Debts owed under the Status Resolution and Support Services Program

Debts owed under the Status Resolution and Support Services Program

This information is for people who have been told by Centrelink that they owe money due to an overpayment whilst receiving financial assistance under the Commonwealth Government’s Status Resolution and Support Services Program. It provides some information on how to seek a review of a debt decision or a potential waiver of this debt.

About​ the Status Resolution and Support Services Program

The Status Resolution and Support Services Program (SRSS) provides support and assistance to people who are living in Australia whilst their application for a protection visa is being processed.

The types of services provided mainly include financial, medical and hou​sing.

The Department of Home Affairs (previously the Department of Immigration and Border Protection) provides these services through various organisations. Financial assistance is provided through the Department of Human Services (Centrelink).

In most cases, people applying for protection visas who are experiencing financial hardship, will be eligible for SRSS payments.

The Department of Home Affairs considers that a person (or family) is in financial hardship when:

  • their income is below a certain amount
  • they have no assets or money in Australia or overseas that they can use to live on
  • there is no ongoing support available from friends, family or other organisations in Australia or overseas.

Centrelink has sent a letter saying that I have been overpaid

There are several reasons why a person may no longer be eligible for SRSS payments:

  • their visa application is either granted or refused
  • they find employment, or receive money from another person
  • they send money overseas, or receive money from overseas (only if more than $1000 in 12 months)
  • they do not contact the Department of Home Affairs when asked to do so about their visa application.

In some cases, Centrelink has continued to make payments where a person is no longer being eligible to receive support. This can result in an ‘overpayment’. Centrelink will then send the person a letter saying that they have been overpaid and requesting payment of the overpayment debt.

Overpayments may also occur where a person fails to tell Centrelink that they are working, or if they give inaccurate or false information about their income.

Sometimes, overpayments may be due to administrative errors by Centrelink staff.

Centrelink has a special telephone number that you can call to speak with someone about an SRSS overpayment. To speak with a specially-trained SRSS debt service officer, call 1800 316 556.

If you do not agree that you have been overpaid, or disagree with the amount of the overpayment, then you can ask for a review of Centrelink’s decision.

How can I seek a review of Centrelink’s decision?

Decisions about SRSS payments (including decisions to raise a debt) can be reviewed by Centrelink.

If you have received a letter from Centrelink saying that you have been overpaid, you can ask that the debt be ‘reviewed’ by a review officer.

A review officer is a senior Centrelink officer who has not previously dealt with your matter. They will have a fresh look at the decision and call you to discuss. You can give new information to the review officer to consider. The review officer will either confirm, vary or set aside the debt.

The review officer is required to make the ‘correct’ decision based on all the information available. This means that a debt could be increased, decreased or cancelled on review. The review officer should send you a detailed letter explaining their decision.

If the review officer confirms the debt, there are no further review options.

If a debt is cancelled on review, then any repayments you may have made towards the debt in the meantime, will be returned to you.

You can ask for a review in the following ways:

  1. in person – at your local Centrelink office
  2. by phone – by calling the number on the letter from Centrelink
  3. online – via your myGov account by clicking on ‘Complaints’ and in the free text box note that you want a review by a Review Officer. Alternatively, you can download the Review of decision form from the Centrelink website. Note – the information under ‘Further right of review’ does not apply to SRSS debts. There is no right to a further review by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.
  4. in writing – to Centrelink, Reply Paid 7800, Canberra BC ACT 2610. Download our Centrelink template letter – request for review (docx, 31.72 KB)
  5. by fax – 1300 786 102

You can also ask Centrelink to suspend repayments while the review is taking place. If Centrelink decides not to suspend repayments, you can request that a Review Officer also review that decision as well, and complain if Centrelink refuses to do so.

Make sure you request a receipt number from Centrelink for every request you make and keep copies of any documents you lodge with Centrelink.

Is there a time limit on seeking a review?

There is no time limit on seeking a review. However, Centrelink may ask you to pay back the money while the decision is being reviewed.

Centrelink can take action to recover a debt at any time.

