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Partner Visas: What You Need to Know

Australian partnership visas are one of the highest partner visa fees in the world. The partner visa application fee has increase substantially over the last five years, rising from $3000.00 in 2013 to $7000.00 in 2017. The next increase is due July 2018 in line with the CPI.
 

As substantial as the Department’s partner visa application fee is – $7,000.00 – this is for the primary applicant only. It does not include other dependents which vary from 50% to 25% of the primary applicant’s fee depending on if they are over or under 18 years of age. To further add to costs, almost all applicants will undergo a health examination, over 16-year olds will need police checks from their home country as a minimum, document translations and, if you are wise enough to use one, your registered migration agent’s fees.
 
Based Modern Migration Australia’s broad experience, the cost for a partner visa application made whilst in Australia is around $8000.00 less agent fees. This is not an insubstantial amount, hence you need to decide how confident you are in your ability to prepare and submit an application or use the services of a professional registered migration agent. There are no shortage of horror stories of refused partner visa applications where applicants are threatened to be or are forced out of Australia to focus your attention
 

Partner Visa Application Processing Times

As with all visa categories, processing times dependent on the number of applications and the complexity of those applications. On average, the Department has been approving around 50000 spouse-partner-fiancé visas per year, but there are roughly 70,000 applications submitted each year – and yes, there is a backlog currently sitting with the Department. On the Department website, the onshore applications are indicated as taking around 20 to 24 months to process. Offshore or prospective marriage applications are taking about 12 months, though from our experience depending on the quality of the application and applicant’s country of origin, it could be longer or shorter. With that waiting time, supporting documents such as Police Clearances can expire before a case officer is appointed as well as medical results. This is an area where good management needs to be exercised.

Relationship Timelines

There are two main paths of partner visas – the de facto and the married path. To be clear, to apply for a partner visa, you will need to meet the requirement of a 12-month de facto relationship (at least 6 months living together). While the married path has no time requirement, the need to establish a genuine relationship remains essential. One of the main exemptions to the 12-month cohabitation requirement for De Facto partner visas is where your relationship has been registered by an Australian State or Territory Government – but this is not an easy out and also not available in all States and Territories.
 

The Fiancé, or to give it its correct name, Prospective Marriage Visa, can sometimes be an appropriate choice where a de-facto or married relationship can’t be established. However, the Fiancé route is more expensive as it requires a second application to be made after marrying in Australia.
However, the fundamental aspect of any visa application in this stream is to ensure you have the evidence of a genuine and ongoing relationship – this is the ‘must’ for all applications.
 

Relationship Evidence

There are four main areas that need to be demonstrated to prove a genuine relationship; finance, cohabitation, social and future commitment.
 
A detailed, accurate and consistent personal statement is the starting point for all good partner visa applications.
 
Depending on the nature of your relationship, such as how it started, time spent together or a long-distance relationship, the type of evidence you have will be different. As we know, every application has its own unique features. And these need to be embraced and explained in a way that fully supports the relationship.
 
You should also be aware of the Department will likely check your public records and social media posts or in rare instances contact the family to verify the relationship.
 
Finally, and as we’ve outlined earlier, due to processing times, your application will need to be updated regularly while it sits in the queue.
 

Health Requirements

There is nothing more heartbreaking for a couple to be told that a pre-existing medical condition will lead to the refusal of their visa application. This is one area where using a professional registered immigration agent will be enormously beneficial, as the first question we will ask you is about your health and the health of any dependent applicants.
 
All the applicants in the application need to pass health checks. The government’s aim is to ensure the safety and well-being of the Australian community and its citizens but that can have a serious impact on your application. Therefore, a person with health issues can be a potential burden on Australia’s healthcare system. Minor ailments such as asthma are unlikely to be a problem, but other common ailments such as Diabetes and other more serious conditions can be an issue. They may include physical or psychological disabilities, as well as cancer and HIV, and other blood illnesses. In that case, there is still an option to apply for a waiver if that person can provide compelling and compassionate reasons to allow your partner access to Australia’s healthcare system. Unfortunately, offering to pay for treatment is not an option. Therefore, it is essential to be aware of these requirements before you lodge the application.

Character Requirements

“There is a speeding fine on my record, will it affect the outcome of our partner visa application?”
 
This is a common question our registered migration agents in Perth get. The answer is, it is unlikely to negatively affect a partner visa application.
 
The Australian Government has made clear its ‘get tough’ on crime stance and at the forefront of that push has been the Department of Immigration and Border protection – now the Department of Home Affairs – which has been cancelling and refusing visas on the basis of applicants or visa holders not meeting the Character Test or simply being an unsuitable person in the eyes of the Department. So, an applicant with a criminal record of any kind needs to discuss this in great detail with a registered migration agent to determine what their risks are prior to making an application.
 
This ‘get-tough approach’ also includes the requirement for sponsors to meet character requirements. In this approach, a sponsor with charges or convictions may be rejected to sponsor a partner or spouse. As a result, a visa application may be refused. Compromising charges and convictions include:

• Violence, including murder, assault, sexual assault and the threat of violence
• Harassment, molestation, intimidation or stalking
• The breach of an apprehended violence or similar order
• Firearms or other dangerous weapons
• People smuggling
• Human trafficking, slavery or slavery-like practices (including forced marriage), kidnapping or unlawful confinement
• Attempting to commit any of these offences
• Aiding, abetting, counselling or procuring such offences
 
However, if your visa application is refused, the visa application charge will not be refunded. Therefore, if there are criminal convictions in your past – regardless of how long ago they occurred – you need to submit strong evidence to the Department to show it is reasonable to disregard this information as there are a range of factors for the Department to consider prior to deciding to approve or refuse the visa.
 

Other Aspects to Consider

Most spouse or partner applicants if successful in the application process, are granted a Provisional Visa. This visa is in effect for three years (previously two years) but the three-year period starts from the date of the original application. After three years, the applicant becomes eligible for a Permanent Visa (PR) subject to meeting the Permanent Visa partner requirements.
 

In some cases, such as where there are children to a relationship or the relationship can be satisfactorily proven to be greater than three years prior to applying, the applicant can be granted Permanent Residence.

Sponsors

Any adult person who is an Australian Citizen, a settled Permanent Resident or an Eligible New Zealand citizen can be the sponsor. A sponsor can only sponsor two partners over a lifetime with each application being at least five years apart.
 
However, you may still be able to be a sponsor more than two partners if there are compelling circumstances, for example:
• Your previous partner died or abandoned the relationship, and you have young children
• You have been with your current partner longer than two years
• You or your partner have dependent children

If you find yourself in these circumstances, then it’s best to get expert advice from an experienced qualified registered Australian migration agent. Chat with our experienced immigration agents in Perth.

Relationship Breakdowns

If a relationship has broken down, the applicant might still be eligible for a visa if there are special circumstances, for example, their partner has passed away or they or a member of their family unit have experienced family violence by their partner. Relevant family violence is not limited to physical harm. It may also include other forms of abuse such as psychological and/or financial abuse. And of course, acceptable evidence will need to be provided.
 

Please keep in mind you do not have to stay in an abusive relationship to stay in Australia.
If you find yourself in these circumstances, then its best to get expert advice from an experienced, qualified and registered Australian migration agent.
 
If you need any further information about partner visas or any advice about your circumstances, please do not hesitate to contact our registered migration agents in Perth at Modern Migration Australia.