A new two-step application process for partner visa applications is due to be introduced soon as part of new measures to improve the integrity of the family sponsored visa.
The Migration Amendment (Family Violence and Other Measures) Bill 2016 was passed in the Senate recently. Various amendments have been proposed to the Bill but once the start date is confirmed, a sponsoring partner will need to be assessed and approved before a visa application is made.
Overview of proposed changes
To address integrity issues that are currently experienced in the sponsored family visa program these changes will:
- separate sponsorship assessment from the visa application process;
- require the approval of persons as family sponsors before any relevant visa applications are made;
- impose statutory obligations on persons who are or were approved as family sponsors;
- provide for sanctions if such obligations are not satisfied;
- facilitate the sharing of personal information between parties to the application; and
- improve the management of family violence where it occurs in the family visa program.
The amendments will initially apply to partner visas, but this sponsorship framework will subsequently extend to other visas in the family program.
Furthermore, the existing requirement for a police check to be undertaken by some partner visa sponsors will be expanded so that all sponsors will be required to undertake these checks. By ensuring that checking requirements for partner visa sponsors are aligned with the visa applicants, this will allow consideration of the potential for violence against immediate family members by all parties to the application.
Once approved, the sponsorship will remain in effect until the person(s) proposed are granted a permanent visa, unless ceased earlier through a prescribed event.
Why are these changes required?
These changes have been suggested as it avoids the situation where the visa applicant is refused a visa due to concerns relating to the sponsor.
Sponsorship applications will be subject to refusal in limited circumstances, such as convictions for:
- paedophilia or other sexual offences against minors; or
- offences relating to violence.
Newly arrived migrants are among the more vulnerable people in our community. The purpose of the changes as they relate to the partner visa program is to support the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children.
Upcoming visa expiry?
At this stage, we do not know when these changes will come into effect. At the latest, the Act will come into effect on 10 June 2019, 6 months after the date the Bill was passed.
The procedure and processing time for the Australian partner’s sponsorship approval is also currently unknown.
If you are considering applying for a Partner Visa application and have an upcoming visa expiry, it is recommended to start the application process as soon as possible. Sponsors of visa applicants in this situation may wish to ensure they obtain up-to-date police clearances for countries they have lived in for 12 months or more in the last 10 years in case they are unable to lodge a visa application prior to these changes. Once the new changes are introduced, any delays with sponsorship approval may significantly impact your visa lodgement strategy.
Please contact us on 02 8896 6056 if you require assistance with preparing a Partner Visa application for lodgement.