With the recent Federal Budget came the announcement of more changes to the Australian partner visa program. The long-awaited sponsorship application that was originally legislated back in 2018 but never implemented will come into effect sometime during the 2020-2021 financial year. This essentially means that there will be a sponsorship application before an application for a partner visa. This ‘pre-application’ will focus on the sponsor and ensure that they do not have a substantive criminal history or have been convicted of domestic or sexual violence offenses. This measure is an expansion on previous legislation passed by the Federal government designed to ensure the safety of partner visa applicants from potential abuse by the hands of their sponsor.
The other significant change that has been announced is that sponsors and partner visa applicants will need to demonstrate that they have functional English in order for the permanent partner visa to be granted. Where an applicant does not have functional English, they will be expected to undergo 500 hours of free English classes while they are the holder of the temporary partner visa. The government hopes that this measure will help promote social cohesion within Australia while detractors of the measure have claimed that it is a return to the infamous ‘White Australia policy’.
One piece of objectively good news from the budget is that there will be a one-off increase to the 2020-2021 allocation for partner visas in the 2020-2021 Migration Program with an additional 30,000 places (from 39,799 places to 72,300). Hopefully, this will make a bit of a dent in the massive queue for partner visas which has caused significant delays in processing with the average wait time for an outcome now stretching to more than two years.