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Law Council of Australia

Federal Dispute Resolution Section

Reforms to Partner Visa Programs

The submission to the Department of Home Affairs in response to reforms to Partner Visa Program was prepared by the Migration Law Committee of the Federal Litigation and Dispute Resolution Section.

The committee supports the Australian Government’s intent to implement reforms to strengthen the integration of applicants into the community, support vulnerable applicants and give them an opportunity to successfully interact in the community.

However, the committee is of the view that functional English as currently defined in the visa context does not achieve the desired outcomes of social cohesion. That is, functional English as defined by the current framework is not “functional” in the everyday sense of the word. Nor does the committee support sponsors having to undertake English tests – that does not appear to serve any overarching purpose, given that sponsors must be permanent residents or eligible New Zealand citizens.

If functional English were nevertheless imposed as the requisite standard, the majority of visa applicants who do not speak English (especially those who fall within the vulnerable applicant category targeted by this change) would be unable to meet the standard within the required timeframe and would be relying on the "reasonable efforts" clause.

The committee is of the view that there should be clear policy direction on what constitutes “reasonable efforts” as an alternative to functional English. An emphasis on the Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP) is desirable, particularly in light of the new program focussing not only on English language but also on cultural and legal principles, such as workplace laws, discrimination and family violence, and providing a superior integration tool rather than a simple English test.

You can read the full submission below.


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