Immigration

Australia's 'broken' family and partner visa system to be examined in a Senate inquiry

Deputy Greens leader Nick McKim says it's crucial that issues within the family reunion visa system are examined. Source: AAP

The wide-ranging inquiry will focus on partner visas, delays, discrimination and broader issues affecting hundreds of thousands of Australians.

Australia's family reunion visa system will be examined in a Senate inquiry, after a Greens-initiated motion won the support of the chamber on Tuesday. 

The wide-ranging inquiry will focus on partner visas, delays, discrimination and broader issues in the family visa program.

Deputy Greens leader Nick McKim, who has been pushing for an overhaul of the family visa system, said it's crucial that issues within the current system are examined.

“Our family reunion visa system is broken, and is letting down so many people who have made their lives in Australia,” Senator McKim said.

“There are decades-long waiting lists, exorbitant fees and a complex process that means too many people are being kept apart from their loved ones.

“Some categories of family reunion visas have waiting times of 50 years, which is simply absurd."

Senator McKim said issues with the current system need to examined in-depth to make it "fairer, more affordable and far more timely". 

The inquiry will be conducted through the Legal and Constitutional References Committee.

Labor has also pushed for the inquiry, with MP Julian Hill saying the family and partner visa program has taken a toll on many Australians.

"Hundreds of thousands of Australian families are distraught at the Liberals' mismanagement of the family and partner visa program," Mr Hill told SBS News earlier on Tuesday. 

"Nearly 100,000 people are desperately waiting for a visa for their partner, many separated for years with no hope in sight." 

The push for the overhaul came as Australia's migration program was rocked by the coronavirus pandemic, which the Department of Home Affairs says has impacted visa processing. 

Offshore granting requirements have attracted particular scrutiny.

Until recently, family and partner visa applicants had to leave the country when their visa was granted in order for it to be approved.

The federal government has since introduced travel concessions - and "intended" start dates from this Saturday - so that applicants no longer have to travel aboard during the pandemic to have their visa granted. 

But Mr Hill said the government's "cruel delays" and "maladministration" extended beyond the pandemic.

"Scott Morrison pretends the delays are due to COVID-19, but that's nonsense - this mess has been years in the making," he said. 

"The system is broken." 

Mr Hill encouraged every Australian who has been caught up in the family and partner visa system to make a submission. 

“This Labor-dominated Senate inquiry ...  will be a chance to shine light into Peter Dutton’s black hole, the Department of Home Affairs, and expose the Liberals’ illegal delays and maladministration," he said. 

The Department of Home Affairs has been contacted for comment. 

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