Engaged couples to be reunited under travel exemption change

Sydney Morning Herald 18th August 2021

By Wendy Tuohy

Australians engaged to foreign nationals who have Prospective Marriage Visas but have been unable to get into the country to wed will be eligible to reunite with their loved one under visa changes announced today.

Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews said 1600 people with Prospective Marriage Visas would be eligible to apply for travel exemptions.

Until now, those on the subclass 300 visa were not considered immediate family and were barred from entry, even though the Department of Home Affairs had recognised their relationships as legitimate.

The change brings Melbourne doctor Raymond Chan one step closer to reuniting with his fiancee Thi Dung Nguyen.

The change brings Melbourne doctor Raymond Chan one step closer to reuniting with his fiancee Thi Dung Nguyen. CREDIT:PENNY STEPHENS

Amelia Elliott of the lobby group Grant Offshore Partner Visas Now said many of the couples affected have been separated for more than 17 months.

“It is life-changing, especially for those whose biological clocks are ticking and have been waiting to start a family,” said Ms Elliott. “For these Australians to be reunited with their future spouses is an end to 17 months of trauma associated with long-term partner separation, and the beginning of the rest of their lives.”

In July, Melbourne doctor Raymond Chan described the pain of separation from his Vietnamese fiancée, Thi Dung Nguyen, whom he had been unable to see since March 2020 when he flew 15 hours to spend one night with her as he had so little annual leave left after previous visits.

Ms Andrews acknowledged the impact on those who have been waiting long periods to be reunited with their partner.

“Allowing prospective marriage visa holders to apply for an exemption to come to Australia, get married, and start their lives here will bring relief to those whose plans have been disrupted for so long by COVID-19.”

“These people have been patiently waiting to reunite with loved ones and I’m pleased I could make this change to allow for their reunification in Australia.”

Greens Senator Nick McKim and Labor’s Julian Hill had been campaigning for those on the 300 visa to be allowed exemptions.

People who hold a Prospective Marriage Visa can apply for this exemption 12 months from the date they submitted their visa application.