A significant barrier to family reunion is the excessively high visa charge. For those seeking to sponsor family members through the Family Stream of the Migration Program, the fees are often beyond their means. Many noted that fees for family reunion also continue to increase. As one former refugee from South Sudan noted:
Even spouse visa we can’t afford that fees. Now it is $10,000 and you are not working. How can you afford $10,000 to bring your wife over? So we really need the Government to look into that issue too. Because most of refugees are on Centrelink support, so how can they afford $10,000 to bring their wife here?
Sponsoring a partner to come to Australia costs at least $6,865, not including other associated costs such as those of health assessments and police certificates. Parents can only be sponsored if half of their children live permanently in Australia or more of their children live permanently in Australia than in any other country. Sponsoring parents through the non-contributory Parent visa is extremely unlikely as the current waiting time for Parent visa and Aged Parent visa (for parents aged 65 years or over) stands at 30 years.
While parents being sponsored under contributory visas will wait for a considerably shorter time; the costs of these visas put them out of reach for many refugee communities and their families. The total cost of bringing both parents to Australia could amount to nearly $100,000.
The proposer also needs to provide an Assurance of Support of $10,000 for the main applicant and $4,000 for any additional adult applicant. This bond will be held for 10 years. According to the Department of Home Affairs, in the 2017–18 Migration Program year, 1,500 places have been allocated to non-contributory parent visas and 7,175 places to contributory parent visas.
The restrictive visa charges for the family stream effectively make family reunion possible only for the well-off. Concession rates for the Family Stream should be introduced to alleviate the inequity of the current system.
Note: Even for non-contributory parent visas there are associated Visa Application Charges. The first instalment which is payable upon lodgement of the application and is non-refundable, can amount to $5,805 for both parents. The second instalment payable before the visa grant is $2065 for each person included on the application. For permanent Parent (including Aged Parent) visa applicants, an Assurance of Support bond of $5000 is required for the main applicant and $2000 for any adult secondary applicants. The bond is refunded 2 years after visa applicants enter Australia on this visa.
For parents who did not hold a temporary contributory parent visa, the first instalment of Visa Application Charge will be $4,940 for both parents. The second instalment payable before the grant of the visa is $43,600 for each applicant or a total of $87,200 for both parents, bringing the total cost of the visa to $92140. If parents held a temporary contributory parent visa, the first instalment of Visa Application Charge will be $490 for both parents and the second instalment will be $19,420 for each applicant or a total of $38,840 for both parents. However, to be granted the temporary contributory parent visa, Visa Application Charges of $3,735 for both parents as the first instalment and $29,130 for each parent as second instalment need to have already been paid. Therefore, the total base cost of applying for temporary and then permanent contributory parent visa in this case is $101,325.