Whilst partner visas may seem straightforward, the applicable legislation is complex and there are many subtleties most applicants will not be aware of.
This article goes through 10 of the lesser known facts about partner visas.
We highlight some of the potential pitfalls and opportunities to make your application quicker and more straightforward.
1. Lodging Before Marriage
For offshore partner visa applications (subclass 309), it is possible to make an application on the basis of an intention to get married. Providing you are married by the time your application is assessed, you should be able to meet visa requirements.
This is not possible if you are lodging an onshore subclass 820 visa. In this case, you must be married prior to lodgement if relying on legal marriage for grant of the visa.
2. Relationship Register – More Complex than it Looks
Many applicants are aware that registering your relationship can enable you to establish a de facto relationship and being granted a partner visa even if you have not lived together for 12 months.
However, the Relationship Register option can be more complex than it seems – for instance:
If you register your relationship, you still need to provide other evidence of your relationship. For instance, if you have no evidence that you are living together, you are unlikely to be successful even if you have registered your relationship
Some states and territories have a residence requirement for one or both parties before the relationship can be registered
It can take 6 weeks or more for states or territories to process relationship registration applications and provide a certificate of registration
Evidence of registration can be provided at any time up to a decision being made.
3. Financial Interdependence
Whilst cohabitation is the most critical factor, financial interdependence is also very important. Many applications are weak in this area and can be delayed or refused due to insufficient documentation. Here are some tips on the financial interdependence requirement:
Details of a joint bank account are often provided, but this is essentially useless unless both partners are actively using it. You may consider having your salaries paid into the accounting and having joint bills paid out of it.
Joint leases are good evidence of financial interdependence. It is not always possible to add your partner to the lease, but you should still be able to add them to the bond
Joint insurance policies – particularly vehicle insurance – are good evidence
4. Statutory Declarations from Friends and Family
When applying for a partner visa, you will be asked to provide two statutory declarations on Department of Immigration form 888. These are critical documents and here are some little known facts:
They must be provided by an Australian citizen, permanent resident or eligible NZ citizen. 888s done by temporary residents or non-residents will not be sufficient
The 888s must be witnessed by a Justice of the Peace or other eligible authority
It is best to provide at least one 888 from the sponsor’s parent. If the sponsor’s parents are not aware of and supportive of the relationship, this can count against you in your application
5. Online Lodgement
Lodging online is generally better than lodging a paper application. For instance, paper applications will require all your documents to be provided as certified copies, whereas colour scanned documents can be provided for online applications. However, you should note the following about online applications:
You should upload all documents as soon as possible after lodgement – if this is not done, it can result in refusal of your application
Maximum limits apply to the size of attachments – these should be compressed to reduce size, whilst still being legible
There is a limit to the number of attachments you can provide – you need to be organised to ensure that you provide enough documents for a successful outcome within this limit
6. Decision-Ready Applications
Previously, Immigration has processed partner visa applications in the order in which they were received.
In the last few months this has been changing. Instead, applications which are considered “decision ready” are allocated and processed more quickly.
As processing times for partner visas can be 18 months or more, this makes a “decision ready” application more important than ever.
A decision ready application would normally include comprehensive documentation on:
Supporting documents on the relationship – including cohabitation, financial interdependence and social interdependence
All required police clearances
7. Character for Non Visa Applicants
Most people are aware that any family members aged 16 or over included in the partner visa application will need to provide police clearances.
Many are not aware that others may also need to provide police clearances, including:
The Sponsor: if the sponsor has previous convictions, this can lead to refusal of the visa application.
Non-Migrating Dependents: if you have children who are between 16 and 18, they will be considered dependents and will need to provide police clearances, even if they are not included in your partner visa application
8. Applicants on 457 Visas
If you currently hold a 457 visa, you can be in a difficult situation if you cease employment whilst awaiting the outcome of your partner visa application.
Whilst you will receive a bridging A visa on lodgement of an onshore partner application, this will not come into effect until your 457 visa ceases
Partner visa applications lodged onshore can easily take 18 months to be processed
If your 457 visa has a long time to run, you may remain on your 457 visa for some time. Whilst on a 457 visa, you cannot work for another employer unless they are an approved sponsor and transfer your employment by lodging a 457 nomination
If you cease employment for more than 2-3 months, Immigration would normally look at cancelling your 457 visa. If your 457 visa is cancelled, this would also result in the cancellation of your bridging visa, in which case you will become unlawful
If you depart Australia, you can consider voluntary cancellation of your 457 visa – this may be a good option for some applicants
9. Permanent Partner Stage
When making a partner visa application, you will be lodging a combined application for both a temporary partner visa and a permanent partner visa. Generally, the permanent partner visa can only be considered for grant 2 years after the initial application. Here are some lesser-known facts about the permanent partner stage:
The permanent partner stage can be lodged online, even if you lodged a paper application in some cases
You no longer need to wait for an email from Immigration to lodge the permanent stage. You can lodge an online application for the permanent partner stage as soon as you reach the 2-year mark
Processing of the permanent partner stage is currently taking 12 months or more
10. Citizenship for Partners of Australian Citizens
You can look at Australian citizenship once you have your permanent residence. Here are some facts about applying for citizenship as a partner visa holder:
Under the current legislation, you will need to have lived in Australia for the last 4 years, with a maximum of 12 months overseas. Time spent on your temporary partner visa can count towards this requirement, meaning that you may only need to hold a permanent partner visa for 12 months to be eligible for citizenship
Proposed changes to the residence requirement for Australian citizenship will mean that you will need to have to hold your permanent visa for 4 years. As it may take 3 years from the date of lodgement to get your permanent partner visa, this may result in a considerable delay in lodging your citizenship compared to current requirements
Partners of Australian citizens may be eligible for a concession when applying for citizenship. They can count time spent outside Australia as a permanent resident towards the Australian residence requirement. However, they still need to have recently lived in Australia and show a close connection to Australia to be eligible