Follow how I went about preparing my Australian Partner Visa
Finding the love of your life is truly special. If you are planning to apply for an Australian Partner Visa, then please learn from my experience.
Australia is a great country, that offers those who are in a long term relationship, to invite their partner to migrate via the 820 Partner Visa. This visa is open to Australian citizens, Australian permanent residents or eligible New Zealand citizens, who have found the love of their life, but their partner requires a visa in order for them to stay in Australia.
The process I followed was for the application of subclass visa “temporary” 820 which, after two years passing, can then subsequently lead to the application of subclass 801 which is “permanent”.
Now without sounding alarmist, the visa process can take a large amount of effort to prepare. You need time to collate evidence of your relationship, compile supporting documents into the submission format, ensure that you fulfill all the required information, and wait for the lengthy review period by the Department of Home Affairs. If you do not plan and prepare now, this could set you back. And when the time comes to lodge your application, it will be extremely rushed and could lead to mistakes or unwanted oversights.
If you want to learn from my experience regarding what the Department of Home Affairs (Immigration) is looking for, then please read on.
Since moving to Australia, I’ve always planned to write about the Australian visa process. But I have been holding off until my visa was approved. But alas, I have not even gotten through to the second stage yet! We lodged over 12 months ago and we are still waiting. So I thought, I might as well write this article now, while I can remember what I did and it’s still fresh in my mind!
I have been in Australia for two years. I moved here to be with my partner Chris. We didn’t live together for the first year, which during that time I was on a working visa. Before Chris and I submitted the partner visa, there was a huge change to visa rules that we didn’t expect. And because of this, we decided to submit our application earlier than had planned.
Everyone who I have spoken to regarding their partner visa has a different background. So, just to outline, my background will be different to yours. Therefore you can use what I have written as a guide, but there may be little bits and pieces which should be treated differently, and that’s where a migration agent comes in really handy.
Our submission occurred about eight months earlier than we had planned. The reason for moving it forward, was that after discussing with a migration agent, we realised that by submitting earlier we saved time costs whilst giving us the best chance of living together in Australia with the most appropriate visa. Although there were other avenues that we could have taken, the migration agent advised that we were simply using my renewal of a working visa as a stepping stone to eventually land at the partner visa.
I wanted to renew my working visa, because I felt that I had run out of time to prepare properly for the partner visa. But our migration agent advised that it was possible to prepare the submission within 8 weeks.
Having spoken to the immigration agent, I realised that it was more beneficial to apply for the partner visa now. The immigration agent knew all the details about Chris and my relationship and she said “If you do apply now, you shouldn’t have a problem being approved. It will save you time and money, and you don’t have renew your visa before you submit your the partner visa.”
The Partner Visa is also very expensive, hence the immigration agent recommended there was no point in Chris and I going through an interim visa, from when my current visa expired to us applying for the partner visa. It would simply be a waste of money.
Hence three months before my current visa was to expire, in which I was then required to leave Australia due to an expired visa, Chris and I only had eight weeks to gather all of our information and apply for the partner visa. For some of you who know all about the partner visa you will understand that this is not a lot of time. It is definitely doable, because we did it! But, to be honest, it is stressful and time consuming.
I recommend you spend at least six months (maybe even a year) collecting evidence and making sure that you tick all the boxes so that when it comes time to lodge, you have everything ready.
It will remove all the headaches, and make lodging a whole lot easier.
Chris and I worked with a migration agent, which we found through personal recommendations from friends. Migration agents can be either lawyers or qualified consultants, who ensure that your application is as strong as possible to give you the best chance of getting accepted. Chris and I regard hiring a migration agent as similar to buying insurance. We are paying the migration agency a fee (on top of the partner visa fee), that allows us to achieve the best possible outcome. Of course, there is no 100% guarantee, but it increases the chances because a migration agent is your consultant. A migration agent knows exactly what you need to do to get everything approved and, in my case, because my background was unique, the migration agent was there to point out all the items that we didn’t tick off properly on the partner visa checklist.
Our migration agent was able to provide alternative ways to doing things legally that would help our application. Now if you are thinking that the migration agent could be advising illegal or unregulated procedures, you should be aware that each migration agent has a license number. On the partner visa application, the license number is registered, and lodged with the Government. The Government has an internal rating on all migration agents. And therefore, it is in the best interest for the migration agent to do the best they can for you, to avoid having their rating lowered.
