Peter Dutton, Minister for Immigration and Border Protection introduced a new bill into Parliament on Wednesday 16 March 2016 called the Migration Amendment (Family Violence and Other Measures) Bill 2016.
The purposes of this bill is to fill up a few gaps in the system and to ensure that only truly appropriate people can sponsor Australian partner visa applicants.
Current responsibilities of visa sponsors
Australian Partner Visas (partner visas, spouse visas, de facto visas, fiancé visas, prospective marriage visas, etc) require sponsorship by an Australian Citizen, Permanent Resident or Eligible New Zealand Citizen. And right now they sign the following as part of the visa application process:
For sponsors of a Prospective Marriage visa applicant:
I agree to accept responsibility for:
• all financial obligations to the Commonwealth incurred by my fiancé(e) arising from their stay in Australia;
• my fiancé(e)’s compliance with all relevant legislation and awards in relation to any employment they enter into in Australia;
• my fiancé(e)’s compliance with the conditions of their Prospective Marriage visa.
For sponsors of a Partner visa applicant:
I agree to assist my partner, to the extent necessary:
• in relation to accommodation in the first 2 years immediately after their Partner visa is granted (if they were granted the visa in Australia) or their first entry to Australia as a holder of the Partner visa (if they were granted the visa outside Australia).
The issue with the above is that it’s currently not legally enforceable. The sponsors heartily sign away, but there is no legislative “clout” if the lady gets left in a heap, with no legal comeback on a sponsor who fails to meet these undertakings. So a part of the bill is to in fact elevate these undertakings to legal obligations. So sponsors of visa applicants will need to be prepared to meet all of the above. And there will be penalties for those who don’t.
The Department of Immigration and Border Propection (DIBP) have had compulsory police checks through the Australian Federal Police (AFP) for those who sponsor child applicants under 18 for about 6 years now, I think. No client has ever objected to this in Down Under Visa’s history. And I don’t think any decent man would object to any of the above either. A gentleman would do it anyway, and only a total mug would fail to support his wife or fiancée.
The other issue – safety from domestic violence
The legislation as it is now prevents sponsorship of KIDS where the prospective sponsor has a history of sexual and/or violent offenses against kids. But only kids! The new bill if it passes shall:
• allow the minister to refuse a sponsorship application; and cancel and/or bar a family sponsor where inappropriate use of the program or serious offences are detected —especially those involving family violence; and
• improve the sharing of personal information between parties identified in the sponsorship application and the program more generally.
As it is now? A man with convictions for domestic violence can sponsor a vulnerable lady with poor language skills and a lack of a support network in Australia. And a sponsor can hide things very easily if the questions simply are not asked. Right now there is no obligation for a sponsor to get police checks, and there are no questions on the paper on online electronic application forms about criminal histories whatsoever. No one asks.
I do NOT believe this will apply to AVO’s (Apprehended Violence Orders) or restraining orders. I’m not qualified to give legal advice about these matters, but my understanding is that an AVO is not a conviction. If you breach the conditions of an AVO you may be charged with an offense, but it’s up to a judge whether you are convicted or not.
What will this all mean to partner visa applicants and sponsors?
Nothing is spelled out yet, because the bill hasn’t gone through. But it could be expected to entail:
• Enforcement of sponsors responsibilities to provide support to visa holders whilst holding prospective marriage visas and for the first two years of holding a partner visa
• Compulsory National Police Clearances from the AFP (Australian Federal Police) for all sponsors
• Specific questions on forms about previous convictions for domestic violence and maybe violence in general, and most likely pending cases as well
• Disclosure of this information to visa applicants so they know what they are getting into
• And no doubt barring of some high-risk people from sponsoring partner visa applicants
Interesting times ahead! Please note that we do not have any information additional to what’s written above right now, so please don’t email and ask “What if…….?“, because I won’t be able to answer you. Down Under Visa will keep you posted of developments in Canberra.