Online Partner Visa Applications – Frequently Asked Questions
Partner visas are one of the most popular types of family-sponsored visas, attracting many applications each year from couples wanting to make a life together in Australia.
These visas enable Australian citizens and permanent residents to sponsor their partners, so they may ultimately be entitled to permanent residency as well.
Despite the popularity of this visa type, there are many potential pitfalls which could apply to prospective applicants. Read on for our helpful answers to the most frequently asked questions about submitting online partner visa applications.
Do we need to be married to apply for a partner visa?
Although being married is an obvious way of demonstrating that you are in a legitimate relationship, it is not an essential criterion for submitting an application for a partner visa. The most common way of proving that you are in a spouse-like relationship if you are not married is to show that you are living together as de factos.
You can also apply for a prospective spouse visa (subclass 300). Couples who have already registered with an Australian marriage celebrant are entitled to apply for this category of visa. If successful, you will be awarded a nine-month visa with work and travel rights, on the condition that you go through with the wedding and apply for a partnership visa in that nine-month period.
How do we prove that we are in a relationship?
If you are not married and are relying on proof of your de facto relationship to support your partner visa application, you will normally need to show that you and your partner have lived together in an exclusive or marriage-like relationship for at least the preceding 12 months.
In addition to proving that you live together, the Australian Department for Immigration and Border Protection will take into account a number of factors. These include:
- Factors proving cohabitation including mail which is addressed to one or both of you at the same address, utility or other bills in both of your names, and other evidence of joint property (such as a lease agreement or finance contract).
- Evidence of joint financial resources including joint bank accounts or nominating each other as beneficiaries of superannuation and insurance policies or wills.
- Proof that your friends and family consider you to be a couple. This includes how well you know each other, whether there is any evidence of your relationship on social media, any photographs of you together, or evidence of you spending important occasions together.
The same factors will be taken into account even if you are legally married.
You may be able to avoid the 12-month cohabitation requirement if:
- You have registered your relationship with an Australian state or territory government (only applicable if one or both of you are already resident in that state or territory).
- You and your partner have a child as a result of your relationship.
- You are not allowed to live together in a de facto relationship according to the laws of your country of origin.
How do we avoid the waiting period?
Generally, applicants for partner visas are initially granted a temporary partner visa, which lasts for two years from the date of lodgement of the visa application. Once those two years have elapsed, you will need to prove that you are still in a relationship with the same partner.
In certain circumstances, you may be able to avoid the two-year waiting period and be awarded a permanent partner visa from the beginning. Broadly speaking, these circumstances include if you have been in a relationship with your partner for at least the preceding three years, or if you have been in a relationship for the last two years and have a child with your partner.
The Department of Immigration and Border Protection will not award you a permanent visa simply because you are eligible in these circumstances – it is important that you apply for a permanent partner visa to avoid being issued with the temporary visa first.
What if we have children from previous relationships?
If you have children that are still under the age of 18, they can be included in your partner application for entry into Australia, on the condition that you have obtained the consent of their other biological parent.
Even if you do not intend for your child to come to Australia with you, you must still advise the Australian Government of their existence, as the government may still undertake character and police checks of them. It is important to bear this in mind, especially if obtaining the consent from your child’s other biological parent to interviews or the provision of other information is likely to be difficult.
We are already in Australia – how could this affect our application?
If you apply for a partner visa while onshore, it is expected that you are already in Australia on a longer term visa without any “no further stay” condition. This means that if you are already supposed to leave the country at the expiration of your current visa, you will most likely not be eligible to apply for a partner visa.
There are both advantages and disadvantages to making onshore applications.
On the positive side:
- If you are onshore, you will likely be granted a bridging visa so that you can remain in Australia while the application is being processed – which could take between 12 and 15 months. This means that you will not need to be separated from your partner for that period.
- If awarded a bridging visa, you will most likely be entitled to work and obtain basic medical care through the Medicare program while you are awaiting a decision on your partner visa application.
However, on the downside:
- Offshore applications are generally processed much faster (over a timeframe of only nine to 12 months) so you could be delaying things by lodging while onshore.
- If you make an onshore application, you will not be allowed to leave Australia while you are awaiting a decision (except with a bridging visa B).
This is not our first involvement in a partner sponsorship – what happens now?
If you have previously sponsored a partner for entry into Australia you must wait five years before you can sponsor a different partner – and you can only sponsor two different people in your lifetime, for obvious reasons.
If you were previously sponsored as a partner to enter Australia, you must also wait five years before sponsoring a new partner yourself.
In certain circumstances, you may be able to demonstrate “compelling grounds” which remove or alter the waiting periods, but this is at the discretion of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection.
What health factors may be taken into account?
If you have applied for a partnership visa, then all family members seeking entry to Australia will need to be subjected to health checks. It is usual for the Australian Government to conduct these checks on all prospective entrants to Australia, and if one person fails the test, then the entire family is generally refused entry.
However, in the case of partnership visas, you may be able to obtain a health waiver. This can be granted if the applicant establishes that:
- If there is a significant cost in treating a medical condition, the cost isn’t “undue.”
- If treatment of the medical condition relies on any scarce medical or community resources, these are not provided to the detriment of any Australian citizens relying on these resources.
What if we have previously been refused a visa?
If you are onshore and on a bridging visa when lodging any visa application and it is refused, you are generally prevented from applying for any further visas under what is known as the section 48 bar. However, partnership visa applications may avoid the section 48 bar, as long as the prior refusal was not in relation to an application for a partnership visa.
Should we include partners in applications for permanent residency?
If you are trying to achieve permanent residency to Australia (via a different visa like a skilled visa), it is generally advantageous to include your partner in the same application.
This is because:
- Adding a partner to a permanent visa application for skilled migrants attracts a cost of $1,800 – as against the $6,865 application fee for a partner visa.
- If your application for a skilled visa is successful, both you and your partner will immediately be granted residency (avoiding the two-year waiting period).
- Skilled visa permanent residency applications are processed more quickly, with general skilled migration applications generally only taking three or four months until completion.
- On the flipside, a Skilled Visa may not be a possible option for you if you have a low point score. The partner visa may be a better option in this case.
Applying for a partner visa can be extremely complicated, particularly when seeking exemptions under various categories. We recommend that you obtain appropriate advice from a registered migration agent to maximise your chances of a successful partner visa application.