australian-sponsor-require-police-checks-criminal-record

Remember that earlier post about impending changes to the partner visas? Well it’s here folks.

The changes are significant from a legislation point of view but from your point of view, it’s simply another piece of evidence that you need to provide with your partner visa applications.

Way back sometime last year the Australian government signalled potential new rules around sponsoring partners to migrate to Australia. These new rules were very much in line with the intention to reduce and prevent domestic violence and stated that sponsors with a history of domestic violence or related criminal history would be scrutinised if not banned from sponsoring partners to migrate to Australia.

Now the Australian government has made good on its word and will require police checks from the sponsor as well.

I personally welcome these changes despite the extra work that the sponsor must go through as these changes mean that vulnerable women will be afforded a level of protection. Its often not talked about enough and it took an ABC report recently to reveal the true extent of how vulnerable partners are kept in their abusive relationships because of visa constraints.

The new requirements are:

  1. provide Australian and/or foreign police checks when requested
  2. consent to disclosing the sponsor’s convictions for relevant offencesto the visa applicant.

If the sponsor refuses to provide consent then the visa application will be refused. The visa application could also be refused if the sponsor does not provide the police checks within a reasonable time.

Let’s break it down

Notice how the sponsor has to provide police checks both Australian and foreign? Well that’s to ensure that crimes committed overseas will be discoverable by the Australian government. My recommendation on this is always to disclose even if in doubt and let them decide if they need more information. You can read the article on that here for a more detailed reasoning.

The second point to take notice of is that it’s ‘when requested’. Now my policy has always been to submit police checks somewhere halfway through the processing period and never on lodgement date. This is because a) there’s no decision ready applications anymore and b) partner visas are taking 12-15 months to process and c) police checks are only valid for 12 months. If you do the simple math, your police check will be at risk of expiring when your application finally gets processed and you’ll have to request a new one again. Save yourself the trouble of doing it twice.

The other requirement for sponsors filling out their application forms is providing consent for the Department to disclose the offences to your partner. I’m not one to judge or even guess at what kind of relationship you have with your partner but I share everything with mine, including possible criminal convictions. I mean we’re supposed to be in a committed and exclusive relationship (or married) and that’s kind of  a big deal breaker if my partner decided to omit that ‘tiny’ detail.

What this means is if the Department finds that you have convictions for relevant offences, they will tell your partner. And if you don’t give consent for this to happen then the visa application will be refused.

Now we turn to what is  a relevant offence. Relevant offence in regards to this new requirement of sponsors are offences related to violence and sexual assault. The australian govenrment is committed to reducing violence in the community and in particular to combat domestic violence so for this purpose, those are the only relevant offences. That means, these are the only offences that the Department will disclose to your partner so that your partner can make an informed choice about whether to continue with the application or not.

A relevant offence involves:

  • violence, including murder, assault, sexual assault and the threat of violence
  • harassment, molestation, intimidation or stalking
  • the breach of an apprehended violence order, or a similar order
  • firearms or other dangerous weapons
  • people smuggling
  • human trafficking, slavery or slavery-like practices (including forced marriage), kidnapping or unlawful confinement
  • attempting to commit any of these offences
  • aiding, abetting, counselling or procuring such offences.

It should be noted that any convictions that are quashed, nullified or pardoned in any way will not be considered a relevant offence.

If you have a conviction for a relevant offence

If you have a conviction for a relevant offence, it’s not necessarily the end. If you have a conviction for a relevant offence but do not have a significant criminal record, your visa application may still be approved.

With your consent, the Department will then disclose this to your partner and your partner may make the choice to continue or not.

If you have a conviction for a relevant offence and a significant criminal record

A significant criminal record is if the sponsor has been sentenced to:

  • death
  • imprisonment for life
  • a term of imprisonment of 12 months or more
  • 2 or more terms of imprisonment, where the total of those terms is 12 months or more.

Unfortunately, if you have a conviction for a relevant offence and a significant criminal record, your visa application will be refused.

Any visa applications refused on this basis will not be refunded.

All partner visa applications going forth will be subject to this requirement. For those who already hold a temporary partner visa and are awaiting second stage processing, these changes do not affect you and your sponsor will not be required to undergo police checks.

The process to obtain an Australian police check and/or foreign police check is detailed in the book here.

To recap

Australian sponsors of partners migrating to Australia will need to undergo police checks – both foreign and Australian – and must consent to the Department disclosing the relevant offences to the migrating partner.

When you need to submit the police checks is a matter of either the case officer requesting it or you could pre-empt this request by submitting the police checks voluntarily with your application.