Significant Changes to Partner Visa Applications

Following preliminary announcements put forward as part of the 2020 – 2021 Federal Budget the Australian Government has recently suggested that its proposed series of immigration reforms are being considered for implementation as early as 13 November 2021.

Should this eventuate, two significant items will be set to take centre stage:

  1. The introduction of strengthened English language requirements for Permanent Resident sponsors and Partner visa applicants and
  2. Applying a revised sponsorship framework which will require Australian sponsors to become “Approved Sponsors” prior to lodgement of a Partner visa application.

* These changes will apply to Subclass 820 and 801 Partner visas, Subclasses 309 and 100 Partner visas and to the Subclass 300 Prospective Marriage visa.

English language requirements

At present, Australia’s Partner Visa Program does not call for applicants or sponsors to meet specific English language prerequisites. The upcoming reforms however, will introduce a requirement for both applicants and their permanent-resident sponsors to either provide evidence of a ‘functional’ level of English or to clearly demonstrate that they have made “reasonable efforts” to learn.

Criteria for “functional” English

Applicants and sponsors can demonstrate English functionality via one of the following:

  • Completion of a degree, higher degree, diploma or trade certificate, requiring a minimum two years of full time study, in an institution in or outside Australia, with all instruction in English.
  • Completion of all years of primary and at least three years of secondary school, in or outside Australia, with all instruction in English.
  • Completion of five years of secondary school, in an institution in or outside Australia, with all instruction in English.
  • Completion of one year of full-time study towards an award in Australia, with all instruction in English.
    Completion of the part-time equivalent of one year of full-time study towards an award in Australia, with all instruction in English.
  • Achievement of an average band score of 4.5 in IELTS.
  • Achievement of a total band score of at least 32 in TOEFL iBT.
  • Achievement of a total band score of at least 30 in PTE.
  • Achievement of a total band score of at least 147 in CAE.

Demonstrating “Reasonable Efforts”

Reasonable efforts may be substantiated upon completion of 500 hours of free English language classes, through the Adult Migration English Program (AMEP).

Exemptions from English language requirements

These requirements will be mandatory for all applicants and sponsors, except those who hold a passport from one of the following countries;

  • Australia
  • Canada
  • Ireland
  • New Zealand
  • United States of America
  • United Kingdom

Sponsor approvals set to delay applications

Currently, partner visa applications may be lodged without the need for sponsorship approval but the proposal indicates an upcoming change in November 2021. Additional due diligence will, of course, result in further delays; an unwelcomed and decisively negative impact upon onshore Partner visa processing.

Justification for postponement

Already faced with extensive delays, attributed to unprocessed numbers due to the sheer quantum of applications, stringent conditions and additional qualifying requirements for sponsors will undoubtedly place serious timeline pressures on the dwindling currency of substantive visas.

Although not confirmed, the Australian Government would be well aware of this extended issue and the possibility remains that it may decide to defer the November introduction, until greater efficiency can be attained. Only time will tell.

Time may be the essence

At Sellanes Clark, we are always ready to help. We understand the complexities of evolving immigration issues and recognise the many advantages of prompt action.

For more information on this or on any relating issues, contact the friendly migration experts at Sellanes Clark – specialising in all immigration law matters.

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