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When can I apply for a partner visa?

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Partner & Family
Australian Migration Lawyer
February 13, 2024
minute read

A comprehensive guide

Unlike tourist or student visas, the Australian partner visa process is a permanent residency (PR) pathway and the assessment process is far more rigorous than temporary visa application processes. That is, because you can get permanent residency via the partner visa route without a skill or qualification, many people pretend to be in fake relationships, sometimes referred to in the movies as ‘sham marriages’’. Fraudsters coordinating fake relationships for visa purposes often go to great lengths to obtain evidence, including documents, to support their application. This means that it is difficult for the Australian Government to distinguish between your genuine relationship and someone trying to get permanent residency in Australia by way of a fake relationship. Unfortunately, this results in thousands of partner visas being refused. In recent years, as many as 42% of all partner visa applications were initially refused by the government. If your partner visa application is initially refused, you can appeal to Australia’s administrative review tribunal and each year more than 1,000 couples have their refusal overturned at the tribunal after proving their relationship is actually real. It is important to understand however that if your partner visa is refused, you may have to wait up to two years for Australia’s administrative review tribunal to schedule a tribunal hearing, hear your evidence and determine your appeal. This is why we recommend engaging an Australian Migration Lawyer to prepare a strong, decision-ready application in the first instance.

In the meantime, this guide will take you through everything you need to know about partner visa applications in Australia.

Understanding partner visas

Before diving into the specifics, let's clarify what we mean by ‘Partner Visas’. There are essentially two main types of partner visas:

The onshore partner visa (Subclass 820) and the offshore partner visa (Subclass 309).

These visas allow the de facto partner or spouse of an Australian citizen, Australian permanent resident or eligible New Zealand citizen to live in Australia.

Combined with the types of partner visas, there are two categories of visas known as the temporary partner visa and the permanent partner visa. Both of these categories can be classified under the two types of visas.

But that’s not all. If you're looking to get married, there's also the prospective marriage visa (Subclass 300), which is for individuals who plan to marry their Australian partner after they arrive in Australia.

For some, all that partner visa info is a lot to take in, and we understand. Book in a consultation with us and we can talk you through the process leaving you with a sense of clarity about your specific situation.


Book a consultation

If you are interested in getting more information about a partner visa, get in touch with Australian Migration Lawyers for a free consultation


When to apply for a partner visa

The timing of your partner visa application depends on your circumstances. Generally, you can lodge a partner visa application to the Department of Home Affairs at any time if you are in a de facto relationship or married to an Australian citizen, permanent resident or eligible New Zealand citizen.

Typically, if you're in a de facto relationship you usually need to wait 12 months. This means you and your partner need to have been together, sharing life as a married couple would, for at least a year before you submit that partner visa application.

But here's some good news - there are exceptions to this rule!

If your relationship is officially registered in some Australian states, you might not need to wait the whole year. Just remember that the rules for registering relationships can vary, and not all states offer this.

If there are special circumstances, such as if you two have children together, you might also be able to apply earlier.

If you're married, you don't need to worry about the 12-month rule for the partner visa, but you will need to prove that your marriage is genuine and continuing.

Australian Migration Lawyers can provide you with advice on your specific situation and what options are available to you around a partner visa application.  

De facto relationship

According to Australian migration law, a de facto relationship is defined as one in which you and your partner, who may be of the same or opposite sex, have an exclusive commitment to a shared life. This relationship should be genuine and continuing, and you must live together or not live permanently apart.

Inclusion of same-sex relationships LGBTQ+

Australia recognises the rights of individuals in same-sex relationships. This inclusiveness extends to its partner visa policies. Same-sex couple applications for temporary and permanent partner visas are regarded the same as those from opposite-sex couples. This means that you are equally eligible to apply for a partner visa if you are in a same-sex de facto relationship or married to an Australian citizen, Australian permanent resident, or eligible New Zealand citizen. In this way, Australia ensures that people of all sexual orientations have equal access to migration pathways. As with any application for a partner's visa, it is essential to provide substantial evidence to prove the authenticity of your relationship.

Can I apply for a temporary partner visa while on a student visa?

If you're in Australia on a student visa, and during this time you've either entered into a de facto relationship or married someone who's an Australian citizen or a permanent resident you can certainly apply for a temporary partner visa.

It’s an exciting prospect, but here's the thing to remember: when you apply for the temporary partner visa, your student visa doesn't stop immediately. It continues until its expiry date. That means you should keep studying and comply with the conditions of your student visa, even while your partner visa application is being processed. Once your student visa expires, a bridging visa will ordinarily become active. This bridging visa allows you to lawfully stay in Australia while you're waiting for the outcome of your partner visa application.

So, in essence, you're transitioning from a student visa to a bridging visa, and then potentially to a temporary partner visa, depending on the outcome of your application.

However, it's important to remember that the process of applying for a Temporary Partner Visa while on a student visa can be quite complex. The specific details of your situation, such as the conditions tied to your Student Visa, can impact your eligibility to apply for a partner visa and the process for doing so.

Due to the complexity of the process, enlisting the help of a migration lawyer with your partner visa application can provide some peace of mind knowing your situation is in the hands of people with knowledge in this area.

Can I apply for a partner visa while on a bridging visa?

In most cases, you cannot apply for a partner visa while on a bridging visa. In rare cases, a partner visa application can be made on compassionate or compelling grounds that would need to satisfy particular Schedule 3 criteria. This criteria is difficult to satisfy.


Tips for partner visa applications

Applying for a partner visa is a significant step, and the application process can be complex. Here are some tips to help you along the way:

1. Evidence of Your Relationship: The Department of Home Affairs will need to see evidence of your de facto relationship or marriage. This can include financial records showing shared finances, proof of living together, and statements from both you, your partner and others about the nature of your relationship.

2. Health and Character Checks: You'll need to pass health and character checks. These checks are standard procedure for many visa applications, and the partner visa is no exception. You'll need to undergo a health examination by a government appointed doctor and provide a police clearance certificate from every country where you've lived for 12 months or more in the last 10 years.

3. Application Fee: Be prepared for the application fee. The cost is significant, so make sure you understand the financial commitment before you apply. As of July 2023, the application fee for a partner visa (subclass 820/801 or subclass 309/100) is $8,850.

Keep in mind that this fee doesn't include other possible costs such as the fees for health checks, police certificates, or translation services, if required.

We ope this guide offers a good starting point as you navigate your partner visa journey. The team at Australian Migration Lawyers are here to assist you at any step of the way. 

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