Australia’s partnership visa process is putting significant stress on international relationships, or causing couples to give up altogether.
Partnership visa fees have increased almost 400 per cent in the last five years, currently sitting at $6,865 –significantly higher than the fees in comparable first-world countries. There are other costs as well, for police checks, health checks and immigration agents.
Processing times of over a year are not uncommon, leaving tens of thousands of couples in limbo.
A report released yesterday by the Australian Productivity Commission notes that the high visa charges could risk Australians leaving the country altogether in order to be with their overseas partners.
Figures sourced from the Department of Immigration and Border Protection.
The fees have generated hundreds of millions of dollars in government revenue, but there appears to be little other justification for them.
The Productivity Commission says there appeared to be no systematic approach to the way visa charges are set.
When we asked the Immigration Minister’s office about the high fees earlier this year, they justified the cost by pointing to social services such as HECS and Medicare that partners become eligible for.
But the Minister’s own department contradicted that reasoning, stating that immigrants on the partnership visa program pay more in tax than they use in services.
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In 2008 an Immigration Department commissioned report showed the government was making a net profit from the visa stream. Back then the fee was just $1,390.
According to numerous reports the government has commissioned, foreign partners tend to have a net positive impact on the federal budget and are more likely to work than natural-born Australians, despite initially being paid less than Australian counterparts.
A report commissioned by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection in 2008 shows partnership visa holders have a net positive impact on the budget.
The fee is a particularly heavy burden for young couples, which make up the majority of applicants. Approximately 56 per cent of partners applying for the visa are younger than 35.
While the latest Productivity Commission report recommends a substantial rise in parent visa fees, it explicitly states there should be no change to partnership and dependent child visa fees.
For many couples, that recommendation comes too late, leaving them feeling like their lives are on hold.
Courtesy of Migration Alliance