Summit Migration

29020b_9838befa70a54782931f62469d79747bmv2 Ultimate Resident Return Visa Guide

SUMMIT
MIGRATION

Presents the

ULTIMATE RESIDENT RETURN VISA GUIDE

Last edited 20 July 2018

WELCOME

So, you’ve been granted permanent Residency, you’ve settled in Australia, 

There’s only one hitch.

The Department of Home Affairs (the ‘Department’) wants you to prove that it’s the real deal.

Proving love is not a straightforward process. After all, how do you prove something intangible?

It turns out the Department has decided that it can be proven. It’s just going to take you a lot of evidence. Like, a lot. The average Partner Visa (back when things were done on paper) included over 200 pages of evidence. As you set out on this journey, you’re likely going to have to compile years’ worth of bank statements, rental agreements, holiday photos, ticket stubs and the like.

It’s our hope this guide becomes your one stop shop for applying for a Partner Visa (also known as the marriage visa, de facto visa, spouse visa or permanent partner visa). Feel free to tag this page in your favourites, send to a friend or save as a pdf.

If you’re in a relationship with an Australian citizen or permanent resident, it is their entitlement to have their foreign partner obtain permanent residency in Australia. A partner visa gives effect to that entitlement to create a pathway to permanent residency (and ultimately citizenship) for the partner who is not Australian. For that reason, all you need to do is show that you satisfy the requirements of the visa in order to be granted.

Applying for a marriage or de facto partner visa is a two-step process. In the first stage, partners who meet the legal criteria for the grant of the visa are granted a temporary visa. Two years after lodging the first stage visa, if the relationship is still continuing, an application for a permanent visa may be lodged.

This guide sets out the requirements to get your visa granted, and includes a priority system for how you should tackle your application. This guide is for you if you want to migrate to Australia with your partner – whether you’re married, in a de facto (that is, marriage-like relationship) and whether you’re in a opposite sex or same sex relationship.

Even if you intend to work with a Registered Migration Agent (RMA) or Immigration Lawyer, it still worth referring back to this guide to ensure that your agent is on track and giving you the best advice

As with all visa applications, the precise requirements that the Department is looking for will change depending on the case officer and your personal circumstances. These variables can’t be specified but what you CAN do is go above and beyond the requirements to give yourself the best chance of success.

But! And here’s a word of warning. A partner visa process is not for the faint-hearted. When the Department wants to check your relationship’s authenticity, they won’t be afraid of combing through all your personal details, sneakily checking your Facebook, showing up unannounced at your door and requesting further information.

 

If your life doesn’t get turned inside out by the evidence requirements, your wallet certainly will by the application fee. As of August 2018, the application fee stands at AUD7160 for the two-stage process (check here to get latest prices).

Ouch.

No wonder so many people choose to go the process alone, without a migration agent.

If you’re ready to get informed about the Partner Visa process and figure out if you have what it takes to tackle both stages, then read on!

Problem-warning-icon Ultimate Resident Return Visa Guide

While all care is taken to ensure that this guide reflects the most accurate information, migration law is a fluid, rapidly changing area of law. This guide is for informational purposes only and should not be taken as specific legal or migration advice. This guide does not create a solicitor-client or agent-client relationship. If you have any concerns or if this information is unclear then you should contact a lawyer or migration agent before continuing.

29020b_9838befa70a54782931f62469d79747bmv22-1 Ultimate Resident Return Visa Guide

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Resident Return Streams

The Partner Visa Process

Starting Your Partner Visa Application

Partner Visa Evidence Overview

Partner Visa Relationship Evidence

Before Grant of the First Stage Visa

Applying for the Second Stage Visa

29020b_9838befa70a54782931f62469d79747bmv22-1 Ultimate Resident Return Visa Guide

Chapter one
PArtner VISA TIPS
(just starting out)

If you’re just starting out then this guide may be too advanced for you. This guide will assume that you understand certain topics. With that in mind, if we discuss a complex idea, we’ll link you out to another reference point that may help you out.

The purpose of this guide is to be a practical handbook to helping you complete your own partner visa application. If you run into difficulties or complexities, which we’ll flag as we go along, you should definitely seek professional legal advice or the assistance of a migration agent.

128x1282 Ultimate Resident Return Visa Guide

Immigration Lawyers and Registered Migration Agents

In Australia, there are two paths to offering Migration assistance. You can either finish a three or four-year Law degree then complete a further one-year post-graduate legal practice diploma then be admitted to the Supreme court of your state all before practicing migration law, OR, you can finish a nine to twelve-month diploma and then advise people on immigration law. If it seems like a big difference, that’s because it is, and necessarily the quality of advice that you’re going to get is going to vary also. We recommend that if you do find a migration agent, either check they come from a legal background or check how long they’ve been in business.

Partner Visa Costs

There’s no way around it, the Australian partner visa is expensive. At around $7000 a pop, it’s likely the most expensive relationship visa in the west.

But that’s not the sum of it.

You should also consider the following costs:

  • Medical Assessment (Approx $330).

  • Police check in Australia for the Applicant AND the sponsor (Approx $50 each).

