28 Comments

User pays or profiteering? Partner Visa fees

In principle, I have no problem with the concept of user pays.  I have a major problem if someone takes money and I get nothing for it.

There are costs involved in applying for visas. Here I am looking at Partner Visas for Australia.  The current fees are set out below (current as at January 1, 2013).

Partner Visa Fees

Partner Visa Fees

The fees booklet is found at http://www.immi.gov.au/allforms/pdf/990i.pdf

The fees are not small, are they? Here is the cruncher:

There is an application charge for this visa. This will usually not be refunded if your application is unsuccessful, or if you decide to withdraw your application after you have lodged it. The application charge covers you and all family members included in your application.

http://www.immi.gov.au/migrants/partners/partner/820-801/

http://www.immi.gov.au/migrants/partners/partner/309-100/

In other words, you could part with $3,975, let’s just say $4,000 in round figures, and receive nothing but a lot of heartache for your money. On top of the fee for the visa there are a host of other costs: medicals, x-rays and police clearances to name a few. If you are overseas and applying, while the fee is less, there are the added costs of relocation if the visa is granted so it really isn’t much cheaper for the couple in the long run.

I can understand that a visa would cost a bit to process. Reading the application, checking the facts, reviewing medicals, contacting witnesses – all this costs money. On one hand, as a taxpayer, I ask myself why should I have to fund the fact someone wants to marry a non-resident? On the other hand, having been through the system myself, I understand the feeling of being totally ripped off when paying all that money and receiving a visa denial and being told to just spend a whole lot MORE money to prove yourself!

I also think these high fees are double dipping. After all, with Partner Visas the sponsor has been paying taxes. Taxes are to fund the public service. Why am I paying TWICE? I understand user pays for visas such as with Skilled Migrant Visas, as there have been no taxes paid, but not Partner Visas.

There is a search term on this site this morning: “women’s right in australia’s immigration for partner visa if you can’t do visa payment“. I also know of a case where an Australian resident, residing overseas with her husband for a while, fled back to Australia with her child when turmoil broke out where they were living, but can not afford the application fee to bring her husband home.  While in some ways this woman is a refugee, technically she just “came home” and therefore isn’t entitled to any assistance to be reunited with her husband.  She is beside herself with worry. If any reader knows of a way, please let me know and I will pass the information on!

Young people particularly seem to get caught out. They meet here, so are both in Australia, they fall in love, often even have a child, and then think, crap, the visa one of them is on is coming to an end and they better lodge a Partner Visa. THEN they find out how much it is and usually they DO NOT have that kind of money. Bad planning you say? Yes, I agree, but young people are a bit like that! :D

I refer again the the ICCPR:

Article 23

1. The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.

2. The right of men and women of marriageable age to marry and to found a family shall be recognized.

I find it amazing that while countries are happy to be a party to the ICCPR, it seems OK to make it so damn hard for people to actually receive the rights they are entitled to.  Why should anyone have to pay $4,000 plus for a right enshrined in the ICCPR?

When we went through the Migration Review Tribunal, if the appeal was successful the fee was refunded. I notice now only HALF the fee is refunded.

50% of MRT charges will be refunded if the decision is favourable or if the review of the application was invalid

What do you think? Are these fees fair given obligations of the State under the ICCPR? It is worth remembering these costs are before any migration agent or legal fees. Something only the rich can afford, perhaps?

If you want to know what the struggle to be together can be like, consider reading the book of our battle, Love versus Goliath.

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About Robyn Oyeniyi

We fought to be together as a team, we are now together as a team. Team Oyeniyi

28 comments on “User pays or profiteering? Partner Visa fees

  1. I am in the same boat I grew up in foster care and have had a really hard life. I met my husband and moved to Australia to be with him. I cant find a job and can not even afford to fly back home at this point. we have been trying to save the money but now that have raised it another 600 bucks. now we have lost all hope in being able to afford it.

  2. There’s no hope for us then…
    I’ve been reading many blogs and read many information, it’s all hopeless. My husband is Austalian and I’m asian. We’ve known each other for 11 years and we’ve been married for 5 years with no kid (can’t afford one). We live in Singapore for hope better life but we’re sinking. My husband out of job for years, did some freelance to support daily base but still struggle to pay rent. I used to work here but this past few years, Singapore law is been tough for dependent pass like me to get a job. We often share tears in the middle of the night, I even suggested we separate for a while, so he can go back to Melbourne to start over until he can afford spouse visa, and I’ll go back to live with my parent. I know in my heart I can’t live without him but I just can’t bear the idea me putting him into more depressing life. I did suggest him to live with me in my country and I’ll work hard for both of us. But I do understand, Some men can’t live without their dignity and my husband one of them. here we are, planning to move to Australia with a couple hundreds left in the bank….
    Impossible!
    All I can think of is my wedding Vow to keep me strong…

    • I am so sorry to hear of your situation. The fees have risen again which I talk about in my latest article.

