2021 Reforms to Partner Visa Procedure Announced

Major reforms to the Australian Partner Visa program will be implemented by the Australian Government in 2021. These changes to “strengthen the integration outcomes of the Partner Visa program” were announced as part of the 2020-2021 federal budget.

The partner visa application process will be drastically reformed by two key changes:

Reform 1 – New Minimum English Requirement for Applicants & Sponsors:

A new English language requirement will be imposed on the Partner Visa Applicant as well as their sponsor if the sponsor is a permanent resident. This change will require:

  • Permanent residents wanting to bring their partner to Australia will need to first meet a new language requirement before their partner can apply for a Partner Visa. This condition will not apply to Australian citizen sponsors: and
  • Partner visa applicants to meet the new English Language Requirement when they apply for the second-stage assessment that transitions their visa from provisional to permanent. This usually occurs 2 years after the partner visa granted. Assumedly, a partner visa holder will remain a provisional visa holder until they meet the English language requirement.

Provisional partner visa holders will have access to government-funded Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP) classes to learn English.  The government is still undertaking a public consultation process and has not yet announced the level of English language proficiency that will be required to partner visa holders and their sponsors.

Reform 2 – New Mandatory Sponsor Pre-Approval

Before applying for an Australian partner visa all applicants will need to first make sure that their Australian partner has been pre-approved as a Partner Visa Sponsor.  A partner visa application will not be able to be lodged without being linked to a previously approved sponsor application.

The Department of Home Affairs (DHA) will separate the partner sponsorship and visa application processes.

This new process will be implemented as part of the Migration Amendment (Family Violence and Other Measures) Act 2018 (the Act). The government’s justification for these changes is that the DHA will be able to inform a partner visa applicant of adverse information about their Australian sponsor, such as a criminal history or history of domestic violence and give the applicant a chance to withdraw from the process before a visa is lodged or granted.

The practical impact of these changes is that partner visa applicants will likely experience even longer processing times as they will need to wait for their Australian partner to be approved before they can lodge their application. In many cases, potential visa applicants may need to leave Australia while they wait for their sponsor’s approval to be granted.

Reforms will come into effect immediately

As soon as the federal government brings in these changes in 2021 they will apply to all partner visa applications from the date that the changes are implemented.  These government reforms were originally announced to commence in November 2021.  There will not be a grace period.

You can read more about the government announcement on the DHA Website.

If you have any questions about how to apply for a partner visa or how these changes may impact you feel free to Contact Us to talk to one of our Registered Migration Agents.