Resumption of processing of family reunion applications for overseas family members of refugee boat arrivals

Under the former Coalition government’s Ministerial Direction 80 (and its predecessor Ministerial Directions 62 and 72), family reunion applications sponsored by refugee boat arrivals in Australia holding permanent visas were given the ‘lowest priority’ in visa processing by the Department of Home Affairs.  Current Australian Immigration Minister Andrew Giles has now formally reversed that policy, replacing Ministerial Directions 80 and 83 with new Ministerial Directions 102 and 103.

The abolishment of Ministerial Directions 80 and 83 and what it means for family reunion visa applications

Ministerial Directions 62, 72 and most recently 80 were originally introduced by the then-Coalition-led Australian Government to discourage refugees from coming to Australia by boat illegally without a valid Australian entry visa. Ministerial Direction 83 dictated the order in which parent and other family visa applications were to be prioritised and processed by the Department with reference to Ministerial Direction 80, which is generally in the order in which they are received by the Department.

These Ministerial Directions ensured that any family reunion visa applications (such as spouse, partner, child, parent, carer, remaining relative and aged dependent) sponsored by permanent visa holders who had arrived in Australia by boat were given the ‘lowest priority’ in visa processing. In practice, these Ministerial Directions meant that these family reunion visa applications took many years longer to be processed by the Department of Home Affairs than standard visa processing times. 

On 9 February 2023, Ministerial Directions 102 and 103 came into effect, replacing Directions 80 and 83 and removing the ‘low priority’ status, effectively enabling such applications to be processed per normal timeframes. The Australian Government has also recently increased the number of immigration staff who are ‘processing visas for individuals in complicated situations’, increasing the efficiency with which these applications are assessed and finalised.

What does this mean for your family reunion visa application?

If you arrived in Australia by boat and have been granted a permanent protection visa, you can now sponsor your overseas family members to join you in Australia, and you and your family can expect your family reunion visa application to be addressed more efficiently now that the ’low priority’ status previously allocated to these applications has now been removed.

What if you’re seeking family reunion on a Temporary Protection Visa or Safe Haven Enterprise visa??

While this is good news if you already hold a permanent visa in Australia, Ministerial Directions 102 and 103 do not remove the prohibition preventing those on temporary protection visas, such as TPVs or SHEVs, from sponsoring their family for family reunion visa applications. However, as the Australian government recently announced if you are in Australia as the holder of a SHEV or TPV, you will soon be able to acquire permanent residency in Australia. With permanent residency status, you will then be able to sponsor your overseas family members for family reunion applications.

Conclusion: Where to get expert help for your family reunion application

Historically, for the last 10 years, if you arrived in Australia by boat, sponsoring your overseas family members for family reunion visas has either been an extremely difficult and lengthy process or close to impossible. However, with recent changes in Australian Government regulations, this looks to be changing. 

Craddock Murray Neumann’s Immigration team can explain the steps you need to follow and expertly help and guide you and your family members through the family reunion visa application process. Learn more about Craddock Murray Neumann’s family reunion services.

If you would like assistance with your family’s visa applications for family reunification, please contact our team at  or 1300 123 529 for further information and advice on next steps. 

Please note that this page states the law as at March 2023. Australian immigration law is complex and changes frequently, and the law in relation to refugee boat arrivals may have been changed since we prepared this page.

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As immigration lawyers well-versed in Australian citizenship and immigration law including not only the legal aspects, but the practical and process side, Craddock Murray Neumann’s Immigration Law team can help. Our team is available to advise on your Australian immigration and citizenship issues.

For a confidential discussion about your Australian citizenship or any other immigration matter, please contact our team on 1300 123 529, or via email at

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