What happens if I don’t pay the debt when it is due?

If, by the due date, you do not pay your debt, seek a review, or enter into a payment plan, Centrelink (or the Department of Home Affairs) may take legal action to recover the debt.

If you have sought a review of a debt and are contacted by a debt collector, you can tell them that you want the debt referred back to Centrelink because you are seeking a review of the debt. You do not have to enter into a payment plan with a debt collector.

If you feel that a debt collector is harassing you or giving you misleading information, contact the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission on 1300 302 502 or via their website (

If you are unable to repay the overpayment amount, it will become a debt that you owe to the Commonwealth Government.

It may affect your application for another visa if you have not made any arrangements for dealing with this debt. You may not have to repay this debt in full. A reasonable payment arrangement can include a payment plan or an agreement that no payments be made, given your financial circumstances. To request a payment plan, contact Centrelink (or the Department of Home Affairs). You will need to provide information about your financial situation.

What can I do if I am unable to repay the debt?

If you are unable to pay the debt amount because of your financial situation, you may be able to apply for a ‘waiver’ of the debt. If granted, a waiver wipes out a debt which means that the Commonwealth will not seek to recover the money it is owed.

Only the Department of Finance can waive a debt. Debts may be waived in cases where recovery of the debt would cause ongoing financial hardship, or where it would otherwise be unfair to seek recovery.

There is no automatic right to a waiver and it is generally an avenue of ‘last resort’. It is not to be used where there are other options open to you, such as internal review by Centrelink.

What is financial hardship?

If repaying the debt would result in you being unable to provide food, housing, clothing, medical treatment, education or other necessities for yourself, or your family, then you may be able to show financial hardship.

However, the waiver of debt power is discretionary which means that even if you do show financial hardship you may not get a waiver.

How do I apply for a waiver?

Any person can apply for a waiver for themselves or on behalf of another person.

You can apply for a waiver by completing the application form on the Department of Finance website.

You will need to include evidence in support of your application such as:

  • letters to and from Centrelink about your debt, and any decision on review
  • letters or reports from your case worker or financial counsellor (if any)
  • letter or report from your doctor or health professional (if you have any medical conditions which affect your ability to work).

If you are applying for a waiver on the grounds of financial hardship then you will also need to complete a Statement of Financial Details form. In this form, you need to answer questions about your personal circumstances including your employment status, income, assets and household expenses.

Once completed, send your application (and any supporting documents) to the Department of Finance:

  1. By email –
  2. By post – Discretionary Payments Section, Risk Insurance and Special Claims Branch, Department of Finance, 1 Canberra Avenue, FORREST ACT 2603. Download our Department of Finance template letter – request for waiver (docx, 33.22 KB)

Contact the Discretionary Payments Section by phone if you have any questions on 1800 227 572.

It may take some time for you to get a decision on a waiver application.

What if my application for a waiver is refused?

If your application for a waiver is refused, then you should contact Centrelink to discuss repaying the debt in instalments.

A further application for a waiver will only be considered by the Department of Finance if your circumstances change or you have new evidence.

In limited cases, the waiver decision may be reviewable by a court if there has been an error of law.

You should get legal advice if you are considering appealing the waiver decision.

How do I complain about Centrelink?

If you are not happy with how you have been treated by Centrelink staff, you have the right to complain.

Your right to lodge a complaint is separate from your right to have the debt decision reviewed.

You can complain to:

Complaints to the Commonwealth Ombudsman are usually a ‘last resort’ so you should first try and raise your service complaint internally with Centrelink.

Even if the ombudsman finds your complaint valid, it cannot set aside a decision of Centrelink or take any action. It can only make recommendations, which may or may not be accepted by Centrelink.

Also, if you are not happy with the way the Department of Finance has handled your request for a waiver, then you can also ask the ombudsman to investigate. Once again, the ombudsman has no power to change the decision.

More information

Get help​

If you need further legal assistance, contact our Legal Help phone line on 1300 792 387, Monday to Friday from 8 am to 6 pm.

If we are unable to help you, we can refer you to other organisations that can.

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