Proposed changes to Australian partner migration with regard to victims of abuse

Published: 18/06/2012

Partners suffering abuse can find it difficult to tell people. This becomes increasingly complicated with regard to Australian partner migration. In the past people on a temporary partner visa have had to supply multiple statutory declarations in order to report spousal abuse and stay in Australia on a permanent basis. In recent times there have been moves to change this.
With the proposed changes to the spousal/partner visa application process, this red tape will be cut. Partners on temporary visas who report abuse would no longer have to supply multiple statutory statements. Minister of immigration Chris Bowen feels that this is important “The current process of obtaining statutory declarations with a set of technical requirements can be difficult for some victims.”
This was then followed by a statement by the Minister for the Status of Women Julie Collins “These measures will make a real difference to the lives of women who have experienced the trauma of temporary violence.”
One example of a temporary partner visa that would be affected would be the subclass 309/820 provisional visa. This visa allows a foreign national to enter Australia due to their relationship with an Australian citizen or lawful permanent resident. Provisional visa holders are initially allowed to stay in Australia for two years. Once the two-year probationary period has passed, temporary partner visa holders are required to apply for a permanent partner visa to stay in Australia on an indefinite basis.
It is very clearly stated in the Relationship breakdown (MIA Section 4.0) that “Safeguards are available to visa holders or even applicants who have suffered family violence at the hands of their Australian partner. They should not feel that they must remain in an abusive relationship when they may be able to retain their visa status despite the breakdown of the relationship due to family violence.”
However, while there are safeguards currently in place at present there are rules in place. Family violence is defined as “the threat of violence” and is said to have been committed if “a court order has been made an appropriate order under the Family Law Act and an apprehended violence order under State or territory law”.
This is also the case if a court has convicted the sponsor who has abused the visa applicant. Equally the two partners involved in a partner visa or marriage visa application may make a joint statement stating that an act of abuse has occurred. There is also the evidence that needs to be provided.
Applicable evidence includes “a statutory declaration of a competent person (medical practitioner, psychologist, social worker…) confirming that violence has occurred” and “a police record of assault or further statutory declaration from a competent person.”
There have been precedents with regard to changes with rules regarding partner abuse. One case in 2003 ruled there had to be proof of physical violence or the threat of physical violence. However following a case in 2005 it was ruled that the definition of abuse could be extended to psychological or emotional violence.
Under the proposed changes the amount of statements required would almost certainly be reduced. Given that a lot of people in abusive relationships are often intimidated and find it difficult to report the crime it is likely they would be put off by having to do this a number of times.
The new changes to the marriage visa application process are set to be implemented on November 24, 2012. This will mean that any additional evidence that an applicant supplies will be considered in addition to the current statutory declarations.
If you are concerned about how these changes will affect your visa application to stay in Australia, please contact our team of professional migration agents for the latest information on the rules changes.

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