Of course, anything that is not done above board, or in accordance with the law, would lead to an investigation into the migration agent by the government, and this could lead to the migration agent license being revoked and even fined.
Naturally, with anyone hiring a migration agent, the question is whether the agent is trustworthy. And they are, because they have a vested interest to not lose their license and achieve a good rating. Our migration agent charged Chris and I, $3,000 (excluding GST). The partner visa that we submitted cost us $7,000 ** upfront. Hence, in total we spent $10,000.
** as at July 2020 the fee has increased to $7,715AUD.
The $7,000 is a mandatory fee to the Government whether you go through an agency or not. As soon as you hit submit online, you have to pay it. The money is not refundable, hence this was another reason we went with an agency. The agency helped ensure that all of our requirements were covered and that we had the best possible chance of getting accepted. Paying the extra $3,000 simply gave us more peace of mind, and that we were doing all we can possible to ensure success.
Of course, the decision could still be a “No” by the government, but at least I would have known I tried my best.
As mentioned previously, the partner visa application process is a very lengthy. I recommend starting at least six months out from when you plan to submit.
There are three major categories that you need to collect evidence for:
After collecting the evidence, there are at least two statements that need to be prepared, History and Future Relationship Statement and Nature of Commitment Statement.
The Department of Home Affairs (Immigration) is looking for evidence of joint finances. It can be a joint lease agreement with both of your names on it, joint house ownership, car ownership, bank accounts, shared bills. You have to provide as much evidence as possible to show that your finances as comingled.
A big tip, if you are going to be lodging a partner visa and have time, get both of your names put on all of your household bills, phone plans, internet bills, utility bills such as water and electricity. Anything that shows that you are financially committed to each other. Because the point of the partner visa is declaring that you and your partner are “married” to each other (even if you’re not married as yet).
Even if you aren’t married, like Chris and I, you are still considered to be in a marriage relationship according to the Australian common law. In our submission, we included screenshots of our bank statements. In particular the parts that showed Chris sending me money, such as described with “money for Uber”. So anytime you have sent money back and forth to each other and it has the little description on it, screenshot it and send it in and add it to your portfolio. Every little bit counts to show that you are sharing money.
This we found was a little bit harder to prove. It may be easier for you, as each couple is different. However for us, at least, it was very difficult. Chris and I didn’t live together for the first year that I was in Australia. But then I moved into Chris’ house – he owns his apartment – and I was working on my affiliate marketing site and wasn’t actually working. This was because the visa I was on, didn’t allow me to get a proper job. Because I had no job, and no income, I obviously was not named on any of the bills. And we didn’t have a joint lease because I was just living with him. Chris paid for most of our bills, i.e. he was our finances. And because he paid for all our household bills, all the bills were in his name.
I found this quite stressful and a ridiculous requirement to prove, when I wasn’t even allowed to work in a proper job. So it was very difficult provide shared and joint evidence.
As part of the Household evidence, you also need to write out a statement of your relationship and how you contribute to the daily living. And because I didn’t work, our statements were a very traditional relationship whereby Chris works, and I took care of most of the household chores that included cooking, cleaning etc. It is important to describe in detail, who cleans what, the chores that we each do. Everything must be written in detail.
Our statements were three pages long. It’s similar to writing an essay regarding your home life. And in the statement, if you have kids or pets include describing how you both share your life with them.
With pets and children, outline who takes care of what, and the nature of the relationship in the household. Also, as mentioned previously make sure you include evidence of joint bills for the house utilities and provide rental statements. In addition, include anything that’s related to the house showing shared financials.
This is probably the easiest for most people to prove. It was by far the easiest for Chris and I, but it is also the most invasive. Social evidence is proving you are accepted as a couple by your friends and family. That you are publicly seen and known as a couple. Include screenshots of your Instagram, Facebook, any social media posts and emails of dialogue between you and your partner.
We included our Facebook Messenger screenshots that has dates on it. It’s really important to show dates in the partner visa application, because this provides a legitimate timeline that the Department can follow.
To obtain the partner visa, you must have screenshots that prove the length of the relationship.
