2024 Immigration and Partner Visa Updates

The start of a new financial year historically brings a slew of Partner Visa updates and changes to immigration legislation, policy, and costs. 1 July 2024 is no different. 

Change is in the waters, so now more than ever it’s important that you are getting accurate and up to date advice on your visa pathways.

Here are our key takeaways from all these changes that are relevant to couples and families we work with every day.

  • Fee increases (although nominal) have been implemented across the board. The new visa application charge for a partner or prospective marriage visa for the main applicant is $9095, if you are including any dependents over the age of 18 the new fee is $4550 and for each child under the age of 18 who applies a fee of $2280 will be payable.
  • Partner visa updates include new legislation with expanded pathways and eligibility for permanent residence for applicants where the relationship has broken down and they have experienced family violence or there is a child of the relationship or in cases where their sponsoring partner has died.
  • Visa hopping‘ is being put to and end. Changes have been made to student visa and graduate visa legislation to restrict onshore applications depending on your visa status and immigration history. 
  • An increase has been made to the cost threshold when assessing health conditions that are a significant cost from $51,000 to $86,000.
  • Further changes are expected to be implemented towards the end of 2024 across work sponsored visas and skilled pathways in line with the Migration Strategy.
  • Updates to visa conditions for sponsored visa holders to allow them more time to find a new sponsor, and ensure they can support themselves financially while they look for a new sponsor.

Prospective Marriage Visa and Partner Visa Updates

Australia continues to take steps forward in its response to issues surrounding family violence and has implemented legislative changes that offer greater support and protection to visa applicants who have experienced or are experiencing family violence. 

These new measures are focused on providing applicants who have applied for their visas offshore and subsequently entered Australia with access to Family Violence provisions that were previously only available to onshore applicants or those in Australia at the time of decision.

The new legislation will apply to all new visa applications submitted from 1 July 2024, as well as any visa applications that have been made prior to the commencement date but are not yet finally determined.

Expanded Eligibility for Relationship Cessation Provisions

Relationship cessation provisions apply to both the subclass 820/801 and subclass 309/100 visa and allow an application to be made and/or a visa to be granted when the relationship between the visa applicant and the sponsoring partner ended in one of three circumstances:

  • The sponsoring partner has died
  • There is a child of the relationship 
  • The visa applicant or a member of their family unit has experienced family violence

The new legislation provides improved and expanded access to these provisions:

  • Current and certain former subclass 300 visa holders will have access to the child of the relationship provision, allowing them to apply for a subclass 820/801 visa even where they have not married the sponsor.
  • The requirement for applicants to be in Australia at the time of decision for a subclass 309 visa where the visa is granted has been removed under relationship cessation provisions where there is a child of the relationship or in cases of death of the sponsor.
  • Subclass 309/100 visa application have access to family violence provisions if they have entered Australia at any time after lodgement of their visa.
  • The requirement for subclass 309 visa applicants to be sponsored has been removed if they meet the criteria for the visa to be granted under relationship cessation provisions.
  • Applicants will no longer have to demonstrate they have developed ties to Australia to be eligible to access death of the sponsor provisions.

Another welcome announcement:

  • Incorporation of the COVID-19 concessions that allowed Prospective Marriage visa applicants to be granted their visa whilst they are in Australia into the legislation permanently.

We continue to see changes in visa processing, notably, the timelines for the provisional partner visa for onshore applicants have slowed down significantly compared to this time last year, including those that are ‘front loaded’ with police checks and medicals.

We are also seeing greater scrutiny being applied to the supporting evidence of a relationship and a particular focus and emphasis being placed on the nature of the household and financial aspects of the relationship.

Changes to the Student and Graduate Visa Programs

On top of the 125% increase in the student visa application charge that took effect from 1 July 2024, we are seeing a significant increase in the processing times and rate of refusals, as Australia implements the new “Genuine Student” requirement which was implemented in March of this year. Students applying under the ELICOS or VET sectors are being most heavily impacted.

The latest data shows the grant rate for students applying under the vocational education and training sector is just 62.2%.

If you are waiting on the outcome of a student visa and are concerned it may be refused and you are in a relationship with an Australian, now might be the time to start exploring your options as lodging an application whilst you are the holder of a Bridging Visa or in cases where you have had your visa refused can have significant consequences on your prospects of success.

If you are someone who holds a tourist visa (600, 601 or 651) or a temporary graduate visa (485) and had planned to lodge a student visa in Australia, this is no longer an option. 

Additionally, graduate work visas are now only available to applicants who are 35 or younger. 

If you are nearing the end of your studies or even have just started but know you won’t meet the age cut off before your course is finished and you have an Australian partner, now is the time to start planning ahead to understand what options you do have available and start to put a plan in place.

Changes to Visa Conditions for Sponsored Work Visas

Welcome changes have been implemented for sponsored visa holders subject to condition 8107, 8607, or 8608 that provide greater flexibility to maintain employment even in cases where they cease work for the sponsoring employer. This is a common cause of concern where applicants have submitted a partner visa application, but still have a significant validity period remaining on their work visa. 

Now, visa holders will have up to 180 days to find a new sponsoring employer without the looming threat of visa cancellation, or the alternative of requesting voluntary cancellation in order to access a bridging visa with work rights. Visa holders will now be able to commence work with a new employer, and work in any job or occupation regardless of the sponsored position to support themselves financially where they have ceased work with their sponsoring employer.

Applicants who fall outside this 180 day period should seek independent legal advice on the options available to them.

Increase in the Significant Cost Threshold when Assessing Health Criteria

The new threshold for assessing significant costs when it comes to medical services or community services has been increased to $86,000 up from $51,000. This is a positive step forward. For example, if you are a person that requires biologic medication, you may no longer need to access to a health waiver. Common health conditions in this category include: Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and rheumatoid arthritis depending on the medication requirements and the severity of the condition. You should always seek independent advice based on your medical history.

About the Author Lucy Barry

Lucy has over 12 years experience working in the immigration law space starting as an administrator and becoming a Registered Migration Agent in 2016. She has been on a Partner Visa journey herself and understands first hand the challenges and frustrations couples experience going through the process. For her, there is no greater sense of satisfaction than knowing she has played a pivotal role in making her client’s Australian dream a reality.