  • Police check in all countries where you have lived in for over 12 months after turning 16, for you AND your sponsor (Cost varies by country).

  • Officially translated and certified documents in a language other than English from a NAATI accredited translator (Around $100 per page).

  • Migration Agent or Immigration Lawyer fee, should you opt to seek assistance (anywhere from $2,500 to $4,000).

If you are ready to invest that in order to secure your visa, it’s important that you do it right the first time. One mistake, one glaring inconsistency, or one missing document and you could face a visa refusal.

Partner Visa Tips and Tricks

Before you even start the process there are a few key things to know that will make life easier for you.

  • Make a decision about the next three years. You’re going to either need to apply for the onshore or offshore partner visa stream. Either choice is going to drastically shape your future plans. Once you ‘pull the trigger’, you should make sure that that choice works with your plans.

  • Start the Process as soon as you can. You’re going to need a lot of evidence so the soonest that you can start to compile this, the better. This means identity documents, relationship evidence and any other important documents all need to be collected. Get the Partner Visa checklist and start compiling.

  • Order your documents well. Create clear folders on your desktop for each document type under the four pillars of relationship evidence (listed below). You’re going to need to lodge a few rounds of evidence (initial application, optional evidence a year in, and second stage evidence), so it’s best to get those documents as clearly filed as you can. Keep in mind that the Department has limited each file upload to 5MB each. This means that you should save photos in medium to low resolution rather than in full lossless quality. Do that, and you’ll have a nightmare trying to scale back the ballooning size of your documents later.

  • Start collecting evidence in your day to day. Each pillar of relationship requires differing evidence. You need to hold onto those ticket stubs and party invitations. Seriously. They all prove the social aspect of your relationship. Make sure you start taking loads of photos. Buy a selfie stick and snap yourself and your partner in front of every recognisable landmark (you’ll thank us later).

  • Save for that Fee. It’s not cheap.

  • Think about getting advice. While we at Summit Migration know that migration advice is not cheap, it’s worth getting an initial eligibility assessment right from the start to check whether there are any issues that you might hit in the process. Nobody wants to get a ‘Notice of Intention to Refuse’ from the Department because they missed a critical element of the application. If you’re the kind that like to go it alone, many agencies provide an option for a check over of the application before you submit it. Given the hefty partner visa fees, this could work out to be the safest option.

Partner Visa Online
Application

As of 1 July 2018, applications for Partner and Prospective Marriage (subclass 820, 801, 309, 100 & 300) visas must be lodged online via ImmiAccount. Payment of the visa application charge will also need to be made online via the ImmiAccount portal. You can no longer apply for these visas in person. Paper applications will not be accepted by the Department.

Keep an eye out for information online that refers to the now outdated paper application. This information out of date and should be disregarded.

29020b_9838befa70a54782931f62469d79747bmv22-1 Ultimate Resident Return Visa Guide

Chapter Two
The Partner visa Process

There are two streams for the Partner Visa Process. While they both are effectively the same visa, the differing numbers denote whether you have made the application inside or outside of Australia. ​

Sponsor
Requirements

The basic requirements of a sponsor is, for both the onshore and offshore pathway, that they are:

  • Over 18 years old.

  • Australian Permanent Resident or Citizen (Or eligible NZ Citizen).

  • Have not been sponsored themselves or sponsored another person in the last 5 years.

  • Have not sponsored more than two other partners.

The last two requirements are to stop sham marriages. They may not necessarily be conclusive requirements, as there are provisions to allow exceptions in compelling and compassionate circumstances.

You can also add children to your partner visa application as dependants. The process for doing that is beyond the scope of this guide.

OnSHORE Pathway

The Applicant requirements for the onshore pathway differ at the first and second stage of the Application.

subclass 820
(temporary) Visa

  • You are married or, if you are a de facto couple, you can show that you have lived together for 12 months.
  • Hold a substantive visa without a no further stay condition, that isn’t a sponsored visitor visa, a criminal justice visa or a provisional general skilled migration.
  • Your identity is confirmed.
  • You pass the Medical and Character checks.
  • Not had a partner visa refused or cancelled.
  • Not have a debt to the Australian government.
9696969 Ultimate Resident Return Visa Guide

Subclass 801
(Permanent) visa

  • You are still in the relationship with your partner two years after applying for the Subclass 820.
309 Ultimate Resident Return Visa Guide
64x64 Ultimate Resident Return Visa Guide
820/801 Processing Times

820 – Temporary visa

75% of applications processed in 24 months
90% of applications processed in 30 months

801 – Permanent visa

75% of applications processed in 16 months
90% of applications processed in 23 months
Processing times are prone to change. You should check the Department’s website here for up to date details.

Bridging Visa for
Onshore Pathway

If you lodge your Partner visa while you are in Australia and your former visa expires you will receive a Bridging visa associated with your previous visa. The rights under your bridging visa is generally dependent on the previous visa you held and whether you had work or study rights on that visa. 

  • If your previous visa had study rights, your bridging visa will likely have study rights.
  • If your previous visa had work rights, your bridging visa will likely have work
    rights.

