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Family stream migration is one of the main components of Australias migration program.
The family stream consisted of 58 604 visas in 2011-12. The 2011-12 family stream contained 45 150 partner visas, 3700 child visas, 8502 parent visas and 1252 other family visas.
The planning level for the family stream in 2012-13 is set at 60 185 visas, which represents 31.7 per cent of the total migration program. The overall planning level for 2012-13 is set at 190 000.
Family stream categories
Family stream migrants are selected on the basis of their family relationship with their sponsor in Australia. There is no test for skills or language ability as required for skilled stream migrants.
Family stream migration has four main categories—partner, child, parent and other family visa categories.
There are two visa types for partners wanting to migrate to Australia:
- Partner visa is for a spouse or de facto partner, including a same-sex partner of the Australian sponsor.
- Prospective Marriage visa for a fiancé who is overseas and who plans to marry their Australian sponsor after travelling to Australia.
See: Fact Sheet 30 Family Stream Migration – Partners.
There are three visa types for children wanting to migrate to Australia:
- Child visa is for a dependent child of the Australian sponsor
- Adoption visa is for a child adopted outside Australia by the Australian sponsor
- Orphan relative visa is for a child who is under 18 years of age at the time of application and who cannot be cared for by either parent. The child will be cared for by the Australian sponsor.
There is also a temporary visa for dependent children of temporary partner visa holding parents. This visa enables such children to be added to their parent's permanent partner visa application.
Fact Sheet 33 Family Stream Migration – Child.
Fact Sheet 36 Adopting Children from Overseas
There are two visa types for parents wanting to migrate to Australia:
- Parent visa is for parents of the Australian sponsor
- Contributory parent visa is for parents of the Australian sponsor who pay a higher visa application charge as a contribution to health and welfare costs.
There is a limited number of visa places available each year for Parent visa applicants. Applicants for Parent visas can expect to wait a number of years for their application to be finalised.
There are more places available for Contributory Parent visa applicants and application processing times are significantly shorter. However, applicants must pay a much higher second visa application charge and a larger Assurance of Support (AoS) bond, with a longer AoS period than Parent visa applicants.
Fact Sheet 31 Family Stream Migration – Parent Category
Fact Sheet 39 Contributory Parent Category visas
The Other Family category consists of the following three visa types:
- Carer visa is for applicants willing and able to give substantial, continuing assistance to an Australian relative or member of their family who has a medical condition that impairs their ability to attend to the practical aspects of daily life. The need for assistance must be likely to continue for at least two years
- Aged Dependent Relative is for single, widowed, divorced or formally separated applicants who are dependent on an Australian relative
- Remaining Relative visa is for applicants who have no near relatives outside Australia and is the brother, sister, child or step equivalent of an Australian citizen, Australian permanent resident or eligible New Zealand citizen.
See: Fact Sheet 32 Family Stream Migration – Other Family
All family stream migrants, whether they apply in or outside Australia, must be sponsored by a close family relative, partner or fiancé (as applicable for the category).
The sponsor must be an Australian citizen, Australian permanent resident or eligible New Zealand citizen and is usually 18 years of age or older.
- Partner category applicants must be sponsored by their partner (or a parent or guardian of their partner if their partner is under 18 years of age)
- Child category applicants must be sponsored by a parent (except certain step-parents) or relative, or that person's cohabiting partner
- Parent category applicants are usually sponsored by their child or stepchild, but they may also be sponsored by their child's partner. If the child is under 18 years of age, certain other people are able to sponsor the applicant.
- Other family category applicants must be sponsored by a relative.
Measures for the protection of children
Children's safety is paramount to the Australian Government. The government works to ensure children seeking to enter Australia under partner and child visas are protected from being sponsored by people with convictions for child sex offences or other serious offences that might pose a significant risk to a child in their care.
Sponsors of a child, partner or prospective marriage visa application that include an applicant under the age of 18 are required to provide police checks to ensure the grant of a visa will not place that child at risk.
See: Stronger Measures for the Protection of Children
Limitations on sponsorship
There are limits on the number of visa applicants that may be sponsored if the applicant is the partner or fiancé of the sponsor. There is also a limit on the timeframe in which they may be made.
In addition, a person who entered Australia as a remaining relative or a person who previously sponsored a remaining relative cannot sponsor another person as a remaining relative.
Permanent Contributory Parent visa holders who were granted their visa on or after 1 July 2009 may also be barred from sponsoring a partner or fiancé for a period of five years from the date of visa grant.
Sheet 30 Family Stream Migration – Partners
Assurance of Support
An Assurance of Support (AoS) is a legal commitment by a person, not necessarily the sponsor, to repay the Australian Government certain welfare payments paid to migrants during the AoS period.
Some family stream applicants are subject to a mandatory AoS. Other applicants may be subject to a discretionary AoS if they are assessed as being at risk of becoming a charge on Australia's welfare system.
See: Fact Sheet 34 Assurance of Support
Health and character requirements
Like all migrants, family stream applicants are assessed on an individual basis and they must be assessed against Australia's health and character requirements.
Fact Sheet 22 The Health Requirement
Fact Sheet 79 The Character Requirement
Capping visa classes
A number of visa classes in the family stream can be subject to capping. This means that when the number of visas set by the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection for a class for that program year has been reached, no further visas can be granted in that class in that program year.
See: Fact Sheet 21 Managing the Migration Program
Limits on further applications
Unsuccessful applicants are limited from applying again for some visas while still in Australia. This ensures that people do not continue to make applications solely to delay their departure from Australia.
People who are unlawfully in Australia, or no longer hold a valid substantive visa, and who have previously been refused a visa or had a visa cancelled, have the opportunity to make an application for a limited range of visas.
In the family stream categories, a person may be eligible to apply to remain in Australia as a permanent resident on grounds of being an orphan relative or a dependent child, provided that circumstances have changed since the refusal of their last application.
Under changes that commenced on 14 September 2009, a person may be eligible to apply to remain in Australia as a permanent resident on grounds of being a spouse or de facto partner of an Australian, provided they meet certain specific criteria. They must not have had a visa cancelled or refused on character grounds or have had a Partner visa refused since their last entry to Australia, and they must provide the following with their application:
- a form 40SP Sponsorship for a partner to migrate to Australia completed and signed by an Australian citizen, Australian permanent resident or eligible New Zealand citizen who declares they are the spouse or de facto partner of the applicant
- two statutory declarations from Australian citizens, Australian permanent residents or eligible New Zealand citizens supporting the existence of their relationship with their sponsor.
Information on processing priorities is available on the department's website.
See: Fact Sheet 37 Processing Priorities
The Immigration Advice and Application Assistance Scheme
Information on Immigration Advice and Application Assistance Scheme is available on the department's website.
See: Fact Sheet 63 Immigration Advice and Application Assistance Scheme
Further information is available on the department's website.
The department also operates a national general enquiries line.
Telephone: 131 881
Hours of operation: Monday to Friday from 8.30 am to 4.30 pm. Recorded information is available outside these hours.
Fact Sheet 29. Produced by the National Communications Branch, Department of Immigration and Border Protection, Canberra.
Last Reviewed September 2012.
© Commonwealth of Australia 2010.