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Is Australian government ripping off its citizens with partner visa?

Source: Public Domain

If you’re an Australian citizen, planning to marry a person who isn’t an Australian citizen, be prepared to shell out hefty partner visa fees.

A partner visa in 2016 comes with a hefty $6,865 application fee, one of the highest in the world.

“If you are choosing to bring your spouse from India, you also have to factor in the partnership visa cost besides your wedding expenses,” says Hitesh*, who spent almost $8,000 to bring his wife, Hetal* to Melbourne, after getting married in 2014.

Hetal also had to deal with a long waiting period of 11 months before her partnership visa was granted. “We paid $6,865 for the visa. Before the application, we had to pay the fees for the medical test and police verification. And we knew that if the application is rejected, the fees are non-refundable. So we hired a migration agent for all the paperwork which cost us additional money. And if you include the flight cost from India to Australia, the total bill is $8,200,” Hitesh explains.

The couple skipped their honeymoon to pay for these visa costs.

The UK charges less than half for an equivalent visa – $2,428 AUD – and the US charges less than a third – $1,477 AUD.

Five years ago the application fee was just $1,735. The steepest price-rise was announced in December 2014 under the Abbott government, but that already followed a series of significant increases.

Migration agent Zeke Bentley from The Migration Place told SBS that partner visa fee has risen faster than any of the other fees. “They’ve all been going up, but nowhere near this particular one” he told SBS.

“If there’s any place where they shouldn’t be trying to gouge out an immigration fee, it’s when an Australian wants their loved one to live here,” he said. “It affects an Australian’s right to be with their partner… they’re taking advantage of people’s relationships,” Mr Bentley says.

One of the most common resentment though is the long waiting period inspite of bearing the huge cost. Waiting period has increased to 12 months or more.

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) told SBS that it aims to finalise 75 per cent of visas within one year of application, but they sometimes run out of visas.

"Strong demand for partner visas, in excess of the number of places available in a programme year, has led to processing times exceeding the service standard in some cases," a spokesperson said.

The department told us applicants are able to access Medicare benefits as soon as they apply, and in "most cases" permission to work in Australia was also granted, when it is applied for.