Visa requirements in Australia just got a little tougher. Foreign partners of existing residents who want a permanent residence visa must soon have to pass an English language test. Australia's government says it is important that people prove a predetermined level of English proficiency before they are granted a permanent visa. The prerequisite could be in place from the middle of 2021. Immigration Minister Alan Tudge said: "We will require an applicant and a sponsor to have met a functional level of English or to have at least made reasonable efforts to learn English." He said such efforts would entail about 500 hours of free English classes on a government-run language programme.
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The proposed requirement has stoked controversy in Australia's parliament. Politicians critical of the planned measure called the new language test "discriminatory" and "racist". They argue it targets people from non-Western nations and their partners. A spokesman for Australia's opposition party said: "English proficiency isn't a test of someone's love." He said couples already faced an uphill struggle in the application process and that the new requirement would add an "additional burden". An immigration expert said: "It certainly puts a lot of pressure on couples who've been hit hard by COVID. Many of them have lost their jobs and now they've got this added burden to pass an English test."