In what has been dubbed by the press a ‘tax on love’, the Australian government announced recently that effective January 1, 2015 all visa applications for anyone wishing to marry or set up a permanent relationship with a non-Australian citizen will be increasing by 50 per cent on average. This includes prospective marriage visas (subclass 300), unmarried partner (de facto) and spousal visas for married couples (subclass 309/820). The mid-year budget review included this in amongst other measures and it is believed that it will raise A$373.6 million over two years. The main changes in price are for offshore provisional and permanent partner and prospective marriage visas, which will all increase by over A$1,500 to A$4,627.50. Temporary and permanent partner visas lodged onshore will also increase from the current A$4,575 to A$6,865.50. The cost of the partner visa application, critics say, will mean that many Australian citizens and permanent residents who wish to marry non-residents will be forced to leave the country to avoid separation.
According to the Immigration Minister, Scott Morrison, this revenue is not intended to fund the government’s increased refugee intake in 2017-18. The A$140 million needed for that task, he said, would be found from other offsets at his disposal. Additional 2,500 places in 2017-18 and 5,000 places in 2019 will bring the total figure for refugee intake to 18,750. The Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) has been upgraded with a further A$32 million added to that budget, but A$96.5 million has been saved by putting on hold the building of a transit centre in Papua New Guinea which was intended as a holding centre for asylum seekers whose applications had failed. Those affected will continue to be placed in the Port Manus detention centre until they can be appropriately repatriated.
Whenever DIBP partner and marriage visa application fees are increased it is inevitable that people who are caught by the rise are put at a disadvantage, perhaps having saved for a long time to have the required money. It is also important to remember if applying for any of the Australian partner visas which are affected, that it is essential that all paperwork is present and correct before submitting the application to the appropriate Australian Embassy or DIBP processing centre in Australia. If there is a mistake, it may not be possible to correct it – the whole process must begin again and this includes a whole new set of fees being payable. This rise is larger than normal, but the DIBP budget is quite a complex one and the Australian government has gained a large number of critics for this latest move.
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