Prime Minister Scott Morrison says the new English language requirement for partner visa applicants and their permanent resident sponsors announced as part of the Federal Budget will be a ‘basic language competency test’ aimed at enabling migrants to get the best out of life in Australia.
In an unanticipated move, a "shocker" in the Morrison Government’s Budget announced an English language requirement for partner visa applicants and their permanent resident sponsors.
Clarifying how this may impact Australians and their partners, Prime Minister Scott Morrison today said that test will need applicants to prove their basic language ability- a lot less competency that is expected out of skilled migration applicants.
It isn’t what you’d expect for economic migration- PM
- PM Scott Morrison says government will test basic language competency for partner visa applicants
- Onshore applicants and partner visa applicants will be given priority
- 'English language requirement for partner category is the most shocking move,' say migration agents
Addressing the multicultural media during a press conference earlier today, Mr Morrison said the English language policy requirement is aimed at promoting social and economic inclusion of partners of permanent resident sponsors.
“It’s a much more basic level of English language competency and we think this is important to just enable people to engage to access government services, for example, to engage with those who are seeking to assist to access and get the best possible medical treatment to understand what teachers are saying at school at parent-teacher conferences, to understand their rights,” he said.
The new policy has drawn flack from the Opposition who have questioned the government how the language test will be relevant to the decision of who Australians choose to marry.
Criticising the move, Labor MP Julian Hill took to Twitter saying "buried deep in the Budget Papers is this nasty, effectively racist measure that will destroy the love and relationships of thousands of Australians."
When questioned about the rationale behind introducing a language barometer for partner visa applicants, Mr Morrison said the move is an important step towards empowering new migrants and to protect them from domestic abuse and work exploitation.
“I am aware that a 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 their workplace and having their rights overtaken.
“The English language is absolutely critical to help people when they come to Australia to take the greatest opportunity of what life in Australia can mean,” said the prime minister.
‘Shocking and unjustified’
Calling it the most shocking budget in the modern history for migration, Melbourne-based migration agent Navjot Kailay said while he awaits further policy disclosure from the government, a functional language condition for partner visa category would jeopardise the plans of many Australians planning to bring their partners to live in the country permanently.
This is the most shocking budget outcome for migration in years and keeping a language condition on partner visa applicants is completely unjustified
“Assuming that they keep a functional language test requirement for applicants like in other skilled categories, applicants have an option to pay $4890 as the second visa application charge (VAC2). Now if that comes in place, this would mean an additional financial burden on applicants and sponsors on top of the $7715 base fee they pay for partner visa applications – making it the most expensive partner visa in the world,” he said.
In another important development, the government has also allocated an additional 30,000 places to partner visa category signalling its intention to clear the “frustrating” application backlog that has left at least a 100,000 Australians in limbo as they wait for approvals.
The budget also reveals that partner applicants where the sponsors live outside major cities will be given a priority- which Mr Kailay said would inadvertently push settled permanent residents to move towards regional areas.
“But the question is are regional areas equipped to handle this influx of permanent residents who will now be looking to move towards regional areas because they know their application will be prioritised,” he said.
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