Government Announces Further Info About Partner Visa Changes: English at PR stage, option for 500 hrs classes

The Australian government today announced further details about the shock changes to the Partner Visa program regarding adding English language testing. Acting Immigration Minister Alan Tudge has said that the English changes are intended to apply from the middle of 2021, and will be implemented at the second (permanent resident) stage of partner visa applications.

According to media reports Tudge stated today, “What this will mean is that we will require an applicant and a sponsor to have met functional level English or to have at least made reasonable efforts to lean English. And by reasonable efforts we mean for most people that would be doing about 500 hours of free English language classes.”

The announcement was met with relief by many in the community including migration practitioners, however the imposition of this additional requirement still remains a potential obstacle to migrants, especially those who may not be able to pass the required English test and who may for any number of reasons including family responsibilities, health, employment or other reasons be unable to progress through the English language classes. 

What remains unclear is whether there will be a “buy-out” available if applicants or their permanent resident sponsors are unable to provide evidence of functional English or take 500 hours of English language classes, with one major Sydney newspaper publishing a story yesterday that seemed to indicate that partner visas would be refused if the English language requirements could not be met.

It is also unclear at the moment whether exemptions will be made for people who hold certain passports from English-speaking countries or have had a specified level of English education in other countries, whether disadvantaged applicants such as victims of family violence will be held to the same English requirement, and how situations will be handled when an applicant passes the English requirement but the sponsor does not. 

Immigration Law News will provide continuing coverage of the changes in immigration policy and requirements as they develop.