Processing times for Partner visas have spiralled out of control, with applicants being forced to wait for up to 12 months to have their visas granted.
The issue is particularly frustrating for off-shore applicants, who are forced to remain overseas whilst their applications are considered.
This year 47,825 Partner visa places were allocated under the Australian migration program, half of which are reserved for on-shore applications.
Managing Director of Migration Solutions, Mark Glazbrook, says that whilst on-shore applicants are subjected to a similar waiting time, their cases are nowhere near as dire.
‘The reality of off-shore Partner visa applicants being forced to remain apart for up to a year is that it can put an incredible strain on the relationship of the partners, both emotionally and financially,’ he said.
‘When there is a child pregnancy or child involved, the difficulty of the situation is compounded. Nobody wants to miss those important formative years when their child is growing up, or worse yet, the birth of their child.’
Mr Glazbrook said the most recent example that brought his attention to the matter was that of a new client Robert Pitt, whose fiancé Natasha Zaydenberg was forced to return to Russia whilst their application was considered by the Department.
Despite being eligible for the Partner visa and heavily pregnant at the time, the couple’s request for a waiver of the no-further stay condition attached to Ms Zaydenberg’s Tourist visa was rejected.
The couple have now been apart for around eight months, Mr Pitt forced to watch the first few months of his son’s life over Skype.
Mr Glazbrook says it’s likely the Department is intentionally staggering visa grants across the program year, so as not to exhaust their entire allocation within the first few months.
However he says the result is a massive queue of frustrated applicants, who feel like their application has disappeared into a bureaucratic black-hole.
‘If [the staggering] is indeed a deliberate strategy of the department, there needs to be an increase in the amount of off-shore Partner visas allocated each year,’ he said.
Failing that, Mr Glazbrook would like to see discretionary power given to case officers to prioritise exceptional cases, such as Mr Pitt’s case where an Australian child is involved.
‘I would imagine that the Department’s concern for increasing the number of places available could be regarding the greater potential for program rorting,’ he said.
‘However in a case where an Australian child involved, it’s pretty clear the relationship is genuine.
‘These are the cases that need to be prioritised so that parents don’t spend the entire time watching the first year of their child’s life on a computer monitor.’
‘As a parent myself, I know that I would find this situation incredibly difficult.’