What are the changes to the Australian partner Visa?

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For many years if a couple, of which only one person was an Australian citizen, wanted to live together in Australia, the couple had to file together for a Partner Visa. The focus of the application and the investigation was primarily on the non-citizen party.  But soon, that will change. If you are currently a couple in New South Wales Australia, with one person living in Australia on a Partner Visa, it is important that you review the new laws that will be enacted in June 2019. This is because while the new laws will apply to all first-time applicants, it is likely that current Partner Visa holders will also be affected.

In the past, you and your partner could apply for a Partner Visa together. The focus of the investigation and ensuing permission to remain in Australia was primarily on the person entering the country.  As a couple, a partner visa could be issued after the provision of the following information;

  • work history,
  • travel history,
  • police investigation,
  • past residencies, and
  • witness statements,

Once this initial Visa was issued, you could apply for a Bridging Visa which would allow the non-citizen party to work, study and obtain medical care in Australia.

However, with the advent of the new law, known as the Migration Amendments, the process of obtaining a Partner Visa will now change. Instead of a single step process, there will now be two steps to securing the stay of your partner. The obtaining of a Partner Visa will now require;

  1. The Australian citizen to make an application for sponsorship
  2. Application for the Partnership Visa

It is imperative to note that during the period of review of the sponsorship application, the couple cannot apply for a Partner Visa. Only after the sponsorship has been approved, is the couple then eligible to make an application for a Partner Visa.

The new first step which requires the approval of a sponsor partner will be within the purview of the Department of Home Affairs. At the moment it is unknown as to how long this investigation process will take. While the potential sponsor is being considered, the non-Australian partner must remain out of the country. If a couple is currently living together under a Partner Visa, and it is near to its expiration, it is uncertain as to whether a new sponsorship application and a new Partner Visa can be reviewed, completed, and issued before the non-citizen partner is required to leave the country. Hence, it is possible that if the new process is not completed in time, the non-Australian partner will have to leave the country and await approval for return.

The process will also affect the ability to obtain a Bridging Visa. The granting of this type of visa will also be dependent upon the submission and approval of partner sponsorship.

As an approved sponsor the Australian citizen will be subject to particular obligations and if such obligations are not met, they will be subject to penalties and fines. The reasoning behind the change in the process is to hold Australian citizens accountable for Partner Visas that support genuine relationships and reduce the chances of family violence. It has become a growing concern of the Australian government that the current process created an imbalance of personal power and, as such, the non-citizen partner was in a position of vulnerability which could lead to them being harmed or coerced as a result of wanting to stay in the country. It is hoped that the change in the process will increase the accountability and responsibility of those Australian citizens wishing to bring partners to live in Australia.

While the changes can stir anxiety amongst couples of mixed citizenship living in Australia on Partner Visas and Bridging Visas, the concerns and questions that are being generated can be answered by various professionals and the government agencies who will be implementing the changes in the law. It is highly recommended that all couples who are currently on Partner Visas, and those who will be applying for Visas in the future, seek counsel and advice from those who are knowledgeable and able to shepherd couples through the process successfully. 

If you find yourself in need of assistance with this or any other legal issue, please contact the law offices of Owen Hodge Lawyers. At Owen Hodge, we are always happy to assist clients in understanding the full ramifications of any and all of your legal needs. Please feel free to call us at your earliest convenience to schedule a consultation at 1800 770 780.

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