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Migration Centre of South Australia

Why are annual visa numbers for partners and children limited? Is this what Parliament wanted?



I am writing this piece because I believe the setting of annual numbers for partner and child visa categories contravenes the intention of the Parliament.

The Parliament of Australia in the Migration Act (sections 85 to 87) gives authority to the Minister of Immigration to limit visa numbers by capping. Section 87 specifically excludes partners and children from that authority.  I conclude that Parliament intended that the Minister and Government of the day should not limit partner and child visas by numbers.

It seems that the current process undermines that intention of the Parliament not to limit Partners and children.

Why I believe that and my attempt to get a discussion going on an alternative are set out below.

How it works today
Currently the Australian government publishes a migration program for each year setting out visa planning numbers for various categories.

Here are the comparable planning numbers and outcomes for 2010-2011 and 2011-2012
YearCategoryNumbers projectedNumber of visas issuedPercentage variation
42 000
41 994
Less than .1% over
45 400
45 150
Less than 1% under
7.2% over

The visas granted are very close to the number projected in the program for the years 2010-2011 and 2011-2012. Why?
I think it is because the managers are good at their jobs and when given an annual number of visas to work with, proceed to allocate resources for that purpose and process the appropriate application over the calendar year. That is the efficient management thing to do.

So what is the problem?

In my opinion by setting an annual migration program that includes all visa categories, the parent and children category has to compete for resources, with the skilled program and the rest of the family program. Managers will apply resources to the various programs with an eye on the program “target”.  If they deliver the number of visas set out in the program, they have done their job.

What if more partners and children are applying than the resources provided for the task can deal with?

If there are more applications than can be dealt with under the plan a manager must obtain more resources or a backlog begins to build. I have been unable to find published data on how many partner and child applications are awaiting processing. However the published service standards indicate that an application for a partner visa in Australia is expected to take 6 to 8 months depending on country of origin and an application for a partner visa lodged outside Australia is expected to take 5 to 12 months, depending on country of origin.See DIAC website .

I believe the current process does not deliver an acceptable time outcome with a responsive outcome in timeliness. As a consequence of the processing times accepted in the current regime families are separated longer than is desirable, expatriate Australians coming home must leave their families behind or wait with them offshore, onshore applicants have the (often very significant)inconvenience of temporary residence and bridging visas for longer than is necessary.

These are real impacts on families in establishing their lives in Australia for the long term. Whatever emotional or financial loss they suffer will go forward with them.

What to do?

I believe the planning of partner and child visa application processing should operate as follows.

- Create a separate program recognizing that these visa classes are demand driven. Partners and children apply for visas because they are family members of Australian citizens and residents. Government cannot control that.
Determine an acceptable time frame for applications to be assessed after an application is lodged. Publish that target time. 
Allocate resources to the program to maintain that timeline.Reviewthe caseload and resources provided regularly to respond to changes in application rates.
Publish figures on a regular basis detailing applications granted (and perhaps refused), recent processing times to decision and the number of cases on hand. 

I believe the current technology and data collection of the Department would be able to deal with such reports.  
Brian Jones, Migration Agent


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