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.
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."