Foreign spouses and partners of Australians will have to pass an English language test before they will be issued a visa to stay in the country permanently, according to acting immigration minister Alan Tudge.
The government said on Thursday that the move would help new arrivals settle in Australia.
The test would also apply to current permanent residents, who are not citizens.
“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,” Tudge told national broadcaster ABC on Thursday.
“For most people that would mean doing about 500 hours of free English language classes,” the minister added.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the test would not apply to partners or spouses when they enter the country, but would apply to foreign partners who want to move from provisional to permanent visas.
“For people to get into jobs, for people to be able to be protected in our society, for people to be able to access services and function in the community, having a basic level of English is actually really important,” Morrison told Sydney radio station 2GB.
The new English language tests are to be implemented from the middle of next year.
The measure was contained in this week’s budget which said the move will save 5 million dollars (3.6 million U.S. dollars) over the next four years.
Applicants for spousal and partner visas must prove their relationship is genuine, pay thousands of dollars in fees, and the process can take up to two years.