“If you have been convicted of a violent crime against women or children, you are not welcome in Australia”
Australia’s drastic new measures to crack down on Domestic Violence.
The Australian Government has this year introduced new laws to stop domestically violent offenders from entering the country, and as well as removing visa holders with prior convictions from the country altogether.
This new law was issued in December 2018, and has come into effect on 28 February 2019.
The Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs David Coleman has directed visa decision makers to consider the new law, when assessing visa applicant’s suitability to enter and remain within Australia.
It is a clear message that Australia has no tolerance for perpetrators of violence against women and children; and the purpose of these laws is to ensue that this measure will strengthen the already complex Migration Act, and to protect the Australian population by preventing domestically violent offenders from entering and remaining within the country.
This law will build upon the existing framework of mandatory cancellation contained within the Migration Act, as the current laws only allow for the Government to revoke the visas of foreigners who fail a character test, or who have spent in excess of 12 months in jail.
These new laws will not only target the visa decision maker inside the Department of Home Affairs, but also be aimed at the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.
Despite this being a positive step taken by our Government to strengthen existing laws with respect to domestic and family violence, there are problems with this view. The issue being that there have been a number of cases where visa decision-makers within the Government have refused individuals a visa on the basis that they have been found guilty of a domestic violence relation offences. However, the Administrative Appeals Tribunal has successfully fought to restore visas of violent offenders.
The Government has made further announcements on 8 April 2019, for a further change of law in relation to Domestic and Family Violence, and Migration law. The Migration Amendment (Family Violence and Other Measures) Bill 2016 sees further changes, where it will update the sponsorship requirements for the family visa programs.
Examples of visa categories in which this change may affect sponsorship requirements may apply to the following subclasses:
- Partner Visa- apply overseas (subclasses 309 and 100);
- Prospective Marriage Visa (subclass 300); and
- Partner Visa- apply in Australia (subclass 820 and 801).
Of course, the new laws are not limited to the 3-abovementioned visa subclasses. They are intended to be enforceable with all visas contained in the family visa program.
The idea of the change in sponsorship requirements is intended to target integrity issues with respect to a visa sponsor’s character. The current process sees that it is the applicant, and not the visa sponsor, who endures a rigorous screening process, whereby the must provide adequate police checks to satisfy the character requirements of being granted a visa.
Once this material is provided, both the visa application and the sponsorship’s paperwork are submitted at the same time. They are both eventually assessed at the same time, within the stipulated wait period (currently sitting at a global processing time of 15-20 months for offshore partner visas).
This new law, intended to be introduced on 17 April 2019 and is yet to be in effect, sees the visa sponsor to submit their paper work first, for an initial character assessment. If the Department is satisfied that the potential Sponsor is deemed to be a fit and proper person, the Department will approve that person as the visa sponsor. After this, the visa applicant will be invited to submit their application for assessment.
Despite this being another positive step in preventing foreign visa applicants from enduring violent relationships, we have to keep in mind the fact that it will cause further delay to the processing times of family and partner visas.
The Australian Government, as a way to continually strengthen the Migration Act, intends to roll these new laws out throughout 2019 for the new rules for partner and family visas. Although there is no specific time, it is suspected these new measures will kick in in June 2019. Although it would seem that the current provisions seem effective enough, the new laws will further tighten the law with a loud and clear message: Australia regards crimes committed against women and children as particularly abhorrent.
 No Visas for domestic violence convictions: https://www.theaustralian.com.au/nation/politics/no-visas-for-domestic-violence-convictions/news-story/a95cc9e32f7e37d17b02e777ddeac1dd
 Meeting the character requirements of a visa: https://immi.homeaffairs.gov.au/help-support/meeting-our-requirements/character
 Government introduces strong new measures against domestic violence perpetrators: https://minister.homeaffairs.gov.au/davidcoleman/Pages/govt-introduces-measures-against-domestic-violence-perpetrators-20190303.aspx
About the Author
Ashleigh Smith has recently been admitted as a solicitor in the Supreme Court of Queensland. She has been with our firm for the past 12 months, helping clients with all types of matters, including Domestic Violence issues. Ashleigh can be reached on 0477 800 421.