The positive change in the new migration program year is an increase in partner visa allocations from 47,000 to 72,300. Priority is given to onshore applicants or for sponsors who live in designated regional areas. One of the positive outcomes of increased allocations is faster processing times. While the increase in the number of partner visas offered in the new year is welcomed, other announced changes may impede the plans of prospective partner visa applicants.
English Language Requirement
Of the changes announced, the most controversial is the new requirement for prospective Partner Visa applicants and sponsors to demonstrate Functional level English or show genuine efforts to learn English.
According to Acting Immigration Minister Alan Tudge, the aim of the new English language requirement is to ensure new migrants have a certain level of English skills to be able to participate in Australian society and secure a job once they are in Australia. The Australian Government anticipates that the risk of becoming vulnerable in Australia is reduced if migrants possess English language skills. Examples of such risks are risk of domestic violence, risk of being abused in the workplace and having their rights overtaken.
It is expected that the English language requirement will be implemented in late 2021. The changes are likely to affect those applying for the second-stage permanent residency application (subclass 801 or 100 visas).
An alternative for migrants who are unable to achieve the required level of English is to show reasonable attempts at learning English. This may be demonstrated by completing 500 hours of free English classes through the Adult Migration English Program.
In addition, there will now be a separate ‘sponsorship fee’ of AUD $420.00 in addition to the visa application charge of AUD $7,715.00.
The addition of the sponsorship fee is likely to mean that the Australian Government will soon require sponsors to be approved before partner visa applications can be lodged. If implemented, the partner visa application process will be delayed and can become costly.
These changes were initially announced in 2018 and are likely to be implemented in the near future. Read more about the 2018 announcements in our article here.
The introduction of an English language requirement for partner visa applications is reminiscent of the White Australia Policy from 1901. The White Australia Policy comprises of policies that had the effect of barring those from non-European background from migrating to Australia. While the White Australia Policy was progressively dismantled from 1951 to 1974, we fear that the new changes to partner visas has the same effects as the White Australia Policy and penalises people from non-English speaking backgrounds.
The Australian Government have made these changes on the background of improving employment opportunities and integration into Australian society however these changes places migrants from non-English speaking countries at a disadvantage compared to other migrants from western countries such as the UK, USA and Canada.
While the attendance at English classes is offered as an alternative to taking an English test, the requirement of at least 500 hours of English classes is unrealistic. Migrants with commitments such as children and/or employment, may struggle to attend 500 hours of classes.
We condemn any policies that discriminate against those from non-English speaking backgrounds.
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