Marriage equality advocates have applauded changes to federal immigration laws allowing equal treatment for same-sex couples applying for partner visas.
The Immigration Department announced on Saturday it had broadened the category of applicants for partner visas to include same-sex couples after marriage equality took effect that day.
Under the changes, a person in a same-sex marriage can now apply for partner visas as their partner’s “spouse” rather than as their “de facto partner”.
Same-sex partners with a genuine intention to marry their partner in Australia can also now apply for the Prospective Marriage visa.
Previously, same-sex partners had to apply for a permanent interdependency visa and fulfil stricter criteria to prove the existence of their relationship, a process marriage equality campaigner Rodney Croome told SBS had been distressing and expensive for some couples.
“The same-sex couples that I know who’ve been through the process for applying for an interdependency visa have really had a tough time of it,” he said.
“It has taken a long time and they need to prove they are in a relationship to much a higher level than a heterosexual couple would have to prove.”
He said the required proof can be difficult to obtain if the foreign partner is from a country where homosexuality is, for example, criminalised.
“That person may not be open to who they are, they may not be open to their family and friends,” he said.
“And so the existence of the relationship, that can make it more difficult to prove to the Australian authorities.
“Now that same-sex partners who are married will be able to have their marriage count towards their visa application, I think a lot of those difficulties will be removed, and a lot of the pain and hassle that same-sex partners have gone through will be removed.
“It will mean that those partners are able to reside together in Australia like any other committed, married couple.”
Human Rights Law Centre lawyer Lee Carnie told SBS the changes were likely to result in an uptick in applications from same-sex partners.
“Hopefully it will mean we will have a fairer system under our immigration laws as well for the loving couples who just want to stay together and live in Australia,” Carnie said.
From Saturday, same-sex couples began registering their required one-month notice of their intention to wed, with the first same-sex wedding to take place from January 9.