      Very sad situation and I am sure you and your husband are not alone in this struggle. There are many other couples in the same situation dotted around the world.

  3. Hi guys I totally agree,it seems to be a money making scheme!
    Now hear me out
    You touched on parent visas right.
    We want to apply for subclass 190 visa points skilled visa(state sponsored)
    Except for the wrong terminology as I am not sure what the state sponsors,we are allowed to add our dependants on the visa with us.

    For which you pay about $1800 per person over 50 and I think $850-$1000 for children under 18.

    Now we have two kids and my wife’s parents is our dependants as we provide everything for them,they are both in their 60’s.
    So they should be able to be included in the visa as we can proove they are dependant on us.

    Oh think again they are married and therefore cannot be processed as dependants ,now what does their marriage status change about them being dependants??
    Except then they now make even more money off you because now you must go the parent visa route and you can do this only when you are “settle” 2 years.

    I think this is so wrong and unhumanitary,in any country fraud is a crime,if you paid someone for a service renderred and they don’t deliver you can take them to task because the law is on your side!

    So by us having to pay application charges and still not even get a visa guarantee is fraud in my eyes!
    They should do a basic assesment similar as to what the immigration agents do before taking on your case.
    Or is this maybe that they want the process to be so daunting that everyone decide to make use of an agent and therefore there are kickbacks for them

  4. …and yet the same people who set those fees and charge them think it undemocratic that in places like India bribing officials with wads of cash gets citizens documentation etcetera; what’s the difference. Official or unofficial it’s a ‘kickback’.

    • The difference is in places where bribery is part of the system, the cash goes into someone’s pocket rather than the government revenue accounts, although usually there is a bit of a pryamid system and a percentage of the bribe gets paid up the line.

      I am mostly struck by the case of partner visas, we, the taxpayer, have already funded the public service. It is just double-dipping.

      Either way, a bloody lot of money just to fall in love, given the other expenses involved.

  5. This comment was posted over on http://teamoyeniyi.com/2011/04/08/open-letter-to-the-bad-guys/ But really belongs on this article, so I am popping it here for the information of readers.

    i am Georgeos, an Australian who almost never been to australia
    I carry most of my life in Spain
    married a Spanish girl from last summer, I finished my engineering studies last year and with the theme of the crisis in Europe have not found anything to work and thought about returning to live in Australia but I’ve hit a wall visa partner called

    I took a month reading a lot of things and I’m tired to the point that I planted to stay in Spain
    is that what they want is crazy
    want you to page 2200 eur only applying for visas but you have to pay for TRANSLATION of documents and analysis of medical
    about 3000 euro in total

    is insane, a person with 24 years and recently completed studies and can afford that?
    I can barely afford the plane that are another 3000 euro for the two
    I also require guarantees good
    I keep my wife at least two years,
    warranty if they mean that from the first day in Australia begin to look for work
    to help her settle in, in that I forget that I’m an engineer at the beginning and start looking any job that comes ma to find work in the mine and I do not use drugs and respect the law
    for if I can guarantee that
    but if they want to take me a million dollars to Austarlia
    I can not guarantee that
    I wrote it just good to share with you all
    regards

  6. Injustice of visa fees pales comparing with what comes after, after paying all that money, and providing all those documents, health checks, police checks, etc etc you learn that you have to wait 15 months for result.. or may be more.. and don’t disturb DIAC if you don’t hear anything for first few months, they are too busy.. and meantime , if your spouse wants to leave the country, she will have to apply to renew bridging visa before she can return.. and by the way, that visa gives her right to stay with you, but that’s it, no one will hire person of such uncertain status.. oh, and as a government, we gonna tax you as a single person, she is not your dependent spouse by our laws..

    • Hi Asef,

      Have you checked the tax situation with a tax accountant? I’m not a tax accountant, but if you have a dependent spouse, I am sure you can claim.

      The rest of it – yes, very trying, to say the least.

      • Hi,
        unfortunately no, with recent amendments to tax law, you can only claim depended spouse offset if your spouse is either looking after kids at home, looking after invalid relative or invalid herself.
        It is a fair limitation for native Australians, in healthy young couple with no kids, one of partners staying at home is either matter of choice or short transitional situation.
        It is very unfair towards new Australians, for whom it is not matter of choice, but situation in which government puts them. I tend to believe that tax change was devised so intentionally.
        Same with spouse visa, even though most complaints are coming from Australians who were “unlucky” to fell in love with foreigner, majority of applicants are actually immigrants, who most of the time marry someone from their homeland.
        The whole meltdown with spouse visas is recent development, just couple of years ago, fees were much lover, processing times shorter by order of magnitude, at least for complete applications, and no unjust tax laws.
        And it is direct result of stuff up of boat affair. Apparently government did nothing to prepare for inevitable surge in boat arrivals, in terms of DIAC staff and overall costs.
        So when it happened, in typical manner, costs were put on people who had nothing to do wit it. In other words, they made spouse applicants to pay for increasing costs, while same category got most impacted by shortfall of resources in DIAC. For example, 457 visas are still handled duly, and even faster than before, and fee increase wasn’t nearly as dramatic as for spouse visa. Because 457’s have business behind, who can bite back, spouse visa impacts mostly immigrants who has no political power.
        The only way for it to change, is if affected Australians demand it loudly and increase awareness. At least you have political power and voice to be heard, more or less.

