The Government of Australia has announced a significant change in its immigration policy; the inclusion of same sex partners on skilled and student visa applications. The change comes into effect from 1 July 2006 for temporary skilled migrants (457 visa holders) and skilled and student visa categories later on this year.
Amanda Vanstone, the Australian Minister for immigration, said ‘While same sex partners could enter Australia in their own right, often as visitors, the fact that couples were not treated together in the same application created some uncertainty for them and a potential loss for Australia of highly skilled migrants.’
Vanstone admitted the change was due in part to doctors and other skilled migrants who indicated they would work in regional areas if not for this anomalous piece of legislation. Australian citizens and permanent residents can currently sponsor same sex partners, but no other visa class allows for same sex partners to be considered in equal fashion to heterosexual partners.
‘This is welcome news as in the past same sex couples couldn’t migrate to Australia as a recognised couple on a Skilled Visa,’ said Martin Beveridge, senior migration consultant, Visa Bureau. ‘Essentially, each individual would have to apply for separate and even different visas. Obviously this was a problem should only one half of the couple be granted a visa. It was also a lengthy process, time wise. Now, both applicants will be granted permanent residency at the same time.’
‘Australia was definitely loosing out on skilled migrants prior to this change. We’ve had cases here at the Visa Bureau where same sex couples haven’t proceeded with immigration because the legislation didn’t allow them to apply as a couple,’ said Beveridge. ‘These future changes will recognise the rights of same sex couples and could mean same sex partners could boost the primary applicant’s points total by 5 points should the partner have a skill that is recognised under the Australian Skilled Migrant program. ’
‘UK and Irish same sex couples could now be in the same position as heterosexual couples when it comes to immigrating to Australia under the General Skilled Migration Program. If they meet the basic requirements and are eligible under immigration legislation, there’s no reason they cannot live and work as a couple in Australia.’
With a booming economy and dire skills shortages, Australia, and in particular, Australia’s regional areas, are looking for accountants, IT professionals, doctors, nurses, automotive electricians, bricklayers, plasters, toolmakers and welders among many other skilled trades and professions.
‘Workers who are under 45, and who meet the skills requirement are in an excellent position to move to Australia,’ said Beveridge. ‘The visa process can be lengthy, so I would strongly suggest anyone who is interested visit the Australian Visa Bureau at http://www.visabureau.com and fill in the online assessment to see if they meet the eligibility requirements.’
‘Under Australia’s point style system of immigration, workers and trades people on Australia’s skills shortage list are given additional points and priority processing through the Australian Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs (DIMIA). The Australian Government is actively recruiting skilled migrants to live and work Down Under.’
‘I cannot think of a time when the Australian government has been so active in seeking skilled workers,’ said Beveridge. ‘Australia has a carefully managed migration system; their economy is ready to absorb skilled workers, regardless of sexual orientation.’