Include photos, in particular event photos with each others family and friends. Include joint travel evidence proven by airline tickets with names on it. And include, bookings made together, join invitations and joint mail.
Anytime you get a letter, if your parents are sending you letters or packages, it is really important to have them address it to both of you. This helps prove that you live at the same address as your partner, that you have things that are shared.
Lastly for social evidence you need to include statutory declarations. A statutory declaration is an Australian legal form that you need to have completed by your family and friends to attest of your relationship. This legal document can only be completed by Australian citizens (or PR’s) and must be signed by the Justice of the Peace.
We had Chris’ parents, brother and sister, and two of our friends complete a stat dec.
The statutory declaration is required to attest how long they have known us as a couple for.
Remember, the Stat Dec, has to be from an Australian citizen and has to be signed by a Justice of the Peace. Once your friend(s) and family have completed the stat dec, they have to scan their passport and hand the stat decs to you so that you can include it in your application.
History and Future Relationship Statement
You will also have to write a statement about your relationship. This is an essay about the history of your relationship, i.e. how it started, what you love about the other person, how your relationship developed. Include if you’ve gotten married and other things that have contributed to the relationship.
Include anytime that you’ve broken up or been separated (even if you do not deem it to be a breakup), the times you’ve lived apart, and explain your future plans. Future plans is very important, because it indicates that you are in a genuine relationship.
The Department of Home Affairs will be reading about what are your future plans.
We were advised by the migration agent to write at least three pages.
Nature of Commitment Statement
This Statement explains the intention of the relationship of the commitment of being together.
This can be a joint statement, where you write about how you love each other so much and plans to be together and your future plans. Be honest and if you have been living separately, show that there was still commitment together.
Lastly you have to prove that you have been in a de facto relationship for 12 months.
Now, sometimes this is extremely difficult, because of course, if you haven’t been living together it’s hard to provide this evidence. There is a little loophole that our migration agent told us about. If you haven’t been living together for 12 months, which Chris and I had not been, at the time when we lodged out application, you can support the Partner Visa application with a state registered relationship.
You can register your relationship for $300 at Service NSW. Service NSW is specifically for NSW (duh), I’m not sure what the other States have for this State registration offices.
Both you and your partner have to go to Service NSW, complete the paperwork and hand in the forms. It’s quite quick to do. In summary, this form is to register your relationship, even though you aren’t technically married. The registration will help overcome the fact that you haven’t been living together for the past 12 months.
This is one way that the migration agent told us, that would be a way of getting around not living together in the past 12 months. Naturally, I wouldn’t leave this to the last minute and register right before lodging your Partner Visa application. Ideally register with Service NSW several months before hand.
You will need to perform a health check. Now, Chris and I haven’t been advised of moving on to the second stage yet. And therefore Chris and I haven’t gone to have the Health Check performed. Health Check statements can only last up to 12 months. Hence, you should wait until you are notified of when moving on to the second stage.
Both you and your sponsor will need to do a police check. The police statements are lodged at the beginning with coloured passport photos, along with verified copies of your passport and scanned copies that have been signed by the Justice and the peace .
Permanent Resident Sponsor
If your sponsor is not an Australian citizen, but they are an Australian Permanent Resident they will need to have proof of their PR. They need to be able to prove that their living situation is in Australia, because a lot of people who have Australian PR don’t necessarily live in Australia.
But of course, they need to prove living in Australia because that is evidence that you are having a genuine relationship. A lot of people have had jobs that have required them to travel overseas, and to live overseas for a while. It’s important to list out rental agreements or the house that they own, proof of their bills, of where they stayed, where travelled in the last 10 years. Also include every job you’ve had with specific dates and your title/position.
Benefits of using a Migration Agent
Now obviously there is a lot of paperwork to be done, and you could to this on your own. But the great thing about a migration agent is that they will highlight which part of the application is lacking.
Chris and I thought everything was done, and our agent came back and said okay you don’t have enough financial evidence and household evidence. The agent said that because I wasn’t working, I wasn’t on any of the bills and I was living in Chris’s apartment so I didn’t even have a name on a lease. Therefore Chris and I had to do some serious searching to get more evidence to support our lodgement.
In addition, the agent recommended we include three more stat dec’s from people that had lived with us.
