partner visa wrong answer

Changes to Partner Visa Sponsorship Requirements in June 2019

In yet another example of how inexperienced (and even the most experienced) migration agents have bungled the interpretation of the law (remember some migration agents are not lawyers) are the proposed changes to the Partner Visas coming in June 2019.

Every migration agency under the sun is heralding a change that supposedly would require the Australian sponsor to be approved before the visa application. They’ve all variously said that the approval process is a separate process and may take anywhere up to 12-15 months (where they got this number from I’m not sure but they were probably projecting from past numbers). They’ve all claimed that because of this splitting of the process, that everyone should run to them immediately so that their migration agents can help you get your applications in before then (and charge you a mint for it!). They’ve erroneously concluded that if the sponsorship needs to be approved first, then the visa applicant can’t make a visa application until then and there may not be a bridging visa for the visa applicant (if they’re onshore).

This is wrong. Just downright, blatantly wrong.

There is no separate sponsorship process in partner visas.

Sponsors do need to be ‘approved’ and in being ‘approved’ they have to satisfy the sponsorship requirements but this is not a decision that is taken separate to the visa application.

So guess what readers? Taking the time to actually read the legislation and the explanatory notes and analyse how they will work pays off. This post is deliberately late because I didn’t want to be like every other migration agent out there writing a blog post scaring everyone into buying their services.

Quick recap

The Migration Amendment (Family Violence and Other Measures) Act happened around December 2018 and while they haven’t announced a date that it will take effect, the default date that we’re anticipating is either 10th or 11th June  April 17th was confirmed as the date that these changes would take effect [Updated: April 17th].

Family migration programme

A whole heap of changes were made to the Migration Act and the amendments were to the Family Migration Programme of which partner visas are a part of. But in reality, most of the changes relate to the parent category of visas – another subclass of visas that the Australian government have no problems squeezing money out of by jacking up the prices.

Sponsorship undertakings

The key to the Family Migration Programme is the concept of ‘sponsorship’. All family member visas are sponsored whether they’re tourists, parents or in our case partners and spouses.

So the amendments were made to the requirements of sponsorship, namely around the sponsorship undertakings.

Under the new sponsorship requirements, the sponsor must provide evidence that they will be and can be responsible for the visa applicant’s financial and accommodation needs. In a parent context you can imagine this is very important that the aged parent doesn’t require assistance from the Australian government, welfare and healthcare system.

But if you dig deeper into the legislation and see what they have amended and said in regards to the sponsorship undertaking for partner visas, there is no separate sponsorship approval process.

In fact the sponsorship undertaking is considered dealt with when you tick the boxes in the application form that says ‘I agree to be responsible for my partner’s financial and accommodation needs’ (I’m paraphrasing as the real form has multiple statements).

What does this mean for sponsors of partner visas?

The effect of this is that now the sponsor can be a reason for refusal of the visa, not just the applicant.

It means that if the sponsor doesn’t fulfil the requirements of being a sponsor, the visa can be refused.

Before these changes, the sponsor wasn’t looked at. All the sponsor needed to be was Australian, older than 18 and not currently married.

With these changes, the sponsor has to undergo police checks if requested, and if the sponsor cannot provide for the financial and accommodation needs of the visa applicant for at least 2 years after the grant of the visa, then that may be a reason to refuse the partner visa.

These changes have been made as an increasing response to combat family violence.

Why it affects parents mostly and not partners

This also makes sense in the context of parent visas or other family visas. The sponsor, mostly the adult children of overseas parents, will need to prove that they have enough money to support their ageing parent when they’re in Australia (to either visit or to stay for a longer period of time). If the adult children do not have the means to provide for their ageing parent, then the sponsorship undertaking has not been satisfied and therefore there is no need to consider the rest of the visa application. The case officer has made a decision that the sponsor is not eligible to sponsor and then will refuse the visa application based on that.

This is what many migration agents have interpreted to mean a ‘separate approval process’ when in reality it just makes the sponsorship part of the application, the first to be looked at by the case officer.

Summing up

The amendments to the Migration Act regarding sponsorship requirements for partner visas that may come into effect in June 2019 does not provide for a separate approval process that requires a separate application.

It merely changes the order in which the case officer looks at a partner visa application.

Before, the emphasis was on the visa applicant to prove their case and the sponsor (the Australian partner) didn’t need to do much or provide much evidence that they are eligible sponsors.

Going forward, the case officer will increasingly look at the eligibility of the sponsor to sponsor a foreign partner. This is not a separate application that needs to be made but merely a decision that the case officer must make before they proceed to process the rest of the visa application.

It is more like a change in the procedure for case officers and they now need to ask the following question:

  1. Is the sponsor eligible to sponsor? If yes, proceed. If no, refuse the visa.

So I repeat, the sponsorship requirements were in response mainly to the parent category of visas and it is not a separate approval process for partner visas.

What it really means in practice is that it allows the case officer to look more closely at the sponsor and the sponsor may now be a reason why the visa is refused (and not just the visa applicant).

What next?

I would say still try to get your applications in before June because we all know that price hikes happen around then. But in terms of these new sponsorship requirements, I wouldn’t be worrying too much about having to undergo a separate approval process because it doesn’t exist.

My suggestion is to continue in an orderly fashion and don’t get scammed by migration agents who are pressuring you and scaring you into working with them.