Lack of Interest in Partner’s Religious Life Is Not a Ground for Denying ‘Partner Visa’: Federal Court of Australia

Recently, the Federal Court of Australia adjudicated upon a very important question in light of the worldwide increase in the number of immigrants, and the growing number of cross-cultural marriages: is a Partner Visa applicant’s lack of interest in the religious affairs of the sponsoring partner a ground for denial of Partner Visa?

The question came for consideration before the Court in the case of Singh v. Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, (2017) FCA: 1298. The case was filed by a Sikh citizen of India who had arrived in Australia on a student visa in 2009. In 2013, he married an Australian citizen who was Christian, and thereafter applied for a Partner Visa. However, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection refused his application.

Thereafter, he filed an appeal before the Migration Review Tribunal, during which he said that he had not inquired about his wife’s religious interests or the church to which she belonged. The Tribunal affirmed the refusal of the Partner Visa on the ground that the lack of the applicant’s interest in the religious affairs of the sponsor indicated his lack of emotional support to her. In Australia, Regulation 1.15A(3)(d)(iii) of the Migration Regulations, 1994 provides that one of the factors to be considered in granting a Partner Visa is the degree of companionship and emotional support that the persons in the relationship derive from each other.

Reversing the decision of the Tribunal, the Federal Court held that lack of interest in one’s partner’s religious life does not indicate the lack of emotional support to the partner; and thus, cannot be considered as the sole ground for refusing the application for Partner Visa. The Court observed that the Tribunal should carry out the task of assessing the degree of emotional support that the parties derive from each other on a case-by-case basis rather than establishing religious interests as a basis of emotional support, as though religious considerations may be important in some relationships, it is not necessary that it may be important in all relationships.

Isha Kalwant Singh, Legal Intern

(Keywords: Partner Visa, Religion, Immigrant, Emotional Support)

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