Australian Partner Visa
If your Partner is not Australian then you will need a Partner visa to let them live with you permanently in Australia.
There is a lot of information out there about Partner visas. Most is outdated or simply false. This article, written by our Senior Imigration Lawyer, looks at your Partner visa options, and the key considerations when preparing for your Partner visa application.
Why do I need a Partner Visa
There are many reasons to apply for a Partner visa. It lets your partner stay with you in Australia. There is also full work rights and Medicare. A Partner visa also lets you to bring children permanently to Australia.
Most couples will apply for a partner visa so that they can live together. They need a permanent visa. Although a visitor visa can be granted up to a twelve-month stay, you normally still have maximum stays of three months.
It is inconvenient, not to mention expensive, to have your partner return to their home country every three months. Many will prefer to apply for the Partner visa.
Live Together in Australia
Partner visas let you live in Australia. Provided you are sponsored by your partner. When you hold a Partner visa you can leave Australia and return. So, the visa allows you freedom to come and go. Freedom you do not have with visitor visas – where you need to re-apply each time.
Too Many Visitor Visas
Most couples will start with a visitor visa. Then she will come to Australia for a holiday. Normally three months. You might get another visitor visa. But soon it will become obvious to Immigration that you are not really a tourist. What you are doing is using visitor visas to live in Australia. To live with your partner.
You cannot keep getting visitor visas. Immigration will refuse your visitor visa application. If they think you are abusing the visitor visa system.
If you are living in Australia on a visitor visa. Then you should consider applying for a Partner visa. Because your next visitor visa application is likely to be refused. For reasons relating to your using the wrong visa to live in Australia.
We have written a separate article all about what to do if immigration refused your girlfriend’s visa.
Twelve-Month Visitor Visa
There is much confusion about how long you can have your partner stay in Australia on a visitor visa. The law says that she can stay no longer than 12 months. However, it is not that simple.
After a 12-month stay you can then wait 6 months before applying. But the problem is that Immigration will see that you are using visitor visas to live in Australia. So this is risky.
Married couples who have already applied for their partner visa are likely to get a more generous visitor visa. So, if you are heading towards 12 months already on a visitor visa. Then this is you best option. Apply for the partner visa and then you be allowed another visitor visa.
This way you show Immigration you are not trying to use the wrong visa. You have applied for the partner visa already.
All you want to do is come to Australia while you wait. Normally you will get a further 12-month visitor visa this way
Different kinds of Partner Visa
There are 4 different partner visas. They are split up between temporary and permanent visas. And again split between applications lodged in Australia and outside.
The partner visa is processed in two stages: temporary and permanent stage. The temporary visa comes first.
Temporary Partner Visa
The first step in the process is the temporary visa. It takes 1-2 years to get. Applications outside Australia take around 12 months, while those who apply inside Australia can wait two years for their temporary visa.
Partner Visa 309
If your partner is outside Australia when you apply, then the visa you apply for is called Partner visa subclass 309.
You will wait around a year for a decision on this visa. Once granted, your partner can come to Australia to live with you.
Many applications for Partner visas from Thailand are Partner visa 309. This is because Thai nationals are rarely allowed to lodge visa applications in Australia. This means they must be in Thailand when they apply for their Partner visa.
So, the visa they apply for is the 309. If you apply outside Australia then you also must be outside Australia, or you must leave Australia, to receive your visa.
Most Filipino ladies will lodge a Partner visa 820 because they are (mostly) allowed to apply for further visas when staying in Australia on a visitor visa.
The advantage of this, as you will see below, is that she then gets to stay in Australia for the two years or so it takes to approve her Partner visa.
Finally, check out our Visa Advice section if you have a Filipino Bride.
Partner Visa 820
If your partner is in Australia at time of application the visa is called Partner visa 820. The application will take around two years to decide.
There is also some benefits to applying in Australia including getting a Bridging visa so that you can stay, work rights and Medicare.
Most Cambodian, Vietnamese and Filipino ladies can apply in AUstralia. Check out Brian’s story about getting a Marriage Visa for his Cambodian wife and family.
When your partner applies in Australia, she will get a Bridging visa. This bridging visa allows her to stay in Australia. Up until the Partner visa is approved.
