Subclass 870 – Sponsored Parent (Temporary) visa set to commence 17 April 2019

Without any official media release or perhaps more importantly, accompanying regulations, the Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs announced late last week that the new temporary parent visa, anointed with the subclass number 870, will commence 17 April 2019 according to the Department of Home Affairs’ (Home Affairs’) website. Up to 15,000 of these visas will be granted each program year.

This will be the first known use of approved family sponsors for which the framework in the Migration Act 1958 (Cth) was passed late last year. The details for becoming an approved family sponsor may shed light on what the future will bring for other family visas including partner and prospective marriage visas.

Sponsor criteria

To become an approved family sponsor for a Subclass 870 – Sponsored Parent (Temporary) visa, sponsors must:

  • Be related to the parent visa applicant. This includes adoptive or step-parents but only provided the sponsor is still married or in a de facto relationship with the biological child of the parent visa applicant;

  • Be at least 18 years of age;

  • Be an Australian citizen, Australian permanent resident, or eligible New Zealand citizen and who has been usually resident in Australia for four years;

  • Have met prior sponsor obligations;

  • Have no debts to the Commonwealth including public health debts unless they have entered into suitable arrangements, such as a payment plan;

  • Meet a minimum household income threshold, which may be combined with a partner or another child of the parent. The threshold amount is currently unknown;

  • Have no adverse information, however, this may be disregarded if reasonable to do so;

  • Provide police clearances for all countries they have spent more than 12 months in within the last 10 years;

  • Authorise sharing information with the visa applicant. This might include sensitive information should it be a deciding factor in a visa application.

Sponsor costs and limitations

The cost for sponsoring will be $420 and appears to allow two parents per sponsors. Sponsors can vary their sponsorship if they want to sponsor a different parent, however, they will need to withdraw sponsorship for one parent if they already have sponsored two parents. This restriction will only apply for this visa, meaning they can apply to be a sponsor for other visa programs, such as for a Subclass 482 – Temporary Skill Shortage visa or Subclass 600 – Visitor visa under the Family Sponsored stream.

Sponsor obligations

Approved family sponsors also agree to abide by sponsor obligations, which include:

  • Providing financial support and accommodation in Australia to the parent visa holder;

  • Keep records and provide them to Home Affairs if requested, such as evidence of income. This obligation ends two years after ceasing to be a sponsor;

  • Advise Home Affairs when certain events occur. The example given is being charged with a crime. This obligation ends when they cease being a sponsor;

  • Paying outstanding public health debts incurred by the parent visa holder in Australia.

Breaching a sponsor obligation may result in sponsorship cancellation or an even being barred.

Sponsor validity will last 6 months for the parent to apply for an 870 visa, and will cease if the sponsorship is withdrawn, cancelled, an approved 870 visa ceases, or the sponsor dies.

If a sponsorship ceases, it is expected Home Affairs will take steps for any granted 870 visa to be cancelled.

Visa eligibility

Aside for being sponsored, sponsored parent visa applicants must:

  • Be at least 18 years old;

  • Be outside of Australia for at least 90 days if the applicant holds or previously held an 870 visa, unless invited by Home Affairs to apply;

  • Provide evidence of access to funds;

  • Provide evidence of health insurance;

  • Not have any outstanding public health debt unless suitable arrangements to repay the debt has been made;

  • Meet certain public interest criteria such as health and character.

The visa application charges for an 870 visa will be $5,000 for a 3-year visa or $10,000 for a 5-year visa, which will make it the most expensive first instalment base visa application charge.

Parent visa holders will generally not have work rights.

Perhaps the brightest, and may be the only, attraction to this visa is that there is no balance of family test to be met, which is a basic requirement for every permanent parent visa unless exempt.

The balance of family test requires a parent visa application to have at least half of the parent’s children and step-children to be an “eligible child”, or there are more eligible children than children living in any other single country. An eligible child is defined as an Australian citizen; an Australian permanent resident usually resident in Australia; or an eligible New Zealand citizen usually resident in Australia.

With no change to any of the permanent parent visa subclasses (yet), it seems that this visa will be for parents who do not meet the permanent visa criteria, or do not want to depart Australia on long-term visitor visas. Quick processing times for 870 visas will be critical in ensuring this visa will attract enough interest.