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English Language requirements for Australian partner visas

 

I think most of you have heard the news about the English Language requirement which will be applied to Australian Partner Visa applications. Many of you are going to worry about whether your lady from Philippines or other Asian countries is going to be able to make it. 

And yes, understandably a scary prospect when you have a Filipina wife or fiancee. Filipinos learn English at school. It’s one of the two national languages in Philippines. Tagalog first, English second. All subjects at school, other than Filipino and Araling Panlipunan, are taught in English. Street signs are in English. “Kelloggs Cornflakes” are not labelled as “Kelloggs Mga Natuklap Na Mais”! 

However, we all know that our Filipina ladies (or Filipino gentlemen) are not always smooth-as-silk with English communication. When they mix up the he’s and she’s, or when they say “My brother, he is borrowing to me some money”, it’s obvious.

Hence the anxiety about changes to partner visa requirements and standards!

Well, I have good news!

 

English Language Requirements – Not so bad!

 

Timeframe

 

This won’t come into effect until the middle of 2021. So no panic.

 

Functional English only

 

They are only requiring English skills to be at a “functional” level. For those of you who are familiar with IELTS (International English Language Testing System) it means they expect a score of 4.5.

This means a fairly minimal understanding of English. It means basically you can go down to the shops by yourself and can manage very basic communication. You can order a coffee in a cafe. You can ask for a loaf of bread in a store. You could tell the police that your husband is beating you. Not much more than that.

I hope you all see my point? It’s not a scary advanced English requirement. They have said that it’s intended to ensure a reasonable level of assimilation into Australian society. It means that a controlling husband can’t hide his wife away from help if she needs it. I don’t know statistics on this, but no doubt this is an issue in some communities. Australian Filipina couples? I suspect not, however it will become a blanket standard and will be no getting around it.

 

500 hours of free English classes

 

There will be free English classes up to 500 hours available to partner visa applicants. That’s actually quite a lot! 10 hours a week over a whole year! 

 

Won’t be assessed until the permanent partner visa stage

 

Yes, this is not a “can’t enter the country unless……” thing. Your girl right now could be inside Australia with dreadful English. She won’t be required to demonstrate functional English until she’s looking at the permanent stage of the Partner Visa application, ie the Subclass 801 or the Subclass 100. 

By this stage, she should have spent 2 years or more inside Australia. If she’s not been locked inside a cave, and especially if she’s availed herself of 500 hours of English classes, she should romp it it with no problems at all!

 

Some practical thoughts…

 

Main issue with English, just like any other language, is that you must USE it! Most Filipinos speak better English than they let on. They feel shy in front of native English speakers and worry you may laugh at them if they make grammatical errors. And yes, whilst they all learn English at school, once they step out of the classroom they revert to Tagalog or whatever their regional dialect is. So whilst they are way ahead of, say, the Chinese, it’s still a little awkward. 

And strong hint, fellas! If you spoke Oxford English then your lady would understand you better. The Aussie mumble/drawl, it’s a bit of a challenge! Practice enunciating clearly, or you’ll find she’ll be nodding away politely but being clueless about what you actually said!

So ensure that the visa applicant USES English!

I’ve known Filipinas who are married to Filipinos, who’ve worked with other Filipinas, watched the Filipino Channel on TV, and socialised with other Filipinos almost exclusively. Not much change takes place!

Remember that this is not about robbing anyone of their culture or heritage. No one ever forgets their native language. But you will help her if you encourage English communication as much as possible. We did this with our daughter Remy (now our office manager, by the way) when she came to Australia at 9 years old. Even her mum only spoke to her in English. Result? Perfect English in no time. Aussie accent you could cut with a knife after about 4 months! Was she robbed of her culture? Not at all! It meant she could fit in and understand her new home. She didn’t get laughed-at when she went to school. She didn’t float around in a fog! 

USE the English language, and it will become very natural in a short spate of time. And none of this will ever be an issue for you.

 

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Jeff Harvie is a Registered Migration Agent from Australia, but resident in Philippines since 2010 with his Filipina wife Mila and large extended family. Experienced with the Philippines culture, cross-cultural relationships and bureaucracy as well as Australian visas and Australian Migration Law, he writes with authority and fortunately with enough informality and humour that the average Aussie gets it! Down Under Visa specialises in visas for Australians in relationships with ladies and gents from Philippines, Thailand, China and Vietnam. Read MORE
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2 Comments

  1. Bill In Oz

    Jeff this is great advice.
    One of the things which has emerged clearly over the past 7 months is that it’s very very hard for folks with no or poor English to understand & and abide by the rules and regulations we now have to prevent the spread of Covid 19.

    Time & time again outbreaks have been traced back to migrant individuals and families who did not know or understand the rules .

    I suspect that this new rule for partners visa is a response to this problem. And will be accompanied by toughening up the English language requirements for all migration visas and student visas as well

    Reply
    • Jeff Harvie

      I think it’s about domestic violence, Bill. And ensuring that all new Australians are able to at least function in society. Being able to go to the shops and buy things. Being able to discuss basic issues with school teachers. Being able to report an issue to the police. Filipinos ALL speak functional English (even if they claim they don’t), but this is aimed at all migrants from all countries.

      Reply

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