Travellers are to seek financial assistance through all other means (family, friends, acquaintances, work colleagues and financial institutions) prior to financial assistance by DFAT.

If the traveller has travel insurance, the post is to ensure that the traveller's situation is not covered by the policy prior to DFAT providing financial assistance.

14.1 Conditions

The recipient must be an Australian citizen. Normally assistance is restricted to short-term travellers, rather than Australians who live overseas semi-permanently or permanently.

The need for treatment is clearly urgent and delay could be to the serious detriment to the health of the patient.

A Director of Consular Operations is convinced by medical opinion that the case must be treated at once. Medical opinion must be in writing and on letterhead of the medical practitioner or hospital.

Normally, a loan covering medical and/or hospitalisation costs is approved only to render the traveller fit to fly as part of a DFAT-funded repatriation package. Consular officers should avoid recommending loans to cover medical/hospital costs that are not part of a repatriation package. Arrangements to pay costs that are not part of a repatriation package are a matter for negotiation between the traveller, their family, friends or other supporters, and treating doctors and the hospital. A DFAT loan is only considered as a last resort in these circumstances.

If the loan is to cover a medical evacuation, a Director of Consular Operations (or when the cost of the evacuation exceeds AUD50,000, the Assistant Secretary, Consular Operations Branch) must be satisfied by medical opinion in writing from the treating doctor that the traveller's medical evacuation is urgently required to address a serious threat to their health, and medically safe to proceed.

Details must be entered into SAP and Undertaking to Repay, and printed SAP forms must be signed prior to committing any funds.

The post should make every effort to obtain and sight evidence of the loan recipient's permanent address in Australia. When loan recipients are not able to provide a permanent address, they should be requested to provide another address (eg. the permanent address of their Next of Kin) through which the loan recipient could be contacted in case issues arise with debt recovery.

If the recipient is not signing for the funds, they are still to sign legal documentation if they are physically and mentally able.

If the recipient is unable to sign, legal and SAP documentation must be signed by family or friends who are Australian citizens and travelling with the patient or living in Australia. This must be done before any funds are committed and may be done by facsimile. Alternatively, oral approval may be obtained from a Director of Consular Operations if extremely urgent treatment is required.

14.2 Procedures

Before committing any funds the post:

The responsibility to repay the loan lies with the person signing the loan documentation, whether or not they are the recipient of the loan or receive any benefit from the loan.

Authority to commit official funds for medical assistance/medical evacuation lies with either a Director of Consular Operations or the Assistant Secretary of Consular Operations Branch. No funds are to be committed by posts for medical assistance/medical evacuation without referral to a Director of Consular Operations or the Assistant Secretary, Consular Operations Branch.

When a Director of Consular Operations approves the commitment of funds for initial care and treatment and not for a prolonged stay in hospital, the post must ensure that the hospital is clear about the extent of the Australian Government’s liability, as some hospitals may not accept what they may see as only a partial guarantee.

In some countries, hospitals will refuse to release patients unless all charges have been paid. In these cases, the onus of payment must rest with the patient. Any other arrangements for payment must have Consular Operations approval.

14.3 Repayment of loan

Loans for medical assistance and medical evacuation are due for repayment six months from the date of the loan, unless otherwise agreed between DFAT and the debtor.

14.4 Financial safeguards for medical repatriation

When effecting a medical evacuation, in addition to having the applicant complete the relevant forms, the post will, if possible, arrange through Consular Operations for relatives or friends in Australia or elsewhere to provide supporting guarantees of full repayment.

Persons indebted to the Commonwealth Government for costs of medical evacuation are, when possible, to have their new travel document restricted in validity. This is to prevent them from going overseas again before repaying their debt. If a travel document needs to be issued for the journey to Australia, it should be a Document of Identity that is valid only for a single journey to Australia and endorsed as 'Valid for one-way travel to Australian only'.

When the travel document must be a passport, it should have limited validity and be similarly endorsed.

If the person evacuated is a dual national and does not hold an Australian passport, but carries a passport issued by another country, that passport should not be endorsed. The consular officer should seek to ensure that it is surrendered to the nearest representative of the country of issue. However, it should be noted that the consular officer has no legal power to compel a dual national to surrender their other passport. The consular officer should then issue a Document of Identity, valid only for the single journey to Australia.

When a consular officer arranges the travel booking for a person being medically evacuated, the ticket should be endorsed 'Voluntary re-routing not permitted' and 'Refund sponsor only'. This safeguards DFAT against an attempt by the traveller to vary the itinerary or obtain a refund.

Tickets will normally be purchased by the post. However, if a post sees a financial advantage in other arrangements, Consular Operations is to be consulted.

Costs of medical evacuation should be entered on SAP and charged according to the instructions on the SAP Help Card.

14.5 Checklist medical assistance

The checklist is for consular officers issuing medical assistance and medical evacuation loans. Staff issuing these loans should, in addition to the items in the checklist, ensure they are fully familiar with all guidance in this chapter.