If you lodge your Partner visa while you are in Australia and your former visa expires you will receive a Bridging visa associated with your previous visa. The rights under your bridging visa is generally dependent on the previous visa you held and whether you had work or study rights on that visa. 

  • If you held a short term working visa, you may need continue working for the sponsor until your 820 visa is granted. If this is relevant to your circumstances, you should seek migration advice.

If you do not have work rights on your bridging visa, you may be able to apply if you can show compelling and compassionate circumstances.

Generally, you will be granted a Bridging Visa A which doesn’t allow you to travel. If you have a need to travel you can apply for a Bridging Visa B which will grant you the right to reenter Australia should you make trips outs of the country. Keep in mind that your Bridging Visa B will revert to a Bridging Visa A after it expires.

OffSHORE Pathway

The Applicant requirements for the offshore pathway differ at the first and second stage of the Application.

Subclass 309
(Temporary) visa

  • You are married or, if you are a de facto couple, you can show that you have lived together for 12 months.
  • Your identity is confirmed.
  • You pass the Medical and Character checks.
  • No debt to the Australian government.
9696969 Ultimate Resident Return Visa Guide

subclass 100
(permanent) visa

  • You are still in the relationship with your partner two years after applying for the Subclass 309.
2 Ultimate Resident Return Visa Guide
64x64 Ultimate Resident Return Visa Guide
309/100 Processing Times

309 – Temporary visa

75% of applications processed in 21 months
90% of applications processed in 26 months

100 – Permanent visa

75% of applications processed in 23 months
90% of applications processed in 32 months ​

Processing times are prone to change. You should check the Department’s website here for up to date details.

sydney-opera-house Ultimate Resident Return Visa Guide
Applying onshore or Offshore
Given that the processing time for both the onshore and the offshore are quite lengthy, most people are interested in progressing their application while living with their partner in Australia
If you apply for the onshore pathway, this means you’ll need to be in Australia at the time of application and holding a substantive visa without a ‘no further stay’ condition. The conditions that attach to your bridging visa will depend on the visa you hold at the time of Application (see below). ​
Notwithstanding, here are THREE reasons to apply for the Offshore Partner visa instead of the onshore:
  1. You can still visit Australia on Visitor Visas throughout the processing times (as long as you exit the country prior to grant of your Subclass  309).

  2. Faster processing times.

  3. Opportunities to work and study should you not be eligible for Bridging Visa with conditions that suit. 

If you’re unsure about which pathway you wish to take, you should get advice from a migration agent. ​

Where you lodge your Partner visa application affects:

  • Where you must be at time of temporary visa grant if your Partner visa application is successful; and

  • Who can lodge an application to seek review of the decision if your Partner visa application is not successful.

If you lodge your Partner visa application while you are outside Australia, you must be outside Australia when the temporary Partner visa is granted. If you lodge your application while you are in Australia, you must be in Australia when the temporary Partner visa is granted.
If you lodge your Partner visa application while you are outside Australia, you may be either in or outside Australia when the permanent visa is granted. If you lodge your application while you are in Australia, you may be either in or outside Australia when the permanent Partner visa is granted.
q Ultimate Resident Return Visa Guide

Prospective Marriage Visa (Subclass 300)

It may be that you are not yet married and have no evidence that you’ve lived together as a de facto couple or spouse. In this case, you may be better suited to a prospective partner visa.  This isn’t covered in this guide, but a specific guide for prospective marriage visas is coming soon. In the meantime, you can find out more about prospective marriage visas here.

Waiving the twelve month co-residence
period

If you’re looking to apply for the Onshore Partner Visa as a de facto partner but have not lived with your partner for more that twelve months, it’s an option to register your relationship with your state and waive this twelve month period. Keep in mind that you’ll still need to satisfy the other criteria to demonstrate you are in a genuine, ongoing relationship.

The registration process is different in each State and not all States (or Territories) allow couples to register their relationship. It’s important to keep in mind that a civil partnership or civil registration is legally similar to a marriage, so if that is of concern to you, you should seek legal advice.

  • New South Wales – ONE of you has lived in NSW for a short period of time. Click here for further information.
  • Queensland – At least ONE of you has lived in Queensland for a minimum of 6 months. Click here for further information..
  • Victoria – Neither of you are married and that at least ONE of you has lived in Victoria for a short period. Click here for further information..
  • Australian Capital Territory – Neither of you are married and that ONE of you is usually resident in the ACT. Click here for further information..
  • South Australia – Neither of you are married and that ONE of you has lived in South Australia for a short period. Click here for further information..
    ​​
  • Tasmania – Neither of you are married and BOTH of you live in Tasmania. Click here for further information.

Most states have a two stage process where you need to register the partnership before being able to access your Civil Partnership Certificate.

Problem-warning-icon Ultimate Resident Return Visa Guide

Complex partner visa application

At this point you should have enough information to figure out whether or not you have a complex partner visa on your hands.

If that’s the case, then you should definitely seek migration advice. The cost of applying for your Partner Visa with the risk of refusal is just not worth risking it.

Our Immigration lawyers would be happy to assess your situation and provide you with detailed advice on your best pathway.

