ASIO’s security assessment function

The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) protects Australia and Australians from threats to their security. Key to this work is the ASIO’s security assessment function which ensures that security is considered in government decision-making processes such as issuing passports, granting visas, and granting access to sensitive government information.


Defining security

In practice, security usually refers to terrorism or other forms of politically motivated violence, espionage and foreign interference, and threats to Australia’s territorial and border integrity.


The security assessment process

Most ASIO security assessments are made at the request of another department or agency. Assessments can range from a simple check of personal details to an in-depth intelligence investigation.

Upon making an assessment, the ASIO may provide:

  • Non-prejudicial advice: ASIO has no security related concerns.
  • A qualified assessment: ASIO has identified information relevant to security but is not recommending a specific action.
  • An adverse assessment: ASIO recommends that a prescribed administrative action be taken, such as the cancellation of a passport.

The ASIO is not permitted by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act 1979 to take any administrative action itself.


Types of security assessments

ASIO provides security assessments in the areas of visas, citizenship applications, passports, classified information, and counter-terrorism.



Visa applications of concern may be referred by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship to ASIO for a security assessment. If the ASIO deems the person a security risk, a visa may not be issued and an existing visa must be cancelled.

The ASIO may also determine that the holder of an Australian visa presents a security risk through its own security intelligence investigations.


Applications for Australian citizenship

Under the Australian Citizenship Act 2007, the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship must not approve the granting of Australian citizenship where ASIO has made an adverse or qualified security assessment concerning the applicant.



Withholding passports is an important method used to prevent Australians from travelling overseas to become involved in terrorism, or activities that threaten national or international security.

Under the Australian Passports Act 2005, ASIO may request that an Australian passport be cancelled/denied due to security concerns.

If the ASIO has issued an adverse assessment, the Foreign Minister may demand the surrender of a foreign passport under the Foreign Passports (Law Enforcement and Security) Act 2005.


Access to national security classified information

Most Commonwealth security checks are undertaken by the Australian Government Security Vetting Agency (AGSVA). The AGSVA must request security assessment advice from ASIO before deciding whether to grant a national security clearance.



Security identification cards are issued to people who work in the aviation and maritime industries. In determining whether such cards should be issued, the Attorney-General’s Department conducts broader background checks (including criminal records) while the ASIO considers any terrorism concerns. ASIO may recommend against the issuing of security identification cards if it has security concerns.

ASIO also provides security checks for those requiring access to security sensitive ammonium nitrates and biological agents.


Can an ASIO security assessment be appealed?

Reviews of the process of ASIO making a security assessment may be requested.

Merits review is available through the Security Appeals Division of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT).

Judicial review is possible through the Federal and/or High Court of Australia.


Key takeaways

The ASIO conducts security assessments across a range of areas and provides advice to government departments and agencies about whether an individual poses a security risk, and whether action should be taken. This helps government bodies to make informed decisions that uphold Australia’s national security.

Nyman Gibson Miralis provides expert advice and representation in complex cases involving national and international security law.

Contact us if you require assistance.