Chapter 15: Repatriation

Repatriation provisions are designed to assist Australians temporarily overseas who need to return to Australia, but are unable through unavoidable misfortune, to finance their return.

15.1 Conditions

Repatriation is approved only for Australian citizens who are unable to meet the cost of their return to Australia.

The applicant must show that they have attempted unsuccessfully to receive aid, in the form of money or a pre-paid ticket from relatives, friends or other sources.

The applicant should have left Australia for short-term travel and, through unavoidable misfortune, be unable to pay for their return to Australia.

Unless there are compelling reasons, the Department will not approve a repatriation loan for travellers who have made no provision for their return or settled overseas permanently or long term.

Repatriation which would result in the separation of a family is not generally approved.

When children and one parent only are involved, repatriation is only approved when it is established that the other parent consents to the repatriation of the children, or the applicant has legal custody of all relevant children and the legal right to remove them from the country of present residence.

Acknowledgement and indemnity documentation and Undertaking to Repay forms must be signed by the recipient or by family or friends who fulfil the conditions, prior to funds being committed.

The post should make every effort to obtain and sight evidence of the loan recipient's permanent address in Australia. When loan recipients are not able to provide a permanent address, another address (for example the permanent address of their Next of Kin) should be provided for contacting the loan recipient in case issues arise with debt recovery.

If the recipient is not signing for the funds, they must still sign legal documentation if they are physically and mentally able. The person signing for the funds is to sign Acknowledgement and Indemnity documentation and, if possible, the Undertaking to Repay.

If the recipient is unable to sign, indemnity documentation and a Undertaking to Repay must be signed by family or friends who are Australian citizens and travelling with the patient or living in Australia. This undertaking must be obtained prior to committing any funds and may be done by facsimile. Alternatively, oral approval may be obtained from a Director of Consular Operations if repatriation is extremely urgent.

15.2 Procedures

The post must present a scenario of government assistance as the last resort. This assistance is not to be seen as simply a service.

The applicant must present a strong case to the post by demonstrating:

Not all requests for repatriation need to be referred to the Department. Posts make an initial assessment of the request and have the authority to, and are expected to, reject applications that they believe do not sufficiently meet the criteria.

When the post supports the request for repatriation at Commonwealth Government expense, they forward the following details by cable to Consular Operations for a decision:

If repatriation is approved, the post will be informed and will be required to:

If repatriation is approved, the post may also be required to:

15.3 Financial safeguards

Posts, when effecting repatriation, in addition to having the applicant complete the relevant forms, will if possible, arrange through Consular Operations for relatives or friends in Australia or elsewhere to provide supporting guarantees of full repayment.

Persons indebted to the Commonwealth Government for costs of repatriation are, when possible, to have their new travel document restricted in validity. This prevents them from going overseas again before repaying their debt. If a travel document needs to be issued for the journey to Australia, preferably it should be a Document of Identity and valid only for a single journey to Australia and endorsed as: 'Valid for one-way travel to Australia only'.

When the travel document must be a passport, it should have limited validity and be similarly endorsed.

If the person repatriated is a dual national and does not hold an Australian passport but carries a passport issued by another country, that passport should not be endorsed. The consular officer should seek to ensure that it is surrendered to the nearest representative of the country of issue. However, it should be noted that the consular officer has no legal power to compel a dual national to surrender their other passport. The consular officer should then issue a Document of Identity, valid only for the single repatriation journey to Australia.

When a consular officer arranges the travel booking for a person being repatriated, the ticket should be endorsed 'Voluntary re-routing not permitted' and 'Refund sponsor only'. This safeguards DFAT against any attempt by the traveller to vary the itinerary or obtain a refund.

Tickets will normally be purchased by the post. However, if a post sees a financial advantage in other arrangements, Consular Operations is to be consulted.

Costs of repatriation should be entered on SAP and charged according to the instructions on the SAP Help Card.

15.4 Checklist repatriation

The checklist is for consular officers issuing repatriation loans. Staff issuing these loans should, in addition to the items in the checklist, ensure that they are fully familiar with all guidance in this chapter.

15.5 Terms and conditions

15.6 Repayment of loan

For information on methods of and locations for repayments see Chapter 12.5.

Loans for repatriation are due for repayment six months from the date of the loan, unless otherwise agreed between DFAT and the debtor.

15.7 Assistance on Return to Australia

Occasionally, consular clients repatriated to Australia do not have the support of next of kin or other networks to assist them in their reintegration into Australian society. To assist clients in this regard an agreement was established in 2010 whereby Centrelink (Department of Human Services) will provide, in specific circumstances, a short term Social Work case management and referral service to these clients.

Where it is considered a client may require special assistance, and if voluntarily requested and/or accepted by the client, posts should cable CONOPS seeking referral of the client to Centrelink on arrival in Australia. The cable should refer to the Services Schedule in relation to Assistance for Vulnerable Australians Voluntarily Repatriated from Overseas.

