Budget 2020-21 boosts number of partner visas to 72,300, but huge backlog for partner visa applications remains
Proposed new English language requirements announced for temporary partner visa holders and permanent resident sponsors
Government to implement requirement for sponsors to gain sponsorship approval before lodging a visa application
What is a partner visa?
In short, a partner visa lets the de facto partner or spouse of an Australian citizen, Australian permanent resident or eligible New Zealand citizen live in Australia. Partner visas are processed in two stages: a temporary partner visa (Subclass 820) first, then a permanent partner visa (Subclass 801), usually after two years. Learn more here.
What major changes to partner visas were announced in the latest Budget?
The latest Budget will impact partner visas in three key ways:
A big increase in the number of available partner visas to clear the huge backlog of applications that has built up over the last few years. While welcome, it is only a one-off increase that will do little to make applying for a partner visa any less difficult.
Potential applicants were blindsided by the proposal of controversial new English language requirements. The good news? These requirements need to be passed into legislation before taking effect.
A separate sponsorship process – where a spouse must be approved as a partner visa sponsor before a visa application can be lodged – will be implemented soon. No exact date for implementation has been set, but it could be any day. Unlike the proposed English language requirements, the legislation enabling this was already passed back in 2018.
What will the English language requirements involve?
Temporary partner visa applicants will need to test for functional English OR have completed 500 hours of an English language program before being granted a permanent visa. No further details are known at this stage.
The language test will also apply to the applicant’s spouse if they are a permanent resident. However, spouses who are Australian citizens will be exempt.
This significant change will add another burden to what is already a very lengthy partner visa application process (2 years or more). It’s also concerning that the test is likely to disproportionately impact non-English speaking applicants and seems at odds with Australia’s multicultural values.
Legislation needs to be passed before the proposed English requirements come into effect. Given the uncertainty of when that will be, those thinking of getting a partner visa should lodge an application as soon as possible to avoid these tough new conditions.
How will a separate sponsorship process change things?
Partner visas involve the applicant, and the applicant’s spouse (the sponsor).
A separate sponsorship process will require the applicant’s spouse to be approved as a sponsor before a partner visa application can be lodged. It also imposes certain sponsorship obligations and provides for sanctions if obligations aren’t met.
In principle, this change is a positive step towards safeguarding vulnerable applicants from potential family violence. Unfortunately, it also means partner visa applicants and sponsors will face an even more extensive visa application process, plus the added pressure of having to secure sponsorship approval before an applicant’s visa expires. Importantly, the ability of partner visa applicants to remain onshore in Australia – while keeping work rights on a Bridging Visa A – will be massively reduced.
Unlike the proposed English language requirements, the legislation for a separate sponsorship process has already been passed. It’s only a matter of time before the government enacts policy to implement it.
I’m in the process of applying for a partner visa. Will I need to meet these new requirements?
It is uncertain:
when the proposed English language requirements will be passed into legislation, and
when policy implementing the separate sponsorship process will be enacted.
Due to this uncertainty, it is always safer to assume that implementation will come sooner rather than later. We can’t stress enough the benefit of starting the visa application process before new requirements are either passed into legislation or implemented through policy.
What should I do next?
The Budget announcements imply that partner visas will only become more difficult, not less, to obtain. Potential partner visa applicants and sponsors should take this window of opportunity to start the application process as soon as reasonably possible.
The stakes are high for failing to meet partner visa requirements. Visa application fees currently total AU$7,715 for both the temporary and permanent partner visas (cheaper if you previously held a Prospective Marriage visa). Other costs for health checks, biometrics, police certificates, and fees for additional family members also need to be factored in. You also risk delaying or jeopardising being able to settle in Australia permanently with your loved one.
Bottom line: Talk to one or our qualified migration experts! We can help keep you informed about the latest requirements (which often change at a moment’s notice), avoid costly delays, and maximise your chances of successfully securing your partner visa.
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