29020b_9838befa70a54782931f62469d79747bmv22-1 Ultimate Resident Return Visa Guide

chapter three
starting your partner visa
application

Application links

If you have decided which ​visa pathway to take, then it’s time to start your Partner Visa Application.

Both the onshore (820/801) and offshore (309/100) pathways are applied through the same portal, you will simply nominate whether you are applying in or outside of Australia.

ONline Form
Partner visa tips

You can start a Partner Visa Application form at any time. A case officer won’t look at the form until it is validly lodged along with the Visa Application Charge. You can use this time to get familiar with the form requirements.

When you get to the ‘Relationship Details’ page, the form will ask you details about the four pillars of your relationship. At this point it’s best just to state ‘See Attached Declaration’ in all these fields. We recommend that Applicants use a separate Statutory Declaration to set out their relationship evidence.

You’re going to need to nominate two supporting witnesses. If you have a choice of witnesses, we suggest you nominate somebody who is administratively efficient otherwise you might be left waiting a long time for them to complete their Statutory Declarations.


Take your time on the forms. You can save them at any stage.

Once you have finished a first draft you can print the Application in full and review it manually to make edits.

Partner visa
Application fee

The current Visa Application Charge or (VAC) for the two pathways is:

AUD7160

Check here to get latest prices

Now that the Application process is entirely online, there are a few changes that it pays to be aware of. You will only get access to the document upload screen once you have paid the VAC.

If you pay for your visa application by Credit Card or PayPal, a surcharge applies. This ranges between 1-2% per transaction which for a seven grand purchase is an unnecessary extra charge.

Neither cash nor cheques are accepted by the Department.

Screen-Shot-2018-08-03-at-1_26_02-pm Ultimate Resident Return Visa Guide

Pay by BPAY

We suggest paying by BPAY via an Australian bank to avoid this charge. BPAY payments are the only payment method not subject to any additional surcharge.

Before you submit your application, you might need to ask your bank to approve a payment to the Department. There are some delays to paying with BPAY so you should avoid paying within a week of your current visa expiring.

Find out more here.

64x64 Ultimate Resident Return Visa Guide

start the Clock

You should be aware that this processing time commences from time you pay the visa application charge.

With that in mind it may be better to submit an application awaiting further supporting documentation rather than add an extra month to your overall wait time by holding off on paying the Application fee.

UPDATE: There has been some indication that the Department is preferring decision-ready applications. You should discuss this with your migration agent.

Keep a note of the date you lodge your first stage visa application. This is relevant as its the date from which you are then eligible to lodge the second stage application. The Department won’t remind you of this, so it is up to you.

29020b_9838befa70a54782931f62469d79747bmv22-1 Ultimate Resident Return Visa Guide

chapter four
partner visa evidence
OVERVIEW

007 Ultimate Resident Return Visa Guide

Partner visa
Document Checklist

Click here for a PDF Checklist of all the things that you need for a Partner.

 

The Partner Visa application process is going to require a number of documents as evidence of your identity, your character, and the fact that you’re in a genuine, ongoing relationship.

It’s a process that gets intensely personal as you compile and order all the documents you need to satisfy the requirements. It’s also going to be quite a lot of work. You’re going to have to trawl through your records and search out your photo archive.

Providing Good
Evidence

Here’s a few general guidelines when submitting evidence to the Department:

Be Careful and Consistent. You’ll never regret being careful with your evidence. The problem with submitting so much information is that it’s possible you could submit two documents that are inconsistent. While this may not necessarily be fatal to your application, it certainly won’t help it. Not to mention the extra stress and worry of knowing that there is inconsistent information in front of your case officer. Before lodging any new item of evidence, run a check on whether it is inconsistent with any other piece of evidence lodged.

Be Comprehensive. If in doubt and if your document supports your application and is coherent, then lodge it. The biggest concern is that you will have insufficient evidence. An abundance of evidence makes positive decisions easy for your assessing case officer.

Be Clear. It should always be clear what your evidence is showing and how it supports you application. Evidence that is out of focus, water-damaged, grainy, or low resolution should be discarded. Evidence that is unclear should be clarified with descriptions. 

Before, lodging anything to the Department you should ask yourself:

  • What does this document show?
  • Is the document legible and in a readable form?
  • Will an English-speaking case officer understand what this document is for?
  • Is this document consistent with the body of evidence lodged so far?
document Ultimate Resident Return Visa Guide

Always use PDF

If possible, you should always use the PDF format for all your documents. PDF retains its own formatting and is universally accepted no matter which operating system.

Foreign Language
Documents

If your documents are not in English, you must get them translated by a NAATI certified translator. English is the official language of Australia so all documents submitted to the Department must be translated. This can be an expensive process to find an accredited translation service, so generally only documents that are central to your application (prior court orders) or required (like identity documents) should be sought to be translated. TIS has a number of accredited Translators that you can search by language on their website below:
008 Ultimate Resident Return Visa Guide


Original Documents

You should never send originals to the Department unless they specifically request them. Always make a colour photo copy and have that copy certified by the appropriate authority.

