If you’re considering applying for a Partner Visa, there has never been a better time to take the next step. Our Registered Migration Agents have put together a list of changes in 2020 that are likely to affect potential partner visa applicants.
- Spouses Denied Entry Following Travel Bans
Since the outbreak of COVID-19 (or the ‘coronavirus’) the Australian government has implemented a number of country specific travel bans. At this stage, it seems likely that there may be several further travel bans implemented against other countries subject to significant outbreaks of the virus. These travel bans are liable to be announced with minimal warning.
The Home Affairs website states that “immediate family members of Australian citizens and permanent residents including spouses, minor dependents and legal guardians are permitted to enter Australia despite the travel ban”.
Despite public assurances that spouses would be exempted, there have been a number of instances where spouses or de facto partners of Australian citizens or permanent residents have had their visas cancelled while offshore. SBS reported on “at least 30 instances” where this allegedly occurred.
Summit Migration is aware of at least one instance where this occurred.
We are anticipating in 2020 that further travel bans and restrictions on travel may cause further spouses or de facto partners may be locked out of Australia.
At this point, we are recommending that spouses and de facto partners of Australian citizens or permanent residents do not Leave Australia (unless it is to New Zealand for the sake of renewing a visitor visa).
If you are on a different visa that is subject to a ‘No Further Stay condition’ you may be able to have that condition waived. Please contact one of our agents for more information.
2. Visa Application Charges Increasing
This was an unexpectedly steep increase in the price of this visa, however, a number of other application charges for permanent visas saw a similar increase.
The Australian government has indicated its intention to reduce the overall number of permanent migrants in Australia. Each year the Australian government grants around 40,000 permanent partner visas.
Notwithstanding the Australian government has signalled its intention to reduce the permanent migration cap by about 15% in 2019-2020. One manner it frequently uses to achieve this goal is by administrative cost increases in the Visa Application Charge.
As such, it is highly anticipated on 1 July 2020, that the Australian government will increase the VAC associated with the Partner visa program.
3. Further Data Sharing
One developing feature of Australia’s permanent migration program is the increased focus on data matching with other branches of government and risk assessment models.
Data matching is increasingly used by Commonwealth and state agencies to effectively detect and deal with compliance risks through the use of risk detection models and to improve decisions, services and compliance. This means that applicants from higher risk countries are likely to find their application receive a higher level of scrutiny.
The Identity-matching Services Bill 2019 (the Bill) provides a mechanism to exchange critical identity information between Commonwealth and state and territory governments.
The Bill will produce an identity-matching service which the Department of Home Affairs will operate. The Department of Home Affairs will facilitate data-sharing between other departments and agencies on a request basis, to facilitate the secure, automated and accountable exchange of identity information between Commonwealth and state and territory governments.
The Bill also proposes that driver licence images will be made available by the establishment of a National Driver Licence Facial Recognition Solution, hosted by the Commonwealth on behalf of the states and territories.
This means that visa applicants will need to pay additional attention to the following matters:
- That they declare consistent information to all Australian departments.
- That photos of them are not placed on public social media sites in manner that may seem inconsistent with being in a mutually committed relationship.
- That they are aware that their likeness may be used by facial recognition software to factcheck their applications against data publicly available online.
4. Commencement of the Sponsorship Application Requirement
Following legislation introduced in late 2018, substantial changes yet to commence in relation to the Partner Visa process will result in stricter requirements and a longer pathway to be able to apply and acquire a Visa both for onshore as well as offshore applicants.
On 10 December 2018, the Migration Amendment (Family Violence and Other Measures) Act 2018 received the Royal Assent. This amends the Migration Act 1958 (the Migration Act) to introduce a sponsorship framework for the sponsored family visa program.
This change has the effect of:
- Separating sponsorship assessment from the visa application process for family sponsored visas.
- Requiring 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.
- Providing for sanctions if such obligations are not satisfied.
- Facilitating the sharing of personal information between a range of parties associated with the program.
- Improving the management of family violence in the delivery of the program by allowing the refusal of a sponsorship application; and cancellation and / or barring of a family sponsor where inappropriate use of the program or serious offences are detected – especially those involving family violence.
In practical terms, the changes under the Partner visa program will require an additional application process for the sponsoring party to be approved (“the sponsorship application”) prior to the visa applicant becoming eligible to apply for their partner visa (“the visa application”).
It is unclear the length of time that the sponsorship application will take to be processed. It is quite possible this process will exceed three months.
How to navigate the changes:
- If you are in the process of lodging your partner visa or planning to lodge in near future, then lodge your partner visa before the changes take effect
- If you are not sure about your plans or situation – contact us and we can provide you with clear guidance.
We anticipate these changes will come into effect mid-2020. It is quite possible that the Department will not give substantial notice for these pending changes.