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Partner visa applicants will now need basic English language competency, says Scott Morrison

Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks following a National Cabinet meeting on 18 September. Source: AAP

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said his government is introducing English language requirement for partner visa applicants to aid social cohesion and economic outcomes.

The prime minister said the decision was taken to ensure partners coming from abroad were able to independently access government services, medical services and seek help in dire circumstances such as when facing domestic violence at home.


  • PM Morrison: Basic English competency required
  • English will help partners to access government, medical services
  • Family Stream places have been increased from 47,732 to 77,300 places; with 72,300 allocated to the partner visas

PM Morrison in a press briefing with multicultural media on Wednesday morning said, “English is the vital tool for social and economic inclusion in Australia.

“Now I use to be an Immigration Minister and a Social Services Minister.

“And I am very aware that lack of English language skills, particularly amongst partners, has put many of those partners at risk in Australia.

“At risk of domestic violence, at risk of being abused in the workplace and having their rights overtaken, and the English language is absolutely critical to help people when they come to Australia to take the greatest opportunity of what Australia might then mean, and English is the passport for that to occur in Australia,” PM Morrison said.

Prime Minister at online Multicultural Media conference on October 7, 2020.
Prime Minister at online Multicultural Media conference on October 7, 2020.
SBS Hindi

The prime minister said lack of English language skills left migrants vulnerable and his government felt very strongly about this.

“I don’t want to see people who come to Australia to be vulnerable. And if your English language skills are not strong or either non-existent, then you will be more vulnerable in Australia from a negative point of view.

“And from a positive point of view, you won't be able to maximise life in Australia for you and your family. And that’s why we are encouraging that process,” he said.

Mr Morrison said partner visa applicant will need a basic English language competency unlike the competent English requirements set out for economic migrants.

He said the requirement will ensure partners who come from abroad are able to access government services, get medical treatment and are able to understand and participate in the parent-teacher meetings at school.

“It won't be what you did expect for economic migration. It is a much more basic level of English language competency,” he said.

Listen to what Scott Morrison said about partner visa:

Partner visa applicants will now need basic English language competency, says Scott Morrison
00:00 00:00

Indian couple wedding
A picture of an Indian couple
Getty Images

Major changes to partner visas

The government announced major changes to partner visa in the federal budget on Tuesday night.

  • Family Stream places have been increased from 47,732 to 77,300 places on a one-off basis for the 2020-21 Migration Program year.
  • 72,300 within the family stream visas have been allocated to Partner visas.
  • Onshore applicants will be prioritised.
  • Partner visa applicants where the relevant sponsor resides in a designated regional area will also be prioritised.
  • Mandatory character checks, personal information sharing of partner visa sponsors.
  • Sponsor will be subject to enforceable sponsorship obligations.

‘These changes will complement existing family violence provisions within the Partner visa program,’ the budget papers say.

Former deputy secretary of the Department of Immigration Abul Rizvi said the increase in allocation for partner visas was long due but he called out the government for introducing English language requirement.

“It is good the Government is at last acting to start clearing the backlog in partner visa applications. That backlog was been entirely of its own making through unlawful limits on the number of partner visas issued that started when Morrison was Immigration Minister,” Mr Rizvi told SBS Hindi.

“But the proposal to introduce English language requirements for both the sponsor and the applicant for partner visas is just an appalling bit of dog-whistling.

“Not since the White Australia policy (and the limits on same-sex marriage) has an Australian Government acted to interfere in the decisions of Australians about who they chose to marry,” he said.

Melbourne-based registered migration agent Rohit Mohan says the changes announced to partner visas will have a huge impact on applicants.

“Never before has English been a requirement for partner visas. This will be an additional challenge for applicants but an increase in the number of places is good news. There’s a huge backlog,” Mr Mohan told SBS Hindi.

He also feels the new sponsorship criteria which include mandatory background checks will be welcomed by the Indian community.

“We have seen many cases of family violence within the community where sometimes partners coming from abroad have no idea about their partners’ history in the country.

“Many have a hard time after coming here. These changes aim to address that issue and I believe it will be welcomed by the community,” he says.

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Disclaimer: We’d like to point out that the information contained in this segment is general and is not specific advice. If you would like accurate information relevant to your situation, you should consult a registered migration agent. 

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