CONOPS should complete the Referral Form and dispatch using the instructions included in the form.

Chapter 16: Prisoners

16.1 Transfer of funds for prisoners

At many posts prisoners are able, with the cooperation of prison authorities, to operate commercial bank accounts to receive funds from family and friends. Consular officers should encourage this.

Transfer of funds through posts (Consular Services Special Account) should only be used in the following circumstances:

Use of Consular Services Special Account in these circumstances attracts the standard consular fee.

16.2 Overview of prisoner loans

Australian prisoners in foreign prisons where adequate food and other essentials (such as bedding, cooking utensils, clothing, soap, etc.) are not provided may be eligible to receive a fully repayable loan. Eligibility is restricted to prisoners in systems where the post can demonstrate a need for financial assistance and the prisoners are Australian citizens.

Perceived deprivations specific to particular prisoners do not constitute a case for financial support. Deprivations justifying provision of assistance in a particular country must be common to all prisoners.

Posts must demonstrate to the Department that the penal system in a particular country does not provide adequately for prisoners. A comprehensive statement setting out the deficiencies of the local prison system, including lack of access to funds through local commercial systems, ie. Automatic Teller Machines (ATM), banks etc., should be submitted to Consular Operations Section. No commitments should be made to prisoners about the availability of loans until the Department has agreed to include that country in the scheme.

Countries currently in the Prisoner Loan Scheme are:

Following Departmental approval for a country to be included in the loan scheme, posts may make individual approvals without prior reference to the Department, provided prisoners meet the eligibility criteria.

16.3 Conditions governing prisoner loans

To be eligible for a prisoner loan:

Posts should make every effort to obtain and sight evidence of the loan recipient’s permanent address in Australia. When loan recipients are unable to provide a permanent address, the loan recipient should be requested to provide another address, for example the permanent address of their Next of Kin, through which the loan recipient could be contacted in case issues arise with debt recovery.

Prisoner loans must be assessed on a case by case basis. The amount of the loan should be decided based on the prisoner’s need. Prisoners should not automatically receive the maximum amount of the loan, unless it is justified. In particular, the medical component of the loan should only be provided as required, and should not be advanced automatically without a clear reason (for example, if a prisoner has recurring medical costs which can be predicted with some certainty).
The maximum amount of each loan will be AUD125 per month plus a maximum of AUD100 per month for medical expenses (last revised November 2011). Sums have been set in Australian dollars to simplify calculation of the total amount of the loan. This means, however, that amounts in local currency will vary from payment to payment.

To minimise the administrative burden on posts, it is preferable to pay the money quarterly into each prisoner’s prison account regularly. The maximum amount per quarter is the local equivalent of AUD375 plus the equivalent of AUD300 for medical expenses.

Posts should ensure that local arrangements for payments to prisoners meet the following guidelines to ensure delivery of the funds to the prisoner, maintain safeguards, prevent misuse of funds and minimise the administrative burden on posts. Funds should normally be paid into prison-controlled accounts in the prisoner’s name. If there are no prison-run accounts, or if use of these accounts would not ensure delivery of funds or prevent misuse, the post may request the Department’s approval for alternative arrangements. No alternative arrangements are to be made without Departmental approval.

Posts should, whenever possible, make arrangements with prison authorities to ensure that any money left in a prison account when a prisoner is released is refundable, if possible to the post but otherwise to the prisoner.

16.4 Procedures for prisoner loans (for adult signing on own behalf)

Before posts disburse funds they are to observe the following procedures:

The post is to schedule the quarterly payments. Every quarter the post is to:

Immediately prior to the prisoner’s release the post is to:

16.5 Procedures for prisoner loans on behalf of a minor or third party

Before posts disburse funds they are to observe the following procedures:

Posts are to check their local arrangements for payments to prisoners. Money should normally be paid into prison-controlled accounts in the prisoner’s name. If there are no prison-run accounts or if the use of these would not ensure delivery of funds to prisoners or prevent misuse, the post may request the Department’s approval of alternative arrangements. No alternative arrangements are to be made without departmental approval. The post is to schedule the quarterly payments.

Every quarter the post is to:

Immediately prior to the prisoner’s release the post:

Third party is given Request for a Repayment Schedule to Repay a Loan documentation.

16.6 Repayment of loan

For information on methods of and locations for repayments see Chapter 12.5

Prisoner Loans are due for repayment six months from the date of the prisoner's release, unless otherwise agreed between DFAT and the debtor.

16.7 Prisoner loan checklist

The following checklist is for consular officers issuing prisoner loans. Staff issuing these loans should, in addition to the items in the checklist, ensure they are fully familiar with all guidance in this chapter.

The forms should be completed for every prisoner newly seeking financial assistance. There is no need for those currently receiving financial assistance who have already completed documentation, to complete the new forms. These prisoners are required, however, to complete the Acknowledgement of Receipt of Funds and the Final Advice of Money Owed forms.

Download a sample of the prisoner loan checklist