All too often in her job, Connie Park finds herself consoling families staring down the barrel of a 30-year wait or a $50,000 bill before their parents are allowed to join them in Australia.
“We don’t even get estimated processing times from the Department of Home Affairs any more,” she says.
“It’s incredibly frustrating for us and our clients.”
Connie regularly undertakes legal work for members of the local community as part of her role in migration law at Baker Deane & Nutt (BDN) Lawyers in Canberra and Queanbeyan. While other types of visa applications might occupy most of her time, she gets most grief from the Parent Visa.
The Parent Visa enables parents of children who are Australian citizens or permanent residents to be sponsored for permanent residence in Australia. Broadly, there are two basic types of permanent Parent Visa, Contributory and Non-Contributory which allow a parent to stay permanently.
The former comes at a cost, a minimum fee of $47,955 per applicant, made up of the base application fee and the second instalment fee, which allows the visa to be processed faster. But this doesn’t include other associated fees and expenses for health and police checks.
While Non-Contributory is a cheaper option, the processing times can be 30 years, if not more with the current backlogs.
“There may be many cultural reasons as to why the families wish to be together, but it’s a reason why migrants come to Australia over other countries – they know their parents will be able to join them down the track,” Connie says.
Each application has to pass a balance of family test. This requires the parent to have at least half their children living permanently in Australia or more children living permanently in Australia than any other country.
In a way, Connie says she understands the cost.
“There’s a perception that there’s less economic benefit for a Parent Visa in terms of what they bring to the Australian economy compared to skilled and work visas,” she says.
“But there is a positive social benefit – parents often come to Australia to assist with family arrangements, especially for migrants who may not have that support in terms of child care.”
All visa applications have been affected by hefty wait times, especially since COVID-19, but none as much as the Parent Visa. To make matters worse, it seems none are as forgotten about either.
On 25 July, Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs Andrew Giles said the Albanese Government would begin addressing a visa application backlog approaching one million.
“Reducing the backlog of applications can’t happen overnight,” he said.
Up to 745,000 visa applications had been finalised from the beginning of June 2022 to that date, including more than 645,000 offshore visa applications. This included 388,000 visitor visas, 62,000 student visas and 9550 temporary skilled visas.
But Connie says there’s a notable absence – the Parent Visa.
“The government mentioned all the others, so it’s interesting why they left parent visas out.”
The backlog also came up during the previous government’s tenure. On 23 February, 2021, a Senate enquiry looked into the situation.
The report, tabled in March this year, stated the waiting time for a Non-Contributory Parent Visa was more than 30 years while other family visas were up to 50 years.
The Department of Home Affairs said these enormous processing times were due to caps dictated by Section 85 of the Migration Act. Once the annual cap was reached, other applications were added to the queue and, over time, this created a queue “in the decades”.
In its submission, Legal Aid NSW said this rendered the parent and aged parents visas “effectively obsolete”.
“A processing time of more than 30 years is simply nonsensical to sponsors and they often disregard it.”
The Multicultural Youth Affairs Network (MYAN) said this meant “most applicants have very little chance of being accepted within the applicant’s lifetime, making family reunion largely impossible”.
Connie says the time for parent visas to receive the same priority as others is well overdue.
For more information on migration law and how a legal practitioner can help with visa applications, visit BDN Lawyers.