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Moving to Australia but my wife has unpaid HECS


My wife is Australian and we're looking at moving to Australia from the US in the next few years.

She left the country back in Protected content , and has never paid back her HECS debt. Turns out that back in Protected content was a law passed requring expats to report income and have a compulsory repayment. Additionally there was a fine for failing to do so.

Since we've not been exactly in the loop as far as Australia goes, we didn't know about any of this until now. My fear is if she reports past income now, there will be many thousands, or tens of thousands, of past due dollars that suddenly have additional interest/fees as if an unpaid bill from years ago (HECS itself is interest free, but has yearly inflation adjustments). Additionally, there may or may not be multiple fines for failing to report in the past.

Here is my question:

It is possible to make voluntary repayments of HECS debt. If we were to pay everything from the current HECS account before moving back, would there still be any fines / past bills, or would this no longer be an issue becasue the original debt was paid off? I thought that perhaps if we just did voluntary payments over the next few years, it would be paid off - but technically we've still never met the 'compulsory payment' requirements. How would they even know to bill at that point?

The concern would be specifically any fines for failure to report income, and then if there was a bill in Protected content , 2017, Protected content , and Protected content would potentially have been rolling general interest on those bills. Would there even be a request to retroactively file this overseas income thing if there was no longer a hecs debt to pay (It's different from a tax return - she doesn't need to do those)

Obviously this seems to be an issue only if we return, but we also don't know if it would potentially cause other problems (like for example, getting me, a US citizen, permanent residency status despite being married for seven years :-))

I have to assume she isn't the only one in this situation - I can find tons of articles of what happened back in Protected content , but nothing from people years later just encountering this problem now. I was hoping someone might have experienced something similar.

Thanks so much!

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