What is the change? Australia is poised to adopt a change to the definition of ‘member of the family unit’ such that children and stepchildren over the age of 23 and family members outside of the nuclear family will not meet application requirements to be granted a visa as a dependent visa applicant. Exceptions will be made for children or stepchildren of any age who are incapacitated to work. Provisions will be included to allow certain applicants’ current Australian visa status as a ‘member of the family unit’ to apply when they are already in Australia and are submitting a subsequent, related visa application.

What does the change mean? The changes will make it more difficult for primary visa applicants to bring children over the age of 23 and relatives who are not part of their nuclear family to Australia.

  • Implementation time frame: 19 November 2016.
  • Visas/permits affected: Most Australian visa subclasses. The definition of ‘member of the family unit’ for refugee, humanitarian and protection visas will effectively remain the same as the current regulatory provisions.
  • Who is affected: Australian visa holders, visa applicants and their family members.
  • Business impact: The change will make it more difficult for foreign nationals in Australia on a work visa to bring extended family members to Australia.

Background: Under current regulations, children over the age of 23 and members of a visa applicant’s extended family – including parent, brothers, sisters, grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, step-parents, step-brothers, step-sisters, step-grandparents, step-grandchildren, step-aunts, step-uncles, step-nieces and step-nephews – may be included in the definition of the ‘family unit’ for migration purposes (subject to other regulatory requirements) if they can show that they are wholly or substantially financially dependent on the family head and/or their spouse or de facto partner, for their basic living costs (i.e., basic food, shelter and living costs).

Under changes that take effect 19 November, the family unit will be limited, in most cases, to the primary applicant’s nuclear family – his or her spouse, de facto partner, children, step-children or the children of a de facto partner. Children over the age of 23 will also not be counted as members of the family unit unless they are incapable of financially supporting themselves owing to their being incapacitated for work because of a total or partial loss of their bodily or mental functions.

BAL Analysis: The exemptions described above will be provided, and, in many cases, a dependant’s status can be applied for in subsequent applications. On the whole, however, the new regulation will limit the types of relatives that a principal visa applicant can bring with him or her to Australia as a dependant.

This alert has been provided by BAL Australia. For additional information, please contact

MARN: 0850984

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