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Family stream migration is one of the main components of Australia's Migration Programme.
The family stream consisted of 60 185 visas in 2012-13. The 2012-13 family stream contained 46 325 partner visas, 3850 child visas, 8725 parent visas and 1285 other family visas.
The planning level for the family stream in 2013-14 is set at 60 885 visas. This represents 32 per cent of the total migration programme planning level for 2013-14, which has been set at 190 000 places.
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 in the partner category:
- a partner visa is for a spouse or de facto partner, including a same-sex partner of an Australian sponsor
- a prospective marriage visa is for a fiancé who is overseas and plans to marry their Australian sponsor after travelling to Australia.
See: Fact sheet 30 – Family Stream Migration – Partners
There are three visa types in the child category:
- a child visa is for a dependent child of an Australian sponsor
- an adoption visa is for a child adopted outside Australia by an Australian sponsor
- an 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 (dependent child visa) for dependent children of temporary partner visa holders. 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 in the parent category:
- a parent visa is for parents of an Australian sponsor
- a contributory parent visa is for parents of an Australian sponsor where the applicant pays a higher visa application charge as a contribution to the cost of their health and welfare in Australia.
There is only a limited number of visa places available each year for parent visa applicants, and applicants 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 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 (Non-Contributory) visas
Fact sheet 39 – Family Stream Migration: Contributory Parent Category visas
The other family category consists of the following three visa types:
- a 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
- an aged dependent relative visa is for single, widowed, divorced or formally separated applicants who are dependent on an Australian relative
- a remaining relative visa is for applicants who have no near relatives outside Australia and are 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 visa applicants must be sponsored by a close family relative, a partner or a fiancé, depending on the visa they apply for.
The sponsor must be an Australian citizen, Australian permanent resident or eligible New Zealand citizen and must usually be at least 18 years of age:
- partner category applicants must be sponsored by their partner (or a parent or guardian of their partner if they apply on the basis of a married relationship)
- 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, 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 an eligible relative or their partner.
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 limitations on the number of visa applicants that a person can sponsor as their partner or fiancé. A maximum of two partners or prospective marriage visa applicants in total can be sponsored by any one person, with a minimum period of five years between each sponsorship. If there are compelling circumstances affecting the sponsor, the sponsorship may be approved, despite these limitations.
In addition, a person or their partner 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 prevented from sponsoring a partner or fiancé for a period of five years from the date of visa grant.
sheet 30 – Family Stream Migration – Partners
Limitations on sponsorship also exist in the remaining relative visa category. An application to migrate or remain permanently in Australia as a remaining relative of an Australian citizen, Australian permanent resident or eligible New Zealand citizen cannot be approved if:
- the Australian relative was previously granted a preferential Family (subclass 104) visa, Family (subclass 806) visa, Remaining Relative (subclass 115) visa or Remaining Relative (subclass 835) visa
- the Australian relative or their partner on their behalf, sponsored/nominated another person who was granted a Referential Family (subclass 104) visa, Family (subclass 806) visa, Remaining Relative (subclass 115) visa or Remaining Relative (subclass 835) visa on the basis of that sponsorship/nomination.
Assurance of Support
An Assurance of Support is a legal commitment by a person, not necessarily the sponsor, to repay the Australian Government certain welfare payments paid to migrants during the assurance of support period.
Some family stream applicants are subject to a mandatory assurance of support. Other applicants may be subject to a discretionary assurance of support if they are assessed as being at risk of becoming a burden on Australia's welfare system.
See: Fact sheet 34 – Assurance of Support
Health and character requirements
Family stream applicants 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 capped. This means that when the number of visas granted in that class has reached the level set by the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection for that programme year, no further visas can be granted in that class until the following programme year begins.
See: Fact sheet 21 – Managing the Migration Programme
Limitations on further visa applications in Australia
A person who is in Australia and has had a visa cancelled or refused for a reason other than character may only apply for certain visas to remain in Australia. In the family stream, the visas for which they might apply are child and partner visas. For partner visas, it is also a requirement that the visa applicant has not had a partner visa refused since they last entered Australia. A child or an orphan relative of an eligible Australian sponsor may apply for a child category visa if they are under the age of 25 or they are incapacitated for work because of a total or partial loss of bodily or mental functions (medical evidence must be provided).
Information on processing priorities is available on the department's website.
See: Fact sheet 37 – Processing Priorities for Family Stream Migration
The Immigration Advice and Application Assistance Scheme
Information on the Immigration Advice and Application Assistance Scheme is available on the department's website.
See: Fact sheet 63 – Immigration Advice and Application Assistance Scheme
Fact Sheet 29. Produced by the National Communications Branch, Department of Immigration and Border Protection, Canberra.
Last reviewed December 2013.