There was a time when the Department of Immigration granted onshore Partner visas in as little as 30 minutes. Now, onshore partner visa applications are taking as much as 18 months to process, or in some cases, even longer. I have been wondering what impact this processing delay is having on the victims – the visa applicants and their sponsors/partners – of this bureaucratic disaster.
It is important at the start of this article to say this is not the fault of many DIAC staff that process onshore Partner 820/801 visa applications. They continue to do their usual jobs one application at a time and that is all they can do as individuals. Frontline processing case officers temporary and permanent have to do as they are told by their bosses.
Management of the onshore Partner caseload and resource allocation (of staff) to this task is another issue altogether. Decisions made at the higher levels of DIAC management in the onshore Partner stream impact directly on DIAC’s “clients” and this is where I want to focus my attention. What affect is all this having on the victims of this gross blowout in the service standard?
At the micro level in a Registered Migration practice and on my Blog (http:/immigrationptyltd.wordpress.com/) I’m seeing two quite distinct trends developing.
- A steady stream of relationship breakdowns and
- A huge volume of emotional distress and confusion, even paranoia stemming from being stuck in Partner application and/or Bridging Visa limbo.
It is difficult not to conclude that there may be a causal relationship between these two factors.
I’m sure the first response from DIAC to this criticism will be – Onshore Partner applicants now get unrestricted Bridging visas, they can stay, work and travel if they want to – What’s the problem?
The problem, I’m beginning to think, is that this view is way too simplistic and that as time unfolds the real effects of gross delay and uncertainty begin to emerge and this issue is just not on the DIAC radar at all.
I think back to the psychological impacts that temporary protection visas were reported as having on Asylum seekers living in our community in seemingly ‘free’ circumstances. I shudder to think we may well revisit this problem again after 14 September 2013 – but that is another issue.
To be fair not every applicant stuck in this long Partner processing queue will be affected by the length and stress of the process – some may just roll with the system. However we can say with total certainty that every single applicant would prefer to have their visa granted sooner rather than later and that there is nothing intrinsically helpful or enjoyable about waiting an indefinite length of time in visa process limbo.
A search of the literature on relationship stress and breakdown identifies many of the prominent factors currently affecting Partner visa applicants.
Primary amongst these is the combination of employment and financial stress – money and work or the lack meaningful work are high on the list of stressors for relationships. DIAC are certainly putting many Partner visa applicants through this grinder. Getting any sort of a meaningful position while on a BVA, let alone a BVC or BVE is a huge challenge. Employers don’t want staff on Bridging visas because they don’t understand the BV system and the uncertainty of employment continuity (What if you don’t get the visa?) is a major business consideration.
Family stress is also high on the reported list of stress factors for relationships. A lack of access to family help and for many an inability to see of visit near family (those on a BVC or BVE cannot travel) combined with a good measure of cultural imperative further exacerbates life and relationship problems for many applicants and sponsors.
Next you only need to throw in the birth of a child or for some couples the decision to postpone starting a family because of the uncertainty and stress of Partner processing and the mixture can become quite volatile.
Many students who move onto Partner visa applications feel the need to stop studying to support their relationship. They often voluntarily cancel their student visa and end up trapped on a BVE for a protracted period which sets off a new cycle of work, money and relationship stress.
I see Partner applicants in waiting who have developed quite serious paranoia. They begin to focus on the miniature of their application and stress that the delay is because they have somehow missed something or not provided that extra document to prove the genuine nature of the relationship. Again this is a vicious cycle that can have toxic relationship impacts.
The point, if you have not yet got it, is that protracted processing delays in such a benign visa area as onshore Partner are creating real relationship stress – it is a classic unintended consequence of a bureaucratic mess in a system that seems to be working on a not our fault or not our problem assumption. Makes you wonder about the DIAC motto…People our Business