While she stays, she has full work rights and access to Medicare. So, this can be very beneficial if you want to share the visa application fee.
If your partner is pregnant and you would like to have Medicare to cover the expenses of the birth, this can be done by making a partner visa application.
Move from Fiance Visa to Partner Visa
Some people, before getting married, apply for a fiance visa. The fiance visa lets your partner come to Australia for 9 months.
During this 9 months you can make plans for your wedding. You are required to get married during the nine months and then notify Immigration that you are married by supplying your marriage certificate and making a Partner visa application.
Advantages of the Fiance Visa
Firstly, the Fiance Visa has a low threshold requirement to apply. You need only have met the person you intend to marry and genuinely intend to marry them.
Compare this with a Partner visa, where you need to have lived together for 12 months – if you intend to apply on a de facto basis.
Another advantage of the fiance visa is that you can apply for it and then you can get married and upgrade to the Partner visa free of charge.
All you have to do is supply your marriage certificate to the Immigration Case officer and you will then be considered for the 309 Partner visa.
Disadvantages of the Fiance Visa
If you have a Fiance visa already, you then marry and apply for the Partner visa there is an extra fee to be paid to Immigration.
Also, the fiance-partner visa pathway is the slowest way to get your Permanent Residence.
First you will wait about a year to get the Fiance visa. Then you apply in Australia for Partner visa 820 which will take around two years and then finally to get your Permanent Residence Partner visa 801 will take another year.
So this way of going about things it will take around 4 years from beginning to Permanent Residence.
However, if you consider that you can apply for the Fiance visa very early in your relationship then it does make sense that things should eventually take longer.
We have written a details article about success in long-distance relationships.
Permanent Partner Visa
The second stage of the process is the permanent visa. You will be considered for permanent residence after two years.
Partner Visa 100
If you applied for your Partner visa outside Australia, then your permanent visa is the 100 visa. This is applied for at the same time as the 309.
After two years you update Immigration on your situation. Telling them if your relationship is still going, or not.
You will present some more up-to-date evidence of your relationship and provide fresh police checks and health examinations.
Waiting time for the time of update is around 12 months.
Partner Visa 801
If you applied in Australia, then the permanent visa is the 801 visa.
Once you get your 100 or 801 visa, you are a Permanent Resident of Australia. This means you can stay in Australia for ever. But remember that the travel facility on your visa only lasts 5 years.
Permanent Residents are eligible to apply for Centrelink benefits – see below.
Skipping the Temporary Partner Visa
Immigration may consider you for an immediate permanent visa. You must have been in a long-term relationship, that is, a relationship of over 3 years. And that is at time of application.
Having a child to the relationship and a two-year relationship can see you progress to the permanent visa. Without getting the temporary visa first.
This is all at the Department’s discretion though. So, even if you do meet the requirements to skip the temporary stage – immigration can still grant the temporary visa – rather than your permanent residence straight away.
Consider yourself unlucky, however, there is no right to skip the temporary stage.
Who can apply for a Partner Visa?
To apply for a Partner visa you must be in a relationship with an Australian. The relationship can be a married relationship or a de facto relationship.
Same-sex couples can apply for a partner visa on a married or a de facto basis.
Married couples still apply for a Partner visa. Its just that they are married at the time of application. However, just because you are married doesn’t entitle you to an Australian visa.
You must still prove to Immigration that your relationship is real. That you have not married simply to get a visa!
De Facto Visa
De facto couples live together like married couples but have not married … for whatever reason.
It might be that one of you is still married to another person – this makes it impossible to re-marry.
De facto couples need 12 months of living together before they can apply for an Australian Partner visa. Unless, they can show exceptional circumstances exist.
A same-sex couple applies for a partner visa in just the same way. In 2017, Australia legalised same-sex marriage.
This means that same-sex partners can apply once they are married. If they do not plan to marry (or perhaps one is already married) then they can also apply on a de facto basis.
If you are in Australia holding a Visitor visa and you want to stay permanently. Then you can apply for a Partner visa, provided there is no negative condition on your Visitor visa.
So you need to check your Visitor visa for condition 8503.
If you have condition 8503 on your Visitor visa this means you are prevented from applying for any visa while you stay in Australia.
