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Schedule 3 Partner Visa

Who is eligible for a Schedule 3 application?

Schedule 3 of the Migration Regulations 1994 applies to visa applicants who no longer hold a substantive visa or are unlawful non-citizens at the time they lodge a visa. If you do not hold a substantive visa, you may be able to apply for a valid visa, such as a Partner visa, if the criteria under Schedule 3 are satisfied or you can demonstrate compelling reasons to have a Schedule 3 criteria waived. A substantive visa is one that is not a bridging visa, criminal justice visa or enforcement visa.

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What is a Schedule 3 Partner visa?

Applicants who do not hold a substantive visa or are unlawful at the time that they lodge a partner visa may be eligible to apply for an onshore partner visa if the Schedule 3 criteria is met or if they can demonstrate compelling reasons for waiving the requirement to satisfy all Schedule 3 criteria. Schedule 3 specifies additional criteria for visa applicants who do not hold a substantive visa or are unlawful.

Eligibility requirements for Schedule 3 Partner visa

A visa applicant who falls under Schedule 3 must satisfy one of the following requirements to be eligible for a grant of an onshore partner visa:

  • Hold a diplomatic visa (Subclass 995) or a special purpose visa or 
  • Satisfy Schedule 3 criteria further discussed below or
  • Provide compelling reasons as to why the applicant should be permitted to remain onshore

Schedule 3 criteria includes:

  • 3001 - the application is made within 28 days of the expiry of applicant’s last substantive visa
  • 3003 - criteria relating to illegal entrants prior to 31 August 1994
  • 3004 - the applicant does not hold a substantive visa for factors beyond their control and there are compelling circumstances to grant the visa; as well as that the applicant to demonstrate that they have substantially complied with the conditions of their previous substantive visa
  • The applicant can demonstrate that they would have otherwise been entitled to be granted a visa if they applied for one within the limit period
  • The applicant can demonstrate that they intend to comply with all future visa conditions
Learn more about partner visa requirements

Benefits of the Schedule 3 Partner visa

Despite the high threshold to satisfy Schedule 3 criteria (or otherwise seek a waiver to the requirement to satisfy them), obtaining a Partner visa under the Schedule has its benefits.

  • It allows applicants to apply for a partner visa onshore without the need to leave Australia to apply for an offshore Partner visa so long as the criteria is met. 
  • It provides a limited opportunity for individuals to still be eligible to apply for a partner visa despite not being a holder of a substantive visa or an unlawful non-citizen.

Schedule 3 Partner visa checklist

Schedule 3 Partner visa applications require a significant amount of evidentiary documentation to meet the threshold. The Australian government requires the applicant to demonstrate that their relationship is genuine and continuing. The following documents must be provided to support a Schedule 3 partner visa application: 

  • Passport
  • Full Birth Certificate 
  • Driver’s licence (if applicable) 
  • Marriage Certificate (if applicable) 
  • Divorce Certificate (if applicable)
  • Australian police clearance certificate 
  • Overseas police clearance certificate
  • Evidence of Financial aspects of the relationship 
  • Evidence of Nature of the household 
  • Evidence of Social aspects of the relationship 
  • Evidence of Nature of the commitment
  • Statutory declaration
  • Report from medical practitioner
  • Report from psychologist

How the Schedule 3 Partner visa works

A Schedule 3 Partner visa requires an applicant to lodge a Partner visa application along with additional information and evidence to satisfy the criteria under Schedule 3 or demonstrate to the Department of Home Affairs compelling reasons as noted above. The additional information that is required means that it is encouraged that a lawyer prepares the visa application on the applicant’s behalf as inadequate evidence may delay the process. 

Navigating Schedule 3 requirements and demonstrating compelling reasons is challenging at the best of times. We highly advise speaking to one of the Australian Migration Lawyers team members about the process and how we can help you. 

Future visa pathways

Once a Partner visa is granted, the applicant is (typically) on a temporary Partner visa (Subclass 820), which allows the applicant to stay, work, study, travel and apply for access to Australia’s public health care scheme in Australia until the permanent partner visa (Subclass 801) is granted.

