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Government urged to plug partner visa loopholes

Source: Getty Iamges

Calls have been made to plug the loopholes in Australia's partner visa program that are allegedly allowing misuse of the system.

An Indian couple was jailed last week for running a marriage visa scam, hooking up Indian men desperate to stay in Australia, with Australian women in 16 sham marriages.

Now, there are calls to plug loopholes in Australia’s partner visa program which lets nearly 50,000 people move to Australia every year.

Herald Sun reports that One Nation leader Pauline Hanson has called the partner visas “a scam” and that the “whole system is being abused.”

She said her constituents had raised concerns about foreign students marrying Australian citizens to obtain visas. She also said the loopholes in the system were allowing teenage women to be brought to Australia as “child brides”.

Dr Bob Birrell, head of The Australian Population Research Institute says Australia should require the sponsors and their partners to be at least a certain age and earn a minimum income to be able to sponsor their partners.

“The sponsored spouses or the sponsor make no contribution whatsoever to the cost of the public facilities they’re going to need once they get (to Australia).

“In other words, it’s a free ticket to enjoy our lifestyle, so it’s not surprising we are getting a very high number of applications, including about 8000 former foreign students every year who manage to find a sponsor,” Herald Sun quoted Dr Birrell as saying.

But, Emma Drynan- a migration agent, says the proportion of international students filing applications for partner visas is very low.

"There were 401,423 student visa holders alone in Australia at FYE 2016. If 8000 students lodged partner visas in that financial year that's effectively less than 2% lodging partner visas," she told SBS Punjabi. 

She says Pauline Hanson's comments about the program being exploited to bring 'child brides' into Austrlia is inaccurate, as an applicant has to be an adult in order to apply for a partner visa. 

Currently, Australia is giving 47,825 partner visas every year. Despite a significantly higher partner visa fee than comparable first-world countries, the Department of Immigration still having 70,000 applications waiting to be decided.

Due to the high number of partner visa applications, the department may take 12-18 months to process an application.

Emma says the process by the Department of Immigration is extremely rigorous and where the Department of Immigration do have concerns about the genuineness of an application the couple will be subject to further investigation.

"The recent conviction of the Brisbane couple who ran a fake marriage scam should be a reassurance that the right checks and balances are in place to ensure those involved in visa fraud are prosecuted," she said. 

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said the government has zero tolerance for visa fraud and can consider changes to eliminate the alleged misuse.

"We are open to looking at any sensible ideas that will help stamp out corruption,” Mr Dutton was quoted as saying.

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