What you need to know about Partner visa applications in Australia
Like any other Australian visa application, the application process can be a stressful. The paperwork is complex, the processing time is lengthy and the overall process is costly. This is what you need to know before taking on the process:
- The costs
Currently, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection’s visa application fee is $7,000. In addition to this, applicants will need to pay for police clearances for Australia and any other country they have accumulatively lived in for 12 or more months in the past 10 years since turning 16 years of age. Applicants will also need to pay for a medical examination prior to a decision being made on their visa application, and there will be costs associated with translating official documents that are not written in English.
Given the expense of the process, it’s important to get things right the first time. Minor mistakes can be very costly down the track.
- Long processing time
Currently, onshore Partner visa applications are taking 18 – 20 months to be processed. With all visa applications, we generally recommend lodging decision-ready applications, that is, to have all documents attached to the application without any missing documents. That way, when a case officer does eventually assess your application, all the information is present to allow them to make a decision immediately. Further requests for information would delay a decision being made on your application.
You need to keep in mind though, that documents such as police clearances and medical examinations have a validity period of only 12 months. Given the lengthy processing time, we recommend that clients delay applying for these documents so that they don’t expire prior to a case officer reviewing their application. Police clearances for some countries can take months to obtain, so caution is required here.
Your circumstances can change during the processing time, so it’s vital that you keep the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) informed if for example, you change contact details.
- Exceptions to 2 year waiting period for permanent residency
For most applicants, the Partner visa application is a 2 stage process. When lodging a Partner visa application, you are lodging a dual application for a temporary Partner visa and a permanent Partner visa.
For most applicants, they will be granted a temporary Partner visa. They then have the opportunity to apply for a permanent Partner visa about 2 years after the initial lodgement.
In some cases, a permanent visa can be granted straight-up. This can happen if you have been in a relationship with your partner for at least 3 years, or if your relationship has been for at least 2 years and you have a child of the relationship.
- Honesty is crucial
Being upfront and honest by declaring health issues and previous criminal offences is important. The consequences otherwise can be serious. Not only can your visa application be refused, but you can be banned from applying for any Australian visa for 3 – 10 years. For this reason, we always recommend disclosing prior convictions, even if it’s as minor as a drink driving offence from 30 years ago.
For any Partner visa application lodged on or after 18 November 2016, there is now a requirement for all sponsoring partners to provide police checks if requested, and give the DIBP permission to disclose convictions for certain offences to the visa applicant.
- Health and character assessments
All visa applicants (main applicant including migrating dependent applicants) will need to undergo a medical examination and provide police clearances for Australia and any other country they have accumulatively lived in for 12 or more months in the past 10 years since turning 16 years of age.
Medical examination and police clearances will also need to be provided by any dependent family members that are not migrating. That is, for all your children under 18 years, even if they are not living with you or you’re not intending to bring them to Australia. Police clearances only need to be provided for children aged 16 years or older.
- If one fails, all fail
This rule applies to health assessment and character assessment for all visa applicants and non-migrating dependent family members. If one family member fails the health or character assessment, the visa application would be refused. Applying for a health waiver can mitigate the health requirement problem. Evidence would need to be provided to substantiate that the medical condition will not result in undue costs or pose further pressure on the already overburdened healthcare system.
- Paying attention to detail and be organised
Not being particular on detail can lead to adverse outcomes. It’s important to check and double check all forms before lodgement. For some people, the migration pathway can be long and convoluted, involving many visas. It is not uncommon for some people to first come to Australia on a student visa, then apply for a temporary work visa, before applying for a permanent visa. It’s vital to check that all the details in each application are consistent.
Be aware of social media profiles and inconsistent public records, which the Department can search through to verify information. On a number of occasions, we have come across clients with Facebook relationship status stating that they’re in a relationship with someone other than the sponsor, or that they are single. In all our cases, it was just an innocent oversight because the applicants rarely use Facebook, but it’s something to be wary of.
- De facto relationship evidence
You will need to provide evidence that you and your sponsoring partner are in a genuine, mutually exclusive relationship. There are 4 factors that the Department will assess you against in relation to your relationship:
- Cohabitation – Generally, you are required to show that you have been living together for a minimum of 12 months. This can be in the form of mailed correspondence to your shared address, joint lease or mortgage documents. There are exceptions to the 12 month cohabitation requirement:
- Registering your relationship with an Australian state or territory government – For more information, see our registered relationship blog;
- There is a child of the relationship; or
- It is unlawful in your country to cohabitate in a de facto relationship;
- Social interdependence – For example, you could provide photos, joint travel documents, joint invitations to gathering and memberships of social organisations to evidence that you are socially recognised as a couple;
- Financial interdependence – Joint bank account statements can be good evidence if they are used by both partners. Other examples include joint ownership of assets, joint leases, joint insurance policies, superannuation policies and wills identifying the other partner as a beneficiary;
- Future plans together – This is usually best addressed in your relationship statements, outlining your future plans whether it be to open a business together, buy property together, travel together, have children etc.
We recommend providing lots of good quality evidence of your relationship, but keep in mind that the Department’s online system only permits a maximum of 60 document uploads. Our migration agents can help you in assessing the quality of evidence.
- Repeat sponsorship
If you have previously sponsored a partner, were sponsored for a Partner visa yourself or you were sponsored as a Contributory Parent, a 5 year waiting period applies before you can sponsor a partner. This five year waiting period only applies if the visa was granted and is calculated from the date of lodgement. A person can sponsor a maximum of 2 partners in their lifetime. Though it is a complicated process, a waiver can be granted if there are compelling reasons.
Given Australia’s strict visa application rules, frequently changing legislation and the high costs involved, it is important to get things right the first time.