Certified copies are authorised or stamped as true copies of the original by a person or agency authorised to do so under the law of the country that you are in.

People authorised to certify copies in Australia include (but are not limited to):

  • Justices of the Peace
  • Pharmacists
  • Solicitors
  • Police Officers
  • Registered medical practitioners
  • Bank or Postal managers

Be prepared that this service may cost a fee and/or require a booking.

passport Ultimate Resident Return Visa Guide

Identity
Documentation

It’s a requirement of the Department that your identity is fully confirmed before you are granted a permanent visa. You should include certfied copies of
  • Birth Certificate
  • National Identity Card
  • Any other family identity documents that include the Applicant
  • Driver’s Licences

It is essential that you provide certified copies of your current travel document and all pages that have been stamped or used by a customs office.

Identify Documents that aren’t going to be helpful are the following kinds of cards:

  • Membership cards
  • Bank cards

You will also need to provide 2 passport sized photos.

29020b_9838befa70a54782931f62469d79747bmv22-1 Ultimate Resident Return Visa Guide

chapter five
PARTNER VISA EVIDENCE
PRoving the RElationship

Here’s where the Partner Visa process starts to get very personal. The Department needs evidence to demonstrate that you are in a genuine ongoing relationship.

Australian Migration law sets out the ‘Four Pillars of Relationship’ Evidence:

ionic-pillar Ultimate Resident Return Visa Guide

Financial
Aspects of
the
relationship

ionic-pillar Ultimate Resident Return Visa Guide

Nature
of the
Household

ionic-pillar Ultimate Resident Return Visa Guide

Social
Aspects of
the
relationship

ionic-pillar Ultimate Resident Return Visa Guide

Nature of the
Partners’
commitment
to each
other

With each of these pillars, you are going to need to think creatively about how you can demonstrate they are satisfied. You’re going to need to address them in your Partner statements, your support statements, and your supporting documentary evidence. 

passport Ultimate Resident Return Visa Guide

Statutory
Declarations

A statutory declaration is a written statement which you sign and declare to be true before an authorised witness. Commonwealth statutory declarations are different to State and Territory statutory declarations. You can find out more about statutory declarations here.

Keep in mind that you are affirming that the contents of this document are true in every respect, so make sure that you are completely truthful.

Once the statements are completed you should have a few people read over them to ensure they are consistent, clear and comprehensive. It’s not uncommon to have a few iterations of the form.

partner Statements

Both the Applicant and the Sponsor should each make a clear statement about the relationship. This is your opportunity to set out the main story of the relationship, how you met, all the important dates along the way and how the relationship developed.

The right format to do this is in a statutory declaration.

It’s usually best to set out your statutory declaration in a clear chronology. Think of telling a story. Don’t worry about being too long, but instead focus on being as precise and accurate as you can.

The purpose of the Partner statements is to create a clear narrative that weaves in the four pillars of the relationship above. Talk about the key milestones of the relationship, the date that you consider that the relationship became serious, the date you moved in together, the date you shared your finances etc.

You should write your statement as though telling your story to someone you’ve never met. You can’t assume that the case officer assessing your application knows anything about your relationship.

Get our comprehensive package to preparing your Partner Visa Statements. Don’t settle for the standard Form 888 provided by the Department, but supercharge your application with our legal precedents. This package includes:

The statement precedent we use at Summit Migration to prepare all our Partner Statements. This precedent is suitable for both the Applicant AND the Sponsor.

The precedent we use to prepare all our Supporting Witness Statements.

Example Partner Statements for the Sponsor, Applicant and Supporting Witness.

GAPS IN THE
RELATIONSHIP

If there is anything in your relationship history that is confusing or unaccounted for, this may raise questions with the case officer. Your Partner statements are a good opportunity to clarify these gaps and provide additional information.

If you have a question about whether or not a relationship issue will cause problems, you should seek migration advice.

SUPPORT Statements

Supporting Statements are essential as they provide third party substantiation of the timeline and evidence provided by the partners. These should also be provided in a statutory declaration format.

This is something you should started on as soon as you can, because most people take a long time to get their forms drafted, edited, finalised, printed and properly witnessed.

The Department suggest that these supporting statement be prepared on a specific Form 888 (available here), however, we suggest that you avoid this form. It is quite brief, and doesn’t have the space for you to provide very compelling evidence.

If possible each Support Statement, you should address:

  • Introduction stating that you understand that the declaration is being made in support of a partner visa.
  • Background on how you know the applicant and the applicant’s partner or fiancé(e), and indicate how often you have been in contact with them.
  • Your view on the genuineness of the relationship.
  • At least two specific occasions that the friends saw the partners present as a couple in a social setting.
  • At least two specific occasions where you witnessed the partners discuss their plans for this future.
  • Your understanding of their household arrangements. Use specific examples and describe specific instances where you witnessed the parties coordinate their household.
  • Your understanding of their financial arrangements. Use specific examples of times you saw the couple share their finances or make co-payments. ​

Each person who provides a support statement should be an Australian Citizen or Permanent Resident and be able to provide evidence. You should obtain a certified copy of their Passport or Birth certificate.

ionic-pillar Ultimate Resident Return Visa Guide

PILLAR ONE
Financial Aspects of
the Relationship

The financial aspects of the relationship refer to how you and your partner arrange your money. What the Department is looking for is evidence that you share expenses and financial responsibility as a couple. If possible this should include the following documents:
  • Join Bank accounts
  • Loans in joint names
  • Money transfers to either partner
  • Gifts sent on a regular basis to either partner
  • Insurance agreement
  • Wills of death benefits
  • Joint legal commitments
  • Tax Invoices
  • Joint payslips or remittance advices
  • Images of either partner working together or at one partner’s business.
  • Receipts or invoices for shared expenses, past, present and future (For instance, invoices for architectural plans for a future home).