Benefits of using an immigration lawyer

The team at Australian Migration Lawyers have a wealth of experience. We have a high success rate for Partner visas and other primary applications, and we do not shy away from complex cases, including Schedule 3 Partner visa cases. These cases are rarely straightforward. They are difficult to navigate and obtain, and our professional legal team can assist you at every step of the way.

  • The team at Australian Migration Lawyers is made up of Australian qualified lawyers who draw on their knowledge of relevant legislation and case law in advising you on your Partner visa application, and other migration options and strategies available to you.
  • As lawyers, we strive to ensure that your Partner visa application is compliant with all legislative requirements for the grant of a Partner visa, which naturally improves your chances of success. 
  • We assist you with preparing your application all the way through to the grant of your visa, including working with you to action any additional requests from the Department of Home Affairs.

Schedule 3 Partner visa costs

There are two main costs associated with Schedule 3 Partner visas:

  • Professional fees 

Fees will vary depending on the circumstances of your application. Some applications will be more complex than others and our fees will be quoted accordingly. Where possible, we work on a fixed-fee basis rather than billing hourly to provide our clients with certainty about what the total costs associated with their Schedule 3 Partner visa application will be. We also offer instalment payment plans in some instances to provide flexibility for our clients. 

Book a consultation with one of our qualified lawyers to get a quote.

  • Department fees 

The current fee for the Department of Home Affairs in relation to Partner visa applications is $8850 (cost payable at the time of lodgement). This fee must be paid upfront and the Department does not accept split payments. Payment can be made using debit/credit card, PayPal, UnionPay and BPAY. 

Visa application process

Applying for a visa to Australia can be complex. With help from an Australian Migration Lawyer, we can untangle this complexity, and help you apply for the right visa.

1. Consultation and engagement

2. Preparation and support

3. Submission and communication

4. Representation and success

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Processing times

The processing times for a standard partner visa vary. However, Schedule 3 partner visas can take longer to process compared to a standard partner visa application. As such, it is important to seek professional advice to avoid the risk of a visa refusal, as this will cause additional delays.


To apply for a Partner visa, the following conditions must be met.

  • Both the applicant and sponsor must be over 18 years of age
  • The sponsor must be an Australian citizen, a permanent resident of Australia or an eligible New Zealand citizen
  • Both the applicant and sponsor must have been in a de facto relationship for at least 12 months 
  • Meet the requirements provided in the checklist above

Meet your Australian Migration Lawyer

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We offer professional migration advice and support, no matter where you are based. Those located in Australia have the choice of meeting with us at one of our offices or online, and for those offshore, we are available to you online.

Frequently asked questions

Read our most commonly asked questions about Schedule 3 partner visas .

What are factors beyond the applicant’s control within the content of a Schedule 3 application?

Factors beyond the applicant’s control may include, for example, circumstances such as a severe illness and serious accident. It is strongly advisable that you speak with an Australian Migration Lawyer to discuss your personal circumstances. 

What are compelling reasons within the context of a Schedule 3 application?

Compelling reasons are not clearly defined in legislation but rather given an ordinary definition of meaning (from the common dictionary) to be ‘brought about by moral necessity’.

Compelling reasons may include, for example: 

  • There is an Australian child of the relationship
  • That an Australian citizen will suffer were the substantive visa not granted
  • Serious illness, including mental health (e.g. serious depression) 

What is the likelihood of the Department of Home Affairs granting my visa application in relation to Schedule 3?

Every visa application is individually assessed by the Department of Home Affairs. The high threshold of a Schedule 3 Partner visa means that it is important to seek advice from an Australian Migration Lawyer to ensure you put your best case forward. 

What should you do if you no longer hold a substantive visa and want to apply for a partner visa?

Such circumstances may give rise to considering a Schedule 3 Partner visa. Due to its complexity, it is highly recommended that you seek professional legal advice from an Australian Migration Lawyer. Our lawyers are experienced in working with complex matters and are able to assess and prepare your matter accordingly to achieve the best outcome.  

About the content author

Perry Q Wood
Perry Q Wood
Partner - Principal Migration Lawyer

Perry Q Wood is National President of the Australian Institute of Administrative Law and one of Australia’s leading administrative and migration lawyers. To date, he has been involved in 1,000+ migration and refugee matters.

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