Thursday Answers are a response to questions submitted by readers on our regular Ask Mondays posts.
Every Monday I ask people to send in their questions and concerns and I select one to answer. In doing this, I hope you will see that a) you’re not alone in this, b) there are no stupid questions and c) we’re all here to help!
Significant age difference or gaps between couples
We all know the old adage: love is blind or love knows bounds.
When I read the statutory declarations of partner visa applications I only read the stories of a couple’s love and the journey they willingly undertake to make Australia their homes. What I don’t see is the effect or impact of the age difference between the couple.
What I mean is that whether someone is 50 or 21, if they’re on the same ‘wavelength’ or same page as you are, age is nothing but a number. Who am I to judge? Who are the case officers at the Department to judge?
So what is the Department concerned about when they start questioning couples with a significant age difference?
- Protecting the applicant in relationships that may be coerced or not entered into by their own free will
- Marriages of conveniences or marriage scams
They’re not doing it because they’re making a judgement on your relationship. They are, believe it or not, concerned for the potential applicant and upholding the integrity of the Australian immigration system.
Protecting the applicant
Unfortunately the danger of coerced relationships is an ever present one in partner visa applications. This is not an unfounded fear because according to Equality Now: “at least 20.9 million adults and children are bought and sold worldwide into commercial sexual servitude, forced labor and bonded labor.”
There is also the danger of child marriages and arranged marriages that the applicant has been coerced into.
These dangers are some that the Australian government has dedicated itself to eradicating [LINK] and that’s why on every application they will make you confirm whether you are willingly in this relationship or not. It’s a small gesture on the forms but it can lead to bigger enquiries if the case officer can see that there are not enough markers for a genuine relationship in your application.
Marriage of conveniences or marriage scams
Marriages of conveniences, marriage scams, marriage for visas are schemes where an Australian sponsor marries or sponsors a foreign person in exchange for either money or other agreed upon thing of value. These ‘sham marriages’ naturally undermine the Australian migration programme and contravene Australian laws.
What is significant?
What is a significant age gap between couples? How long is a piece of string? The answer is that there doesn’t seem to a uniform standard of measure on this.
I’ve reviewed an application where the age difference was 5 years, another application had the age difference at 30 years and you know what was common to both? The applicant and sponsor were in exclusive and committed relationships and they had all the evidence to prove it.
How to address the age difference
My policy has always been to preempt any questions that the case officers might have, however, there is a fine line between being upfront and how much detail you want to give of your relationship. There are some things that are extremely deeply personal that is not necessary to reveal in order for them to determine if you’re in a genuine relationship with your partner. Other times, it’s good to address the elephant in the room.
This one is entirely up to you.
I’ve had some couples not address it, I’ve had others address it and write about the emotional support one partner provides to the other.
As far as I’m concerned it’s not a determinant of a long lasting, exclusive and committed relationship. It’s simply two people have met at different times in their lives and have come to fall in love with each other. If your statements and evidence can demonstrate this then there should be no concern about the age gap.
It’s in applications where the evidence is lacking that the age difference will be questioned as well, amongst other things.
To throw another spanner in the works a court case last year or so actually stated that there didn’t need to be love between the couples for it to be called a relationship as defined by the Migration Act. A mutually caring and beneficial relationship has stood up to the test as well.
Ultimately, a case officer must take into consideration every piece of information and evidence when deciding on your partner visa application. The age difference (if any) is but one variable that the case officer needs to consider.
When deciding on a partner visa application, it’s a weighing of these considerations rather than a hard and fast rule that they can objectively measure up to.
That concludes this week’s Thursday Answers.
Until next time,
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