For this and other archived Australian information, see the archive for Queer News Downunder.
The changes mean that same sex relationships will in future be treated identically to de facto relationships under immigration law. The Gay and Lesbian Immigration Task Force has hailed the reform as a "giant step forward".
At the heart of the Government's decision is the creation of a new interdependency visa class. This will allow someone, in a same sex relationship with an Australian, to be granted Australian residency within six months.
Until now applicants were required to go through a three-stage visa process. This involved applying offshore for a temporary entry visa. On arrival, they could apply for a further temporary entry visa valid for two years. After that period they were eligible to apply for permanent residence in Australia.
The new visa class is only available for applications made outside Australia. Applicants living in Australia still face a two year wait before processing and only applicants who began the process overseas will gain from Monday's windfall.
A Victorian spokesperson for GLITF described the Department's new visa class as "another step towards equality".
"Prior regulations were also up to individual interpretation by officers," he said. "Now if you meet the criteria, the officer has to forward your application to the Minister. The Government has removed the opportunity for discrimination." He said GLITF had played a significant social role by assisting hundreds of couples to stay together who might otherwise have been separated by the Australian immigration system.
The first interdependency visa category was introduced into the Migration Regulations in 1991, while Chris Hurford was Immigration Minister. According to the Department of Immigration those provisions recognised that Australian citizens or permanent residents "may develop a very close, and in all likelihood, a lifetime relationship with another person who is not a relative and who has no residence rights in Australia, but without whom the Australian would either experience undue emotional hardship or be faced with leaving Australia in order to continue their relationship."
While the Department recognised that most of the people who benefit from the category "are likely to be in a homosexual or lesbian relationship" the regulatory criteria made no reference to a sexual relationship and a broader group of people were able to benefit.
The latest reform to the visa category follows a report presented last year to the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs from GLITF.
Last Update 09/16/95