Offshore & Onshore Partner visas
One of the most well-known forms of Australian migration, partner visas allow Australian citizens and permanent residents to sponsor a spouse or de facto partner to migrate to Australia or stay in Australia as a permanent resident. There is an offshore visa, subclass 309, which does not give the right to stay in Australia while the visa is being processed and an onshore visa, subclass 820, which must be applied from within Australia and gives the right to stay in Australia during visa processing.
Partner migration is a two-stage process where first you receive a provisional visa and then later you receive the permanent visa. If the relationship ends before you receive your permanent visa then you may still be eligible for the permanent visa (link to further down page).
Partner Visa Application Process
Whether applying onshore or offshore, the process is similar:
1. Gather documentary evidence of your relationship
2. Lodge combined provisional & permanent visa application
3. Wait for visa to be processed. If you applied offshore you may be eligible for a visitor/tourist visa to visit your partner in Australia during processing
4. Receive provisional partner visa
5. Wait 2 years. If you have a long-standing relationship, you may be eligible to skip to the next step
6. Provide extra information to assist permanent visa processing
7. Receive permanent partner visa.
Eligibility Requirements for Partner Visas
The main requirement of an Australian partner visa is that you are married to or in a de facto (common law) relationship with an Australian citizen or permanent resident (partners of eligible New Zealand citizens (link to 444 page) may also apply, otherwise see subclass 461 (link)).
• For de facto relationships: you must have been in the relationship for at least 12 months OR have registered the relationship with an Australian state or territory OR have a child together
• You must be living together, or at least must not be living “separately and apart on a permanent basis”
• You must be able to prove that your relationship is genuine and continuing, especially if you currently live in separate countries
• NOTE: Australia does not currently recognise same sex marriage, so same sex partners will be considered under de facto provisions. Some states allow registration of same sex relationships and exceptions to the 12-month rule may be available for couples who have married in another country.
Restrictions on Sponsorship
Sponsors must meet the following criteria to sponsor a spouse or partner to Australia:
• You cannot have sponsored more than 2 people in your lifetime
• There must be 5 years between sponsorships. This requirement can be waived in the right circumstances
• You must consent to undergoing a police check and any violent offences being disclosed to your partner
• If you came to Australia on a contributory parent visa (link), you cannot sponsor a partner for 5 years after grant of the visa.
NOTE: The sponsorship system will change on 1 July 2017. After that date, prospective sponsors will need to apply and be approved separately by the Immigration Department before they are able to sponsor a partner or spouse to come to Australia. More details will be forthcoming.
If the relationship ends
In most cases, if your relationship ends before you receive your permanent partner visa then you will not be eligible to receive the permanent partner visa. However, you can still be granted permanent residency in Australia under the following circumstances:
• You and your spouse or partner have a child together and you have custody rights to the child
• Your spouse or partner dies before grant of permanent visa
• You or your children have experienced family violence committed by your sponsor
If you have been granted your permanent resident visa then you can live freely in Australia even if the relationship ends and you don’t fulfil any of the above criteria.
If you or a family member is experiencing domestic or family violence, contact 1800 737 732. This is a free service available 24 hours a day for support and assistance.
Common Problems for Applicants
• If the 12-month requirement applies to you, you must have been in the relationship for 12 months at the time you apply.
• The Immigration Department usually considers that de facto partners must live together.
• If you are engaged to someone from another country and do not live together, you are not eligible for a partner visa. You should consider a prospective marriage (link) visa instead.
• If you require a waiver of the sponsorship restriction period, be aware that there is no separate application process for the waiver. You will need to lodge a partner visa application and pay all associated fees to apply for the waiver.
• Always be aware of your current visa’s expiry date and conditions. Letting a visa expire without applying for a new one can have severe consequences, even if you try to apply the next day.
If you aren’t certain of what evidence is required, need advice on whether you may be eligible for waiver of the sponsorship restriction, or want assistance with the application process, contact us today on 08 6161 9239.
Partner Visa Application FAQ
Where can I apply from?
Subclass 309/100: Outside Australia
Subclass 820/801: Inside Australia
Where can I receive the visa?
Subclass 309 (Provisional Offshore Partner visa): Outside Australia
Subclass 820/801/100: Either inside or outside Australia
What family members can I include?
Subclass 309: Children under the age of 23. Children over 18 must be financially dependent on you.
Subclass 820: Dependent children (any age).
Subclass 801/100 (Permanent visas): Anyone included in your original application.
Can the health requirement (link) be waived for this visa?
There is a health waiver available if you can show circumstances which offset the costs of your health care such that it is not an “undue cost” to the community.
How long does this visa last for?
Provisional visa: Until decision is made on permanent visa
Permanent visa: Permanent with a five-year travel facility. This means you can stay in Australia permanently but if you want to leave and return after five years you must apply for a resident return visa (link).