Budget 2020-21: Major Changes For Partner VIsas

The Australian government tonight released some detail into its immigration planning for 2020-201 with family visas, employer sponsored visas and business and investment visas the clear winners in terms of priorities among the 160,000 places, however the addition of English requirements for partner visa applicants and sponsors and increased sponsorship requirements and obligations to partner visas threatens to dramatically change the partner visa program.

Highlights from the budget papers text regarding immigration:

Partner Visa Changes

The Government will apply the family sponsorship framework to Partner visas which will mandate character checks and the sharing of personal information as part of a mandatory sponsorship application, and subject the sponsor to enforceable sponsorship obligations. These changes will complement existing family violence provisions within the Partner visa program.


The Government will introduce English language requirements for Partner visa applicants and their permanent resident sponsors. These changes will help support English language acquisition and enhance social cohesion and economic participation outcomes.

Overall Migration Program Planning Levels

The Government will maintain the 2020-21 Migration Program planning level at 160,000. Family Stream places will increase from 47,732 to 77,300 places on a one-off basis for the 2020-21 Migration Program year, and Employer Sponsored, Global Talent, Business Innovation and Investment Program visas will be prioritised within the Skilled Stream. Onshore visa applicants and Partner visa applicants where the relevant sponsor resides in a designated regional area will also be prioritised for the 2020-21 Migration Program.

COVID-19 Related Visa Application Refunds

Prospective Marriage, Pacific Labour Scheme and Seasonal Worker Programme visa holders will be able to access a VAC refund. Temporary skilled workers and visitor visa holders will be eligible to have the VAC for a subsequent visa application waived, to allow them to return to Australia once travel restrictions are lifted. Working holiday makers will be eligible to have the VAC for a subsequent visa application waived, to allow them to return to Australia once travel restrictions are lifted or otherwise be able to access a VAC refund.

Business and Investment Visa Changes

From 1 July 2021, the Government will streamline and improve the operation of the Business Innovation and Investment Program (BIIP). The Government will introduce changes to improve the quality of investments and applicants. Visa application charges for BIIP visas will also be increased by an additional 11.3 per cent (above regular CPI indexation) on 1 July 2021.