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).
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.
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!
I refer again the the ICCPR:
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.