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Significant Changes to the Partner Visa that will Impact Australian Sponsors

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An important and highly significant change regarding the partner visa will commence 17th April 2019 under the Migration Amendment (Family Violence and Other Measures) Act 2018.

Prior to that date, the nomination or sponsorship by an Australian citizen or permanent resident for bringing a partner to Australia on a partner visa application were lodged together. That is, the sponsorship and partner’s visa application could be lodged at the same time as a single application.

The new law requires the sponsor to first lodge the nomination for approval before the partner can lodge his/her visa application.

This change is quite significant for several reasons:

  1. It will create delays in having the partner visa processed because of the two-stage process and increase costs.

  2. More importantly, it will affect parties who wish to apply for a partner visa onshore in situations where the visa applicant’s temporary onshore visa is time-sensitive.

  3. It will set up more barriers to a partner visa application by having more pre-conditions for sponsorship and it is certainly arguable whether such a requirement is constitutional.

Delays to processing and increased costs

Currently an offshore partner visa can take up to 18 months or longer to process. Some outposts such as Africa can take even longer. Adding the two-stage process will certainly extend the waiting period for an applicant to beyond 20 months and that will cause much stress to the long-distant relationship. As it is two applications then the cost will most likely increase.

Affect on onshore partner applications

Previously if a partner was onshore holding a temporary visa such as a subclass 600 visitor visa, it was possible for the partner visa to be lodged onshore at the same time as the sponsor’s nomination. That would automatically provide the visa applicant with a bridging visa A to continue staying in Australia beyond the expiry date of the original temporary visa and to remain until the partner visa was decided on. It also allowed the visa applicant to access Medicare and have work rights. Since a visitor visa was normally valid for 3 months that allowed ample time for an onshore visa application to be lodged. However, the new two-stage process could mean that even the 3 months visitor visa is insufficient time to obtain approval of the sponsor’s nomination and then lodge the actual partner visa. It means another temporary visa may have to be applied for to keep the partner onshore until the sponsor is approved. One can imagine how this new process will affect other onshore partner visa applications where the applicant is on a time-sensitive temporary visa and needs to apply for a partner visa before the other temporary visa expires. There is no guideline given by the immigration department as to how long the sponsor’s nomination will take to be approved.

Barriers to the visa application

No serious explanation or rationale has been given for creating this two-stage process and one can only have a cynical view of the department’s internal reasoning. Previously, certain requirements have been made of the Australian sponsor such as requiring them to prove their financial capacity to take care of the arriving partner and his/her dependent children. Later, when there were growing concerns about domestic violence or child abuse among sponsored partners, the department added a character screening process by requiring the sponsor to provide a police check. However, to formally introduce this two-stage process and putting the Australian sponsor under a formal screening process before he/she can be approved to sponsor an overseas partner may actually be unconstitutional.

Conclusion and what you can do

This new two-stage application for partner visas is unnecessary, probably unconstitutional and only adds to the stress of the long waiting time of partner visas and certainly impacts on Australian citizens who genuinely want to be with their overseas partner as soon as practicable. Although the law has been proposed it is still to be confirmed and regulated and details given as to exactly what is required. It is best now to take action without delay if you already intend to lodge a partner visa.

Elizabeth Yuen