If you’re reading this and planning on applying for a Partner Visa you should consider making arrangements that will help you provide this evidence. The longer history of shared financial arrangements you can provide, the more compelling this evidence is.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comments below.

ionic-pillar Ultimate Resident Return Visa Guide

PILLAR Two
nature of the
Household

The nature of the household is primarily about how you live together and how you share responsibility for housework. The Department is looking to see that you are co-residing and there is a shared household occurring.

If possible this should include the following documents:

  • Rent agreements showing names of both partners
  • Utility accounts showing names of both partners
  • Correspondence to the household addressing both partners
  • Photos of the shared living space and/or bedroom.

Most of this evidence should be addressed in your partner statements.

The kinds of things you should talk about are:

  • Division of responsibilities: Shopping, Cooking, Cleaning, Childcare etc.

This can also be addressed in the support statements.

236666666 Ultimate Resident Return Visa Guide

Surprise visits

Keep in mind that if you are claiming to be in a shared household, officers from the Department may make a surprise visit to your house to check ​that you are actually in a co-residence arrangement.

ionic-pillar Ultimate Resident Return Visa Guide

PILLAR four
Nature of the
Partners’
commitment to each
other

The nature of you are your partner’s commitment to each other is almost always the hardest of the four pillars to evidence.

If possible this should include the following documents:

  • Future booked holidays.

  • Wills, life insurance agreements, and death benefit agreements naming the other partner as a beneficiary.

  • Phone records showing consistent contact during periods of separation.

This will be addressed in the partner’s statements, which should both include: 

  • Knowledge of each other’s personal circumstances, background and history

  • Intention that your relationship will be long-term, often demonstrated through expressing your future plans

  • If your de facto, any future plans to marry. For both de facto and married partners, any shared intention to raise a family. 

  • Specific examples of how you intend to spend the next 15 years.

989898 Ultimate Resident Return Visa Guide

Presenting Your Evidence

You should get familiar with the function in Microsoft Word (or any other word processing service) to import photographs and images. This allows you to give every photo or image that you import a subtitle that explains what it is. 

A group photo without context is almost always confusing. People’s appearances change and even the Applicant and Sponsor may not be recognisable. You should label the location, event, date and people in the photo. 

A photograph of a document taken out of order from a series is also confusing. If there is a gap in the progression of documents, say a missing bill, you can add detail to explain why.

For instance:  

  • “This is Jane Doe (the Applicant) and John Smith (The Sponsor) with John’s family, from left to right,  his mother (Jane Smith), his father (Bill Smith) and his brother (Josh Smith) at John’s 30th birthday at Southbank Brisbane, at the Indian restaurant, on 21 July 2017.”

  • “This is a telephone bill from January 2017 to June 2017 showing the Applicant’s calls to the Sponsor. The bill from the month of March 2017 was misplaced.”

Once you’re done creating subtitles, you should save your evidence in PDF format.

Uploading Your
Documents

Once you’ve finished compiling your statements and your documentary evidence, it’s time to ​upload the documents to your Application in your ImmiAccount.

Each file should then be titled and given a date. You might want to submit further evidence later on so it’s going to be helpful to keep track of the documents you have and the date they were created. The Australian immigration department has you assign an “Evidence Type” label and a “Document Type” label to everything you upload. 

There is a file size limit that the visa application system imposes on all uploads. At time of publication, the maximum file size allowed is 5MB and the maximum files allowed is 100. 

You can’t un-upload a document. So be careful. Keep all the documents you intend to upload in a single folder.

Before you upload anything you should do a ‘final check’ of all dates, names and timeline. The primary area of failure for all partner visas is an inconsistent timeline. 

Remember. REVIEW REVIEW REVIEW.

29020b_9838befa70a54782931f62469d79747bmv22-1 Ultimate Resident Return Visa Guide

chapter six
Before Grant of the First
Stage Visa

Once you apply the job is not yet done, you still have a number of tasks before your first stage visa is granted.  Don’t stop collecting evidence just because you’ve lodged your application. It’s a marathon not a sprint. Keep taking photo scans of those tickets and invites and keep screenshotting those call logs. 

Additional
Relationship
evidence

If you’ve been involved in further travel, social events, financial developments with your partner then you should definitely lodge the updated information with the Department. This has the added advantage of demonstrating your committees and also substantiates that the relationship is still continuing. 

We tend to recommend that people do this at the one year mark after they have submitted their first stage visa.

