BUDGET 2020-21: “500 hours free English classes’ must in spouse & spouse visa sponsor requirements; changes to apply mid-2021

Budget pix

By Neeraj Nanda

MELBOURNE, 8 October 2020: The Federal Government seems determined to push its know English plans for new migrants as indicated in the Budget 2020 presented by Treasurer Josh Frydenberg. Many new migrants with a Permanent Residency who plan to get married soon or whose spouses are still overseas might well need to brush up their English skills to join their loved ones.

The new essential English requirements for those applying for the visa for their spouse and themselves will need about 500 hours of English language requirements before living permanently in Australia, Acting Immigration Minister Alan Tudge has told the ABC radio on 6 October, reports the AAP.

The Minister feels these changes in the Budget2020 would help support social cohesion and economic participation, while better protecting vulnerable people from controlling or exploitative partners.

Associate Professor Marie Segrave, Deputy Director Monash Migration and Inclusion Centre, Faculty of Arts has refuted claims by Acting Immigration Minister Alan Tudge and the Prime Minister that without sufficient English language skills migrants are vulnerable to family violence, as untrue and unfair.

In a statement emailed by Medianet Marie Segrave says, “We know that temporary visa holders are disadvantaged by the migration system preventing and limiting access to support in the context of family violence and that this has been compounded by COVID-19 and their exclusion from Job Keeper and Job Seeker.

What we see in the Budget is the further exclusion of women via sponsor checks and language requirements. The potential damage of this is to continue to exclude many more women from support who are already married and/or have children with their abusive partner.

Instead of making changes to ensure access to the full suite of financial, housing, medical, and other support, these changes flag an effort to exclude women.”

In a statement Labor while slamming the changes says, “The Morrison Government’s Budget promise to increase the number of partner visas is just another empty announcement until they actually deliver for Australians and the people they love.

The Morrison Government has not explained how their new English language requirements for partner visa applicants and their permanent resident sponsors will impact applications – both those waiting to be processed and new applications.”

The Subcontinent Friends of Labor, Victoria (SCFOL) in a post on it’s Facebook page questions the proposed changes saying, “Subcontinent Friends of Labor Victoria (SCFOL Vic) is concerned to see the proposed English language requirement for partner visas by the federal government in #budget2020. How is this relevant to who Australian’s choose to marry? What does it say about our multicultural society? Who was consulted about this change? Why does the permanent resident sponsor need to undertake an English test for their partner’s visa?

Earlier, PM Scott Morrison told a virtual multicultural media conference on 7 Oct, ” English unifies the country and it enables us all to connect both economically and socially and so that’s why we believe that’s an important step that needs to be taken’.

Commenting about the changes Bina Shah of IAEC Education & Migration says, ” Clients are anxious. If a permanent resident marrying overseas looks for an English proficient spouse then things can go upside down. One will have to say no to a would-be spouse even if you want to marry him or her because of English.

Also, the 500 hours of free English teaching will take place where? If the intending spouse is overseas then will he or she have to attend private or stipulated classes and bear the massive costs? So, it looks, people will marry the person they love or want to and go in for English classes pushing up the cost of bringing your spouse here.”

“These issues need to be addressed before the new policy is introduced next year,” she says.

The AAP report says the changes will not be introduced until the next mid-next year and will only affect people who apply after the changes are introduced.

Mr. Tudge told the ABC there were almost one million people living in Australia with poor or no English and that language skills were necessary for finding work and staying safe.

He said, “And we want to encourage everybody to be able to learn English so that they can fully engage in Australian life, in every aspect of it, from employment markets to our democracy, to our society, to community activity.

English is absolutely essential in order to do all of that.”

In a media statement, Mr. Tudge says, ” Most partner visas are a provisional visa of two years before becoming eligible for a permanent visa. The requirement will have to be met at the time of the granting of the permanent visa.

While the ability to speak multiple languages is a great asset for an individual and for Australia, a person will struggle to fully participate in our society and democracy without basic English.”

(Story to be updated soon)

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