Proposed Legislation to Tighten Family Sponsorship
By Mark Webster
Monday, 05 September 2016
Approval of Sponsorship Required Prior to Visa ApplicationWhilst it is not yet clear how this would be implemented, this could potentially mean that lodgement of a visa application could be delayed until a family sponsorship is approved. This may have a significant impact on those seeking to apply onshore where their current visa is due to expire soon. Currently, the sponsorship documentation is provided at the same time or after lodgement of the visa application. The proposed legislation would also allow for refusal of sponsorship status where there has been a history of family violence of abuse of the family sponsorship program.
Character Requirements for SponsorsCurrently, police clearances are required for sponsors only where a child under 18 years is included in the sponsorship. The proposed changes mean that sponsors will need to undertake full character checking and any criminal record could be shared with the visa applicant.
Sponsorship ObligationsCurrently, the undertakings for family sponsors are relatively moderate - in general to provide accommodation if required, to attend an interview and to notify Immigration if they withdraw their sponsorship. The proposed changes mean that formal sponsorship obligations will apply. If breached, this could result in cancellation of the sponsorship and possible penalties for the sponsor.
Whilst Visas will be Affected?Initially, the changes will apply to the partner visa program. The intention is that the changes will then be rolled out to other family sponsored visas. The Minister has expressed concern with the partner visa program in particular, indicating that sponsors have been targeted by non-genuine applicants, and that sponsors with a violent history have sponsored partners who have no idea of the sponsor's record.
ConclusionBecause the supporting regulations have not yet been published, we do not have full details of the proposed changes. However, the intention to tighten the sponsorship requirements is quite clear. The changes will mainly affect the following groups of people:
- Sponsors with criminal records or who have a record of sponsoring people in the past
- Applicants seeking to apply onshore and who have visas expiring shortly - due to the requirement to have the sponsorship approved prior to visa application