Character

Prior to being granted a visa your need to satisfy the Department that you are of good character. Despite the fact that the primary visa application forms have been integrated into the ImmiAccount portal, the character assessment form is still required to be completed on its own pdf form and uploaded along with your other evidence. 

Looking through the form, you’ll see that it goes into high detail about your prior travel, addresses, study and, employment. We recommend printing it out and using it as a reference point for the information you’ll need to obtain.

You’re going to need to be really precise with the dates and the information on this form as it is going to be carefully checked by both the Department and the Australian intelligence community for any issues of concern.

If you’ve done a lot of travel in and out of Australia then you probably should apply to the Department for a Request for International Travel movements. THis details all of your entry and exit dates across Australian borders. The Form 1359 is available here.

Closer to the grant of the First Stage visa, you will get a request from the Department in relation to obtaining police checks. A police check is required from both the Applicant and the Sponsor.
The Australian Federal Police checks are only valid for twelve months from the date of issue, so once you get this request you can understand that you’re getting closer to grant. The turn around for an AFP check is 15 days according to the website, but we suggest leaving at least three-four weeks.
Note that you are seeking a National Police Check via the online portal. Unless specifically advised, you will not need the fingerprint check.

International penal
clearance certificate

International Police Checks are often referred to as International  ‘Penal Clearance Certificates’ (PCC). If you and/or your partner lived in any country for more than twelve months you will both need a PCC from that country.

If you’re a frequent traveller this may mean you’ll need to get a few PCCs.

Even if you’ve lived in another countries for more than 12 months AFTER applying for the first stage visa (likely the offshore), you’ll still need to obtain a PCC for that country prior to grant of your visa. This is because it is a ‘Time of Decision’ criteria. 

This is twelve months cumulatively total not just twelve months continuously. For instance, should you take a two-month break after 6 months in Canada, then return again for another 6 months, you’ll need to get a Canadian PCC. This is because your cumulative period in the country met the twelve month threshold. 

Ordinarily, you will be able to obtain a PCC from the police of a given country. The only exception to this is the US where you are going to need both federal and state level checks. The federal level check can be sought through the FBI here, but State level checks are through the relevant police station of the particular state.

If you stayed in a developing nation and the likelihood that you’ll actually be able to get a check is low, then there is a waiver process. Keep in mind that a part of the waiver process is demonstrating to did everything you could to get a penal clearance, so if you start having difficulty, save those emails! 

It’s important to make sure you’re applying the right police check, so as always, double and triple check.

medical
Assessments

Medical Assessments are in a similar category as AFP checks. Once you’ve had you Medical assessment it only stays valid for twelve months, so in most cases you should only get the check done once it’s in the relevant window leading up to grant of your visa. 

Generally, one you’ve lodged a partner visa online the Department makes available a referral letter for you to take to an eligible facility to have the check. The Department will likely also specifically request a Medical Assessment prior to grant. Depending on your country of origin, the referral letter may stipulate additional medical assessment requirements.

The nature of the Medical assessment sought depends in some part which country you are from. In effect, the Department wants to ensure that if it grants you a visa, you won’t be a burden to the public health system or a threat to the general populace. More on meeting the Medical Assessment is available here.

If you’re in Australia there is only one organisation that is authorised to provide health assessments, than that is Bupa Visa Medical Services.

12 Ultimate Resident Return Visa Guide

Making an appointment with Bupa Medical Services is generally a straightforward process. The Cost of the Medical Assessment is generally around $330 at a minimum. You’ll need to pay this when you make your appointment through their online portal.

If you’re travelling or offshore, it may be possible to get a medical health check cheaper than in Australia.  Check out the Department’s list of Immigration Panel Physicians here. These are the Doctors approved by the Australian government in other nations to provide visa medical assessments. Once you’ve completed your appointment, they’ll update your results with the Department.

Further detail about health examinations can be found at the Department’s website here.

236666666 Ultimate Resident Return Visa Guide

Character or Health
Issues

If you have either medical or character issues, which is to say, you fail or think you’re going to fail either one, then you should seek Migration advice at your soonest convenience. There are complex waiver processes in place for both Medical and Character based issues but given their time and complexity, you don’t want to wait until you receive a ‘Notice of Intention to Refuse’ from the Department giving you 28 days to respond or have your visa application refused.

Your Migration agent will also thank you as they might be able to avoid working over the weekend to cover your last minute deadline.

You should never fail to disclose whether you have a health condition or a past criminal history. Due to information sharing arrangements, the chances are high the department already knows. Any failure to disclose past health or character issues will be viewed poorly by the Department and create significant barriers for you (both in the initial instance and at the AAT). 

Honesty will always put you in the best possible position.

Responding to a
Request for Further
Information

It’s quite possible that before the grant of your visa, you may be issued with a Request for Further Information (RFI). As with all things related to the Department, you should endeavour to satisfy this request above and beyond its specific terms

If you don’t understand your RFI, then you should definitely speak to a migration Agent. 

