If you have applied for or are considering applying for a partner visa then it is important that you know there are changes due to be introduced in 2021. These have been in the pipeline for some time, but it is only recently that specific details about the changes and when they are going to be implemented have been published by the federal government.

Given that the regulations and legislation surrounding visas is so complex it has taken some time for many of the specifics to become known. Even now, at the time of writing, the changes have not reached the point at which they can be fully implemented. The current timeframe is for them to go live in November 2021, but that could still change. As for the main changes, these are outlined below.

Partner Visa Numbers To Be Increased

It is often the assumption that when a government announces changes to any policies relating to immigration that they are going to be bad news for those wishing to obtain visas to live there. However, we are actually going to start with some good news, and that is the fact that the government has announced an increase in the allocation of partner visas.

In truth, it may not necessarily mean any more people being granted visas overall, as the increase has come about as a result of two other issues that exist. One reason is that there will be fewer skilled visas being granted, and the fact that there is a massive backlog of partner visas in the processing system is another.

English Language Requirements

This was somewhat unexpected, however, it now means that both the sponsor and the partner must be able to demonstrate that they can speak ‘functional English’. As with any rules relating to visas, there are exemptions which include:

  • Having a passport from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Ireland, or the UK.
  • Being able to pass an English test
  • Completing the English tuition via the Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP)

It should be noted that this requirement applies to those wishing to make their partner visas permanent, and not those at the first stage of the process.

Regionally Based Applications To Be Given Priority

The Australian Government’s regional program is designed to boost migration into areas outside of major cities such as Brisbane, Melbourne, and Sydney. Many of its rules, regulations and exemptions are in place to boost that program, and this is another one. Quite simply they are planning to prioritise applications for partner visas by those who plan to live and work in those designated regions and postcodes.

Upfront Sponsor Approval

This is probably the most significant change which means that rather than both the sponsor and the partner submitting a combined application for a partner visa, they must make their applications separately. Primarily this is being done to place greater emphasis on ensuring that the sponsor is fit and proper and thus approved, and to protect the applicant.

Examples of this include sponsors who have a past history of violence or sexual misconduct, and the applicant not being aware of them. To rectify this a sponsor will only be approved if they can provide police clearances, and the applicant will be also informed by the sponsor or the appropriate department of any criminal history that the sponsor has.

Whilst the intentions of these changes are laudable with respect to protecting applicants, it will mean some other issues are created. The first is that it will make the application process more expensive with additional fees costing several hundred dollars over and above the current application fee. With the additional steps required and the time that it will take for them to be processed, this is obviously going to mean the application process takes longer, and could even mean delays.

The final, and possibly most problematic issue is when an applicant has a visitor’s visa that is due to expire, and their sponsor’s approval is still pending. This risks them being unable to prove that they are a genuine candidate for a permanent visa.