Partner visa changes ahead- 2021
As part of the 2020-21 Federal Budget, the Government announced that it will implement reforms to strengthen the integration outcomes of the Partner program by the end of 2021. Currently, sponsorship and Partner visa applications are lodged at the same time and there are no English requirements for the partner or their sponsor. The new reforms which are set to come into effect in or around November 2021 will require partner visa applications to meet:
- English language requirement for permanent resident sponsors and Partner visa applicants; and
- Applying the sponsorship framework set out in the Migration Amendment (Family Violence and Other Measures) Act 2018 to the Partner visa program. Meaning a sponsorship application will be assessed separately and will need to be approved before a valid Partner visa application can be lodged
The Department of Home Affairs (the Department) is currently seeking community views to inform the development of settings and the implementation of the new English language requirement and the sponsorship framework for the Partner visa program.
English Language Requirement
The new English language requirement for Partner visa applicants and permanent resident sponsors will encourage and support English acquisition.
The English language requirement will apply to primary and secondary Partner visa applicants aged 18 to retirement age and sponsors who are permanent residents.
- Permanent resident sponsors will need to meet the English language requirement as part of the sponsorship assessment
- Partner visa applications are processed in two stages and Partner visa applicants will only need to meet the English language requirement at the second-stage assessment, which is often two years after the provisional Partner visa application is lodged.
Reasonable effort to learn English
Partners will continue to be able to travel to and stay in Australia on the provisional Partner visa and access government funded Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP) classes to learn English.
The department will look at your English language proficiency level and efforts you’ve made to learn English. Partner visa applicants and permanent resident sponsors would be able to meet the English requirement if they can demonstrate that they have made a ‘reasonable effort’ to learn English. A reasonable effort to learn English may include participating in government funded AMEP tuition. Previously, AMEP participants could access up to 510 hours of tuition. The AMEP program now offers unlimited hours of tuition, and changes continue to be made to improve accessibility to online learning, including for persons with caring responsibilities.
Other means of meeting the requirement and supporting evidence
Other ways of meeting the English language requirement could be an appropriate score in an approved English language test; having a valid passport from Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States or where the applicant has obtained a qualification where all instruction was in English.
The English language requirement will be introduced to the Partner program at the end of 2021 and will apply to applications lodged on or after the date of implementation.
The department is considering exemptions for some circumstances, for example if they have a learning disability.
New Sponsorship Framework for Partner Visa Program (Sponsor)
As part of the 2020-21 Federal Budget, the Government announced that it will apply the family sponsorship framework set out in the Migration Amendment (Family Violence and Other Measures) Act 2018 (the Act) to the Partner visa program (previously implemented for the SC870 visa).
The framework will:
- separate the sponsorship and visa application processes;
- support information disclosure relating to domestic and family violence to the sponsor or the applicant; and,
- enable sanctions to be imposed on sponsors who breach sponsorship obligations.
The sponsorship application will be assessed separately and will need to be approved before a valid Partner visa application can be lodged. Once implemented for Partner visas it will significantly impact whether an Australian Partner visa application can be lodged whist the applicant (partner or spouse) is in Australia.
Once the above changes roll out to Partner visas it would mean that Sponsorships must be lodged first and approved before Partner visas can be lodged. This change will adversely impact onshore Partner visa applicants wanting to lodge a visa application prior to their substantive visa expiring. If you are planning to apply for a Partner visa we recommend booking an appointment to discuss and understand how these changes may impact you.
Other changes in this bill:
- separate sponsorship assessment from the visa application process for family sponsored visas;
- 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 and provide for sanctions if those obligations are not satisfied;
- facilitate the sharing of personal information between parties identified in a sponsorship application;
- enable the refusal of a sponsorship application and the cancellation or barring of a family sponsor in certain circumstances;
- enable the regulations to prescribe details for, and in relation to, the operation of the sponsorship framework; and make consequential amendments.
We highly recommend lodging the partner visa application as soon as you meet the criteria.
Partner visas can be complex process and not as easy as they may appear, to maximise your chances of success contact VisaEnvoy for expert advice and guidance from a reputable Registered Migration Agent or Immigration Lawyer.