      • Asef, I really do not know what to say, but I have pointed a few people in the direction of your comments. Hopefully every bit of feedback will drive change if we all speak up enough!

  7. That cost is nothing compared to the contributory parent visa which the second instalment is in excess of $40,000 and same rules apply, if unsuccessful you loose your money, so yeah to me that is a ripoff!!

    • Yolanda, I believe they only ask for the second instalment when they are sure the visa will be granted.

      I do notice the same booklet I link to above does say “The 2nd Visa Application Charge amount can only be refunded in extremely limited circumstances, for example if the visa is cancelled before the visa holder enters Australia.” I believe this MAY be more to cover situations where the parent may not be happy after arriving and decides to return to their homeland. It does happen. Should the fee be refunded in such circumstances? I would suggest yes, quite frankly, as this is a LOT of money for most people, but I know NOTHING about this particular visa type, other than it is VERY expensive!

      I have looked on the DIAC website seeking clarification and I can’t find it easily. I DID note that not only is this a very expensive visa, it has a wait time of 15 years – I suggest some parents would have passed before the visa was ever granted.

  8. Outrageous. Unbelievable. A blatant money grab. Nothing costs that much to process. Trying to remember how much I paid. Maybe 30 quid. And that was for a permanent residence visa, which I got on presentation of a marriage certificate and a chest x-ray. Oh, and they made me watch a video about snakes and spiders and sharks.

    Fast forward 18 months and we’re about to go back to live in Glasgow for a bit. I enquired at the Melbourne British consulate and they wanted I think 60 quid for an ‘accompanying spouse’ visa. I told them where they could stick it. We went anyway. When the Immigration people at Heathrow questioned it, I gave my indignant citizen speech and told them if I wanted to bring my spouse I would, and I had no intention of paying them a penny for what I considered my inalienable right to do so. They caved in surprisingly quickly and issued the visa without charge. Perhaps it was also that I hinted that as a Scot, I didn’t accept an English Immigration officer’s right to have any opinion at all on the matter. They must have realised it was going to get far too complicated to be worth pursuing.

    I feel as though I come from a different world, one where you could stand on your rights, explain to a public servant that they were just that – your servant. I want that world back.

    • Since you read this, Derek, I have amended it. It occurred to me that really, these outrageous fees are double-dipping. After all, Partner Visas are not like Skilled Migration Visas. With Partner Visas one of the couple is a citizen or permanent resident and usually will have been paying taxes. What do we pay our taxes for? I thought it was partly to fund the public service! If government departments are to be user pays, then kindly drop my tax rate, thank you very much!

      Admittedly, in the case of young people who have been overseas and are bringing a partner home, maybe they haven’t been paying much tax in Australia, I agree, but their parents probably have!

      Oh, trust me, you and I want the same world back. I have to say it wasn’t until I went through this experience that I discovered it had rather changed!

      Let me give you an even sillier situation.

      There is a fee for asylum seekers to appear before the RRT, IF they lose! If they lose, they are generally removed. While a few have working rights, most do not and may even be in detention! How are they supposed to pay the fee? So we levy a fee that I have to wonder do we ever collect? :D

      • What, so we’re attempting to charge them a fee for being denied asylum and thrown out of the country? Really, what is wrong with us?

      • I had to pay Mr O’s before he could be granted the Partner Visa. One of the rare collections, I suggest! :D

      • And yes, I agree re: the double-dipping. I tend to take the view though that citizenship is absolute. That means I come and go as I please, there should be no question of even a nominal admin fee. There’s nothing to administer. Nor any arrival or departure taxes. I’m arriving/departing my OWN COUNTRY. It’s none of your business. Stand aside! Likewise, if I should choose to bring a spouse to either of my countries, that’s my right and my business. Woe betide anyone who tries to stand in my way!

      • Oh, you want another fee? $70 to place a visa label of Permanent Residency in a passport…..

      • I’ve still got my old British passport, classic hard cover style, with that very sticker in it. It was a matter of peeling off a piece of plastic, applying it to the page in the passport and rubber stamping it. Hardly $70 worth of work I’d have thought. Who are they paying to do it, Hugh Jackman?

      • If it were Hugh, I’d get a sticker myself! :razz:

  9. Unfortunately immigration to Australia seems to be for the rich, as all the visas as far too expensive…not even counting with all the extras as you mentioned, of medicals, agents, translation of documents…I’ts crazy and I cannot believe it can cost that much money to go over the documentation. And no money refunded if you are unsuccessful is adding insult to injury!

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