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Permanent residence visas issued to persons sponsored by an Australian resident for a partner visa make up 25 per cent of Australia’s permanent entry migration program. There were 47,825 issued in 2016-17 and 39,799 issued in 2017-18. In addition there is a huge backlog of pending applications. The Australian government is under pressure to clear this backlog and to withdraw its recent effort to more closely assess the bona-fides of these applications. If this happens the number of partner visas granted will increase rapidly.

The paper argues that this is because the partner visa is an attractive permanent residence option for the very large number of temporary migrants who are already in Australia and interested in finding a permanent entry pathway. It is also an attractive entry point for persons resident in non-Western countries who have family and community connections in Australia who would like to move to Australia.

Analysis of who is obtaining a partner visa reveals that only a small fraction stem from boy meets girl international work and travel movements. About a third of the partner visas are issued to temporary migrants already in Australia who manage to find an Australian resident willing to sponsor them and another third to persons who connect to sponsors in Australia via chain migration links.

The main reason why so many persons manage to obtain a partner visa is that Australia has the softest rules on partner eligibility in the western world.  These rules allow an Australian resident to sponsor a partner if just 18, unemployed, on a welfare benefit and still living at home. All that is required for a resident to sponsor someone on a partner visa is some (until recently) easily established evidence that the relationship between sponsor and prospective visa-holder is genuine.

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