What is the change? The Australian Government has introduced a bill to the Federal Parliament that would make it more cumbersome for Australian citizens and permanent residents to sponsor family members on visas.

What does the change mean? Among other changes, the bill, if passed, would introduce character checks for all sponsors of family visa applicants and require approval of family sponsors before relevant visa applications can be lodged.

  • Implementation time frame: Ongoing. The bill was introduced 1 September.
  • Visa/permits affected: Sponsored family visas.
  • Who is affected: Sponsors of family visa applications.
  • Impact on processing times: The changes could potentially slow processing as well as the lodgement of family visas and other visa applications due to the more extensive character checks and the requirement that family sponsors be approved before they can lodge visa applications.
  • Next steps: The Australian Federal Parliament must approve the bill before the changes can take effect.

Background: The Turnbull Government introduced the Migration Amendment (Family Violence and Other Measures) Bill 2016 on 1 September.

Among other changes, the bill would introduce character checks for sponsors of family visa applicants, require the approval of family sponsors before relevant visa applications can be lodged, apply new obligations on people who are approved as family sponsors, and permit the refusal of sponsorship applications where abuse of the program is evident, especially in cases involving family violence.

The changes would make it more difficult to sponsor family members. Currently, for example, police checks of family sponsors of family visa applications are only required in cases involving children under the age of 18. Additionally, the requirement that family sponsors be approved before the lodgement of visa applications could slow processing. Currently, assessment of the sponsorship requirements are conducted at the same time as visa applications.

The legislation is written such that the changes would apply first to sponsors of partner visas and eventually to all sponsored family visas.

BAL Analysis: The Government said in a statement that the proposed partner and family visa changes would help address problems of family violence. Some of the requirements will make it more difficult to sponsor family members and are likely to contribute to the lengthy processing times already associated with these types of visas.

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

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