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Upcoming Partner Visa Changes: Separate Sponsor Application, 3-Year Provisional Partner Visa

The Department of Immigration & Border Protection (DIBP) has indicated that upcoming changes to the partner visa program will include requiring sponsors to lodge and be approved for sponsorship before their partners can lodge a partner visa application and increasing the time required on provisional partner visas from 2 years to 3 years. It is expected that the sponsor application will attract an additional application fee.

The changes to the partner visa program have not been formally announced and no date has been given for implementation of the new planned changes, and it is unknown what the financial ramifications of the changes may be. DIBP indicated that they currently have approximately 88,000 partner visas pending in the onshore pipeline, and partner visa application times for first and second stage partner visa applications have increased dramatically over the last 12 months with the implementation of additional character requirements for sponsors.

Grant rates for partner visas are noted at 81% for subclass 820 (compared to 84% last year), 75% for subclass 801 (compared to 78% last year) and 92% for subclass 100. Current schedule 3 affected cases are at 650 compared to 750 last year. The top countries of citizenship for applicants are China, Philippines and Vietnam.

DIBP also noted that when Natural Justice letters are issued to applicants under section 56 of the Migration Act 1958 and an applicant makes a Freedom of Information request to get a copy of their file from DIBP, DIBP is not required to wait for the FOI request to be completed before making a decision on the partner visa. This is of concern to some applicants and agents as the time to process FOI requests has increased substantially over the last 12 months and it can now take several months for FOI requests to be processed by DIBP.

Onshore Partner Visa Processing Time

Finally recognising the need to reduce the ever-increasing delays in processing times, the onshore Partner Visa management section of the DIBP recently decided to depart from the usual chronological method of assessing applicants by month of lodgement and favour Partner applications which are potentially of the highest quality and lowest risk.

In other words, priority will now be given  for onshore Partner visa applications to low-risk applicants and those regarded by DIBP as fully front-end loaded with documentation that immediately satisfies Partner criteria.

Currently average processing times for most Temporary Partner and Permanent applications are currently between 16-23 months from date of lodgement (s/c 820) and from date of eligibility (s/c 801/100).

The assistance of migration professionals is imperative if your circumstances require a faster processing time for your onshore Partner Visa application; for instance if you no longer wish to comply with more onerous visa conditions like the ones attached to a Student visa or a 457 visa.

Our expertise will ensure that present DIBP requirements are complied with and your onshore Partner Visa application will be decision ready when the time comes for assessment.