Criticism surrounding partner visas has increased, with some suggesting that the visa should be re-evaluated following research by The Australian Population Research Institute, (TARPI) which suggests that migrants are using the partner visa as an attractive alternative to other visa types.
Dr Birrell, Director of the Centre for Population and Urban Research at Monash University claims that the Australian partner visa rules are among some of the weakest in the western world with visa applications increasing from 41,994 to 47,825 between 2011 and 2015. The total number of partner visas issued in 2018 fell to under 40,000 due to toughening assessing criteria implemented by the Department of Home Affairs. This figure represented almost 25% of Australia’s immigration intake for the year.
Although most applicants are in genuine relationships, there are major concerns surrounding those who are manufacturing relationships as a means to obtain residency in Australia.
Currently, sponsors and applicants must merely provide evidence that their relationship is genuine, and that the spouse is an Australian permanent resident or citizen over the age of 18.
Dr Birrell has suggested changes which include raising the eligible age of a sponsor and partner to the age of 21 and that the Australian spouse must be able to prove that they can adequately provide for their partner without relying on welfare. Dr Birrell also suggested strengthening the program by requiring proof that the couple are in a “genuine and continuing relationship” prior to the grant of a partner visa and once again following two years of residence.
The Director of Partner Visa Processing at Absolute Immigration, Laurie Duncan, said today that partner visa applicants can expect to have their applications more closely scrutinised as a result of heightened interest in the partner visa process. Mr Duncan, who formerly was in charge of the Partner Visa Section in the Department said “every few years it is suggested that the partner visa process is being “rorted” or “abused” and this understandably leads to applications being subject to more investigation to test bona fides.”
Mr Duncan added “while there is unquestionably a level of abuse of the partner visa system, this increased scrutiny can unfortunately have a negative impact on genuine applicants. Now, more than ever, applicants need to take greater care in preparing their applications”