It is possible to have condition 8503 removed. See this article: Condition 8503 No Further Stay
Sponsors must meet certain requirements to qualify to sponsor for a Partner visa. The sponsor must be an Australian (or a New Zealander who meets other requirements).
The sponsor must also meet character requirements and must not have already sponsored too many times.
Sponsor Criminal History
If the sponsor has a serious criminal history, they may not succeed in sponsoring their partner.
A serious criminal history means a sentence of over 12 months. However, there are rules where a sponsor with lesser criminal concerns can be barred.
This is a complicated are of the law. Contact us if you have concerns about sponsorship. We can tell you whether you qualify to sponsor your partner for a Partner visa.
Sponsors cannot keep sponsoring multiple partners. In general, you can only sponsor two partners in a lifetime.
However, this rule can be appealed and there is room for the Immigration Department to accept the sponsorship of someone who is a genuine sponsor and has already sponsored two or more times.
Secondly, there must be five years between the previous application and the grant of a new application. So, by applying in 2015, for example, you can apply for a new partner visa in say 2019 but it cannot be granted until 2020.
Again, this is a little complicated so you should get advice from one of our lawyers or Agents if you are considering sponsoring for a second time.
Waiting for a Partner Visa
The waiting time for Partner visa decisions is currently between 1 and 2 years. The actual time you will wait can differ for all kinds of reasons.
There are, however, a few things you can do to speed things up:
This is a visa that lets her stay in Australia while waiting. You only get it when you apply from inside Australia.
So, unfortunately if your girlfriend is outside Australia – there is no bridging visa.
An important consideration is what happens to the Partner visa application if your relationship breaks down.
Firstly, if your relationship breaks down, with no chance of repair, you must inform Immigration. Otherwise you risk deportation or removal from Australia.
If your sponsor dies during the processing of the application, then you can still get the visa.
If you or your dependent child have suffered violence in the relationship, then there is still a chance you can be granted the visa without the sponsorhsip.
Partner Visa Decision
After a long wait, Immigration will make their decision about your visa. If you applied outside Australia, you must leave Australia to receive your decision.
The approval of your Australian Partner visa is a significant achievement. It means you are able to come to Australia to live with your partner.
Remember though that if any of your circumstances change you must tell Immigration.
With a partner visa, you can stay in Australia as long as you want. And you can come and go as you wish.
If you receive a refusal, the AAT can review the decision. It is not the end of the road for your Partner visa application.
The review will very likely cause the decision maker to reconsider. Most partner visa refusals are reversed at the AAT.
As soon as you have applied for a Partner visa you can also apply for Medicare. This can be a godsend for many, particularly if you are pregnant.
Medicare can help pay for doctor’s bills, scans and the stay in hospital at time of birth.
Partner visa applicants in Australia as visitors can access Medicare. All you have to do is take your passport and visa notice to the Medicare office.
They will arrange an interim Medicare card for you. Then you just wait about 4 weeks until the real card arrives in the post.
When you make a Partner visa application in Australia, you will soon have work rights. As soon as your visitor visa expires – you can work.
You cannot work in Australia on a Visitor visa so wait until your Visitor visa expires to enjoy full work rights.
If you are wanting a Tax File Number then simply contact the Australian Taxation Office.
If your wife or girlfriend is pregnant then getting Medicare can be important. After you apply for an Australian partner visa, the applicant is able to apply for Medicare. This means, that even if you apply offshore – Medicare is still available.
When your partner gives birth in Australia, the baby is automatically an Australian citizen.
Australian Permanent Residents can apply for Centrelink benefits. These include payments to assist you with raising a family, disability needs or finding work.
Before you are a Permanent Australian Resident you are not able to apply for benefits. In some cases, having a partner will actually reduce your sponsor’s Centrelink payments. However, its possible as a single person to get the higher rate of benefit.
You should contact us if you would like more information about getting the highest rate of pay from Centrelink while your partner stays with you in Australia.
Get Professional Help
Finally, if you are considering an Australian visa application then get professional help. Immigration will see that you have spent the money to engage a lawyer or Agent. This will, in turn, help your application because it is obvious to the case officer that your relationship must be significant – if you have gone to the trouble of engaging a professional to handle your case.