Relationship
Breakdown or death
of the Sponsor

If your relationship breaks down after the grant of your temporary Partner visa but before the permanent second stage visa is granted, then you may still be eligible for the grant of a permanent Partner visa outside the two year waiting period.

here may be a pathway for you to proceed to the grant of a permanent visa, if:

  1. You or a member of your family unit experiences family violence perpetrated by your partner (for offshore partner visas, this occurred after you entered Australia)

  2. Your partner dies.

  3. Your relationship ends but both you and the partner both share parental responsibility for a child.

If your relationship breaks down, you should seek migration advice.

45454545444554545 Ultimate Resident Return Visa Guide

Refusal of the First Stage Visa

If you receive a refusal of the first stage visa, you should act quickly to discuss your matter with a migration agent or Immigration lawyer.

You may be entitled to apply to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal for review of this decision. However strict time limits apply so you should act promptly.

Further information about the AAT and merits review can be found here.

29020b_9838befa70a54782931f62469d79747bmv22-1 Ultimate Resident Return Visa Guide

chapter seven
applying for second stage
partner visa

If you’ve made it this far, congratulations! You have a final stage before the process is finished. 

Eligibility for
Application of
second stage

Two years after you have lodged your first stage application, you are eligible to apply for the second stage visa. This is calculated from precisely the date of the first application.

In most cases, permanent residence cannot be granted less than 2 years from when you lodge your application. You may, however, be granted a permanent visa without having to fulfil the usual two-year waiting period if:

  • At the time you apply, you have been in a partner relationship with your partner for 3 years or more, or 2 years or more if you and your partner have a dependent child of your relationship; or

  • Your partner holds or held a permanent humanitarian visa and you were in the relationship before the visa was granted and this relationship was declared to the department at the time (applies to subclass 100 visas only).

The Department provides a helpful calculator to determine whether you are eligible to apply for the second stage visa.

To apply, navigate to your ImmiAccount Select ‘New application’ and ‘Family’ on the following page.

Select ‘Stage 2 – Permanent Partner Visa Assessment (100, 801)’ and using your application ID complete the online application form.

There is no cost associated with the second stage application. 

Updating your
Documents

Updated Identity Documentation

If you’re circumstances have changed since initially lodging your first stage application, then you should update this detail in your second stage application.

Documentation could be: 

  • Certified copy of your Marriage Certificate.

  • Evidence of your name change. This may be a Marriage Certificate, Deed Poll or your country’s equivalent documentation. 

  • If you have obtained a new passport or had your passport amended since lodging your visa application, include a copy of your passport personal particulars or photo (bio-data page). The biodata page of your passport contains your name and date of birth, passport number, issue and expiry date, photograph and your signature.

Updated Character Evidence

Documents you may require could be:

  • An overseas penal certificate for any country which you have resided cumulatively for 12 months or more since the grant of the temporary partner vis

Updated Health Assessments

You may be asked to undertake another health examination. While the first health examination was in relation to a Temporary visa, depending on the country you are from, your second stage application for a permanent visa may trigger the requirement for a more vigorous health check.

Updating your
Relationship
Evidence

Partner Statements​

If you’re applying for a second stage visa, you need only show evidence of your relationship from the time of Application of the first stage visa to the present.​

Both the Partner and the Sponsor should prepare and lodge additional (or second) statements covering the relevant period. 

While the online form and the Form 888 both are available modes to prepare these statements, we generally suggest that the Applicant and Sponsor prepare their own Statutory Declarations and upload these as documentary evidence.

Support Statements​

Application for the second stage visa will require two additional support statements from witnesses who are Australian permanent residents or citizens.

They will need to provide proof of their permanent residency or citizenship.

Four Pillars of Relationship Evidence

As above, evidence demonstrating the four pillars needs to be lodged covering the period from first stage Application to the present. If you lodged a one year update, as suggested, this is a less onerous task.

8945861 Ultimate Resident Return Visa Guide

Getting More information

If you’ve come to the end of this guide and you’re still in search of further information, there are a number fo great free resources online.

Check out: 

  • The Department’s Partner Migrant Guide here.

  • Australia Forum here. This is a great source of anecdotal evidence about the Partner visa process.

Get Partner Visa Updates

45454545444554545 Ultimate Resident Return Visa Guide

Refusal of the
second Stage Visa

As above, if you receive a refusal of the second stage visa, you should act quickly to discuss your matter with a migration agent or Immigration lawyer. You may be entitled to apply to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal for review of this decision. However strict time limits apply so you should act promptly.

Further information about the AAT and merits review can be found here.

77777777777777777 Ultimate Resident Return Visa Guide

Final comments

So there you have it.

Congratulations, if you read this far you are well equipped to preparing your Partner Visa Application.

While following all the steps in this guide won’t guarantee a positive visa outcome, it certainly will improve your chances of success. 

As always, if at any point on the journey you are concerned about whether your application is at risk, then you should seek migration advice

21 Ultimate Resident Return Visa Guide
Simon Mason is the principal migration agent at Summit Migration. He holds a BA/LLB amongst various degrees. When he isn’t trail running, Simon can be found at a cafe drinking espressos and/or designing a better selfie stick.

We'd love to hear from
you

shares