9. This Issues Paper, Family Violence—Immigration Law (IP 37), deals with the treatment of family violence in Commonwealth immigration law, namely under the:

  • Migration Act 1958 (Cth) (the Act); and

  • Migration Regulations 1994 (Cth) (the Regulations).

10. Although the Terms of Reference refer to ‘immigration’, this paper will use the term ‘migration’ to be consistent with the language of the Act and Regulations.

11. The ‘family violence exception’ contained in the Regulations is designed to ensure that visa applicants do not have to remain in violent relationships in order to obtain permanent residence in Australia.[2] The exception—which is invoked mainly in partner visa cases—provides for the grant of permanent residence to victims of family violence, notwithstanding the breakdown of the spousal or de facto relationship on which their migration status depends.

12. This paper begins with a brief overview of the partner visa scheme before addressing a number of issues surrounding the ‘family violence exception’ including: the appropriateness of the definition of ‘relevant family violence’; evidentiary requirements for making a claim of family violence; sponsorship arrangements; and information sharing.

13. The second part of this paper considers the position of asylum seekers who seek refugee status in Australia as victims of family violence. It considers the current provisions in the Act and asks whether ‘complementary’ forms of protection are needed to protect victims of family violence whose claims may not fall under the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (Refugees Convention),[3] but who may need international protection.

[2] Provisions relating to family violence are found in pt 1 div 1.5 of the Migration Regulations 1994 (Cth).

[3] See Migration Act 1958 (Cth) s 5 which defines the Refugees Convention as ‘the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees done at Geneva on 28 July 1951’. See Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, [1951], 189 UNTS 151, (entered into force generally on 22 April 1954).