Changes coming to the Family Visa Programme

 

The Migration Amendment (Family Violence and Other Measures) Bill 2016 has recently passed through the Senate and is awaiting Royal Assent. It’s not yet known when this will occur (however you can expect it to be imminently) but when it becomes law shortly, it will amend the Migration Act 1958 to introduce heightened requirements for the family visa programme (which includes partner visas).

 

Therefore, if you are intending to sponsor a person under the family visa programme (or are intending to be sponsored for that matter), you need to take note of what the changes could mean for you.

 

In that respect, whilst there are several changes to happen under this amendment, the most significant we can see at this point will be:

  • The separation of the sponsorship assessment from the visa application process;
  • Requiring the approval of persons as sponsors before a visa application is made;
  • Imposition of statutory obligations on persons who are approved as sponsors;
  • Providing for sanctions if such obligations are not satisfied; and,
  • Management of family violence by allowing the refusal of a sponsorship application and the cancellation/barring of a sponsor where offences have occurred – especially those involving family violence.

Whilst there are already measures in place which affect sponsors with character-based issues, the new changes will effectively operate to prevent a visa application being made without an approved sponsorship. From a policy point of view, this move is part of the broader government efforts in terms of addressing family violence and particularly not exposing a non-citizen family member to further violence.

 

What this means in essence, is that if a sponsor has a history of perpetrating family violence, they will be precluded from sponsoring another person for a family type visa. For anyone else not affected by family violence, the change will affect those who urgently need to lodge visa applications and cannot because a sponsorship needs to be firstly approved. It may also cause applications to be lodged earlier, which could affect prospects in an application.

 

If you are affected by this and need to lodge a partner or family-based visa application in the next few months, it is probably best to take advice before you proceed to lodge an application so as to avoid this change as it could have unintended consequences for you.