These are the sort of things that will get you over the line with the Department of Home Affairs. And without consulting a migration agent, we wouldn’t have known.
If you are in a completely legitimate relationship, but you don’t submit your lodgement correctly, then that’s $7,000 down the drain and you have to leave the country.
Therefore Chris and I searched hard and provided the extra information as requested by the Migration Agent.
Extension of existing visa
Once lodged, your existing visa gets to rollover. This meant I didn’t have to go home. Once you lodge, you essentially get temporary PR.
Depending on the visa that you are on, the application of the Partner Visa will extend that visa. Hence if you are sponsored by a company for your job, it will extend your sponsored visa. This means you can’t actually change jobs until you get PR.
But one of the benefits is that you get Medicare. Which is great, because often applicants don’t have Medicare in the country that they are from.
Can’t Leave Australia
You can’t leave Australia to the to country of where you are from (or any other country) once you have applied for the Partner Visa.
But if you do need to leave, you can apply for a bridging visa, which will take over while you are outside of Australia.
My Personal Tips for Partner Visa Application
I hope this has helped you with understanding what is needed for a Partner Visa.
Below I have summarised, what the Department of Home Affairs is looking for. Good luck!
1. Genuine relationship
A genuine relationship is one that permitted to apply for the partner visa, however too often relationships which aren’t genuine are put forward for the partnership visa. There is therefore an onus on the applicant to prove that their relationship is genuine.
To prove this, there must be evidence to support the length of the relationship.
This means, you simply just can’t prove that your relationship existed a month ago, but that it existed for more than one year.
What constitutes evidence is anything that demonstrates that there is a shared liability, or shared asset and that there is third party documentation.
This may include:
- shared bank accounts
- shared utility bills
- shared credit cards
- shared internet connection
- shared private health insurance
The above are just some examples, whereby if shared and there is statement or bill in the names of both partners, then it will support the length of the relationship.
Evidence that travel occurred together.
This may include:
- Train tickets
- Bus tickets
- Air plane boarding passes
- Travel insurance for both of you
- Accommodation booked in both names
- Photos of both of you travelling together
Statements from third parties which are approved by the Justice of the Peace.
These statements are to declare that your relationship is genuine and is signed by a witness in the presence of a Justice of the Peace.
Photos of parties, celebrations or any other events that shows your relationship, in particular in the presence of family and friends.
Evidence of communication
Test message, instant messages, social media comments, emails, and any other correspondence.
2. Evidence of no criminal history
You must be able to provide police statements or police background checks, that the applicant of the visa does not have any criminal records in any country traveled to or resided in. This may take time to obtain, hence it is prudent to plan ahead and find out where to obtain policy checks from the relevant countries, how long will it take, and how to ensure that what the provide is legitimate, trustworthy and reliable.
3. Proof that each partners version of the relationship correlates
A statement from both partners explaining how they met, their events together, and their future plans. If you plan on getting married, then evidence that the marriage has been arranged, the celebrant has been contacted is further proof that the relationship is genuine.
4. Proof that neither partner is not in another relationship
Provide evidence through the Marriage department, that neither partner is married or is in a de facto relationship with someone else. And if was in a previous marriage, that the previous marriage is void or annulled.
5. Prepare early
If you envisage that applying for a Partner visa is possible, then you need to start enabling the structure of your finances, taking of photos, sharing of expenses, to provide proof as described in the previous sections. Also, if the applicant has traveled to many countries then begin the police check for every country.
6. Online submission
If you are intending to lodge online, then please be aware that there are file size limits for each upload. You will need to minimize the size of the files to be uploaded. Remember, mobile phones in today’s world can create images up to 30mb each. If you have many photo’s you will need to consider converting to smaller sizes of different formats.
If you plan on lodging for an Australian Partner Visa, then prepare early. You will need to provide evidence to support that the relationship is genuine. The evidence ideally is support by statements from third parties which indicates the period of time. Evidence that financial assets and liabilities is also required.
Compiling the required information is not easy, and if not properly collated and submitted, the review process may be delayed, and worst outcome refused. You therefore need to be very careful in a Partner Visa submission.
If you need help, and want to maximize the chances of obtaining a partner visa, then please contact us.