- Immigration lawyers are increasingly involved in assisting temporary visa holders who experience family violence but are unable or unwilling to leave a violent relationship because they rely on their Australian partner to maintain their visa status.
- As a result of evidentiary requirements as to what constitutes ‘relevant family violence’ it can be difficult to take advantage of the statutory provisions which enable victims of family violence to be granted a permanent visa.
- The recent Victorian Royal Commission into Family Violence report made a number of recommendations relevant to family violence within the Australian immigration framework.
Family violence is increasingly, and perhaps finally, being recognised as a serious problem in Australian society that warrants immediate action. Politicians at both the Federal and State levels are recognising that family violence is a widespread though often hidden problem, particularly within migrant groups. It brings devastating psychological, social and economic effects to families, children and the community as a whole. Those experiencing family violence often require a range of legal and other support services.
Family and criminal lawyers are at the forefront of legal service provision to this vulnerable group. However, immigration lawyers are finding themselves increasingly involved in assisting temporary visa holders who experience family violence but are unable or unwilling to leave a violent relationship because they rely upon their Australian partner to maintain their visa status.
In recognition of the problems this vulnerable migrant group faces, various statutory provisions were introduced in 1994 to enable victims of domestic violence to be granted a permanent visa. Immigration law currently allows for certain family-sponsored visa applicants who have experienced family violence to be granted a permanent visa even if their relationship with their Australian sponsor has ended. This concession also applies in some cases where a member of the visa applicant’s family unit has experienced family violence. In its simplest form, access to the concession is currently restricted to:
- permanent partner visa applicants (and their dependent children), if the partner visa applicant has already been granted temporary partner visa status;
- temporary partner visa applicants who have married their Australian sponsor and hold, or have held, a prospective marriage visa; and
- family unit members of Distinguished Talent visa holders.