Under current arrangements there are no separate provisions in Australian Migration law under which a person can apply and be approved as a sponsor for partner visa. A prospective sponsor just needs to fill out a sponsorship application form, which is submitted to the Department together with a partner visa application. There is no separate sponsorship approval process and the sponsor and the visa applicants are treated as joint parties to the same application. However, the existing process may leave vulnerable visa applicants and sponsors at risk of family violence and non-genuine relationship.
- The undertaking to assist the visa applicant financially and in relation to accommodation can be used by abusive sponsors to control vulnerable visa applicants
- The information about the sponsor’s violent past cannot be shared with the visa applicant and cannot be used as a consideration for visa application refusal
- The visa application has to be submitted and visa application charge paid before the sponsor assessment can be made
- The risk that some gullible Australian sponsors may be targeted by non-genuine visa applicants who just want a permanent visa outcome
- The family violence provisions allow applicants to reside in Australia and apply for permanent visa after the breakdown of married or de facto relationship, if they or a member of their family have experienced family violence by their partner
- A sponsor who has previously sponsored a partner or prospective marriage visa applicant cannot sponsor another applicant until at least five years have passed
- A person may sponsor only two partner or prospective marriage visa applicants in total
On 28 November 2018 the Australian Parliament passed the Migration Amendment (Family Violence and Other Measures) Bill 2018 that provides a new sponsorship framework which:
- separates sponsorship assessment from the visa application process
- requires the approval of persons as family sponsors before any relevant visa applications are made
- imposes statutory obligations on persons who are or were approved as family sponsors and provides for enforceable sanctions
- allows to refuse or cancel sponsorship applications and to bar a family sponsor where inappropriate use of the program or serious offences are detected
- improves the sharing of personal information between the sponsor and the applicant
The separate sponsorship framework was first introduced in the new Sponsored Parent visa and was scheduled to apply to all family visas from 17 April 2019. However, further regulations and changes are needed in order for this to occur. At this stage, there is no set time when the new sponsorship requirements will apply to other family visas. The current arrangements for existing visas, including partner visas, will continue to operate until further notice.
In 2017-2018 Partner visas made up more than 80% per cent of the Family migration program and had an outcome of 39,799 places. Out of the total number of places, 21,364 were granted to applicants that were outside Australia and the rest to onshore applicants. The number of allocated places for Partner visas in 2019-2020 is expected to remain the same.
The primary intention of the sponsorship framework is to reduce the risk of family violence that Partner visa applicants and their children may be exposed to by the sponsors. An additional objective is to improve the sharing of personal information so that both parties can make fully informed decisions prior to the visa application process. Another important purpose of the changes is to avoid the situation where a Partner visa is refused because of concerns about the sponsor.
When the new framework is applied to Partner visas, the main effects will be as follows:
- The sponsorship will need to be approved before a Partner visa application is lodged
- The sponsorship approval may affect onshore applicants whose current visa is near expiry
- All sponsors will be required to provide police checks and the results will be shared with applicants
- A sponsorship application by a person with a substantial criminal record must be refused
- Some sponsors may be barred from sponsoring a partner
- Further delays in the Partner visa processing time due to a separate sponsorship approval process