Partner Visa Changes: Only Subclass 309 Visas Affected

Details of the anticipated bill “Migration Amendment (Common Sense Partner Visa) Act 2020” by MP Julian Hill were released today which target proposed changes to the partner visa program to avoid mandatory offshore activity due to the COVID19 pandemic to a single visa – the subclass 309 temoprary partner visa, and alters the legislation to enable that visa to be granted regardless of whether the applicant is onshore in Australia or offshore. Currently applicants for this visa must be offshore at the time of grant of the visa.

While the bill, if enacted, would address travel restriction concerns for subclass 309 applicants, this bill does not extend the benefit of onshore grants to other visa subclasses including Prospective Marriage (subclass 300), Adoption (subclass 102), Child (subclass 101) and Dependent Child (Subclass 445) visas that the Department of Home Affairs has indicated in a statement on its website will be changed in 2021 to allow visa grant while onshore in Australia:

“It is intended that changes will be implemented in early 2021 that would allow certain family visas, which have been applied for outside Australia, to be granted while the visa applicant is in Australia.  This temporary concession will be for people who are in Australia and are not able to travel offshore to be granted the visa due to COVID-19 related border closures.” (DHA Website Statement)

In a related issue, offshore subclass 300 Propsective Marriage Visa (PMV) applicants and visa holders remain concerned that as fiances of Australians are not given an automatic exemption from the travel ban to Australia, any hopes of entering Australia on a PMV are remote at present.

“To not classify fiances of Australian citizens and permanent residents as deserving of incoming travel exemptions yet handpick other higher revenue-generating visa subclasses such as subclass 188 business and innovation visas for automatic travel exemptions for all holders seems designed to reward the rich at the expense of those who are already in many cases considered members of the families of Australians,” said immigration lawyer Mark Northam.

The Australian partner visa program is set to undergo the most substantial changes in years in 2021 when, according to government announcements in conjunction with the Budget, the requirements for these visas will be changed to include an English test and splitting of the sponsor application and visa application, creating a scenario where a sponsor must first apply for a sponsorship application prior to a visa applicant being able to apply for a partner visa and receiving a bridging visa allowing the applicant to remain in Australia from that point untiil the partner visa is decided.

Implementation of these changes is planned for 2021, however no specific information has been announced as to when in 2021 these changes will be made, continuing the doubt and uncertainty regarding these changes that has existed since parts of the enabling legislation for the changes was passed in 2017.

Lawyer and Immigration Agent Alessia Comandini (MARN 1684766)

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