A prospective change to partner visa requirements is continuing to garner criticism since first announced in Tuesday’s federal budget.
The English language requirement is set to be introduced for visa applicants in the partner category and their permanent resident sponsors from late 2021, with the Morrison government saying the measure aims to increase economic participation for new migrants.
“These changes will help support English language acquisition and enhance social cohesion and economic participation outcomes,” reads an excerpt from the budget papers, missing however further specifications about the test.
“We will require an applicant and a sponsor to have met functional level English or to have at least made reasonable efforts to learn English,” Acting Immigration Minister Alan Tudge said this week.
If English language proficiency cannot be proved, as “reasonable efforts to learn” would constitute an applicant undertaking 500 hours of free lessons provided by the government.
And while Mr Tudge has responded to criticisms of the requirement as ‘discriminatory’, saying non-English speaking applicants won’t be blocked from obtaining the visa, Labor contends no explanation has been provided on what happens if an applicant fails the test.
Concerns have also been expressed for the requirement as an inhibiting factor for migrants’ integration.
“The function of partner visas is to unite Australians with their families and facilitate spouses’ fundamental roles in supporting everyday locals; these requirements will make this harder and only burden Australians,” says Peter Doukas OAM, Chair of The Ethnic Communities’ Council of New South Wales (ECC NSW).
“[…]telling a partner that they can’t stay if they don’t reach a certain standard will only make it harder for willing prospective citizens to acclimatise to life in Australia,” Mr Doukas claims while describing the proposed measure an “added burden” that will lead to “undermining rather than bolstering local families.”
The test requirement also applies to an applicant’s spouse if they hold permanent residency instead of Australian citizenship, prompting the ECC NSW’s to the Federal Government for “delineating English proficiency required by both applicants and their sponsors.”