Foreign partners of Australian residents may soon be required to pass an English language test before being granted a permanent visa. The Australian government, with its conservative policies, has recently been calling for rigid mandatory English proficiency testing on prospective migrants. If approved by the parliament the immigration requirement will be implemented on applications from mid-2021.
The said requirement has fetched much controversy, with critics calling the change to immigration policies "discriminatory." The government however, said it is meant to build "social cohesion."
Immigration Minister Alan Tudge said, "We will require an applicant and a sponsor to have met functional level English or to have at least made reasonable efforts to learn English."
While English proficiency is currently required by employers as well as study visas, Australian citizenship applicants must still pass an English test.
The Immigration Minister strongly points out there are about one million people living in Australia with poor or no English skills. He argued this creates limited work opportunities as well as hampered social skills.
Tudge said the new policy will also help protect vulnerable immigrants from controlling partners.
"In some cases, the husband will not want his partner or wife to learn English. And in part that's for control reasons," Tudge added.
Considered a reasonable effort to learn English would require an applicant to take a minimum 500 hours of English classes that will be made available under a free government programme, the BBC wrote.
In line with this, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said partners could still enter the country with a temporary visa. However, once landed, they will be required to learn the country's first language to be able to stay permanently.
Critics are placing the new requirement behind the shadow of racism as they believe this targets people originating from non-Western countries. Honing on the tests used by the "White Australia" policy, critics say this was what effectively prevented non-European immigrants from being accepted into the country between 1901 until the late 60's.
The current waiting period for a permanent visa is 2 years with applications costing about £4,260. There are about 40,000 visas that were granted in 2017-2018 with pending applications surging to twice that number.