A couple of weeks ago I pressed submit on what is probably one of the most significant applications I will make in my lifetime. Sounds dramatic but essentially whether I can continue to live in Australia with my Aussie fiancé is now in the hands of the Department of Home Affairs.
As I have been with my Aussie other half for 4 years we are applying for an Australia Partner Visa (subclasses 820 and 801) so that I can permanently live with him in his home country. We lived together in London for a year before coming to Australia, after which I came here on a Working Holiday Visa. Now that we have decided to stay in Australia I need to apply for a permanent residency visa.
It’s taken months of paperwork and preparation to get the point of hitting submit on the first application (this process has 2 halves – you apply first for the Temporary Partner Visa 820 and then 2 years later can apply for the Permanent Partner Visa 801) and we’ve got a long wait ahead. (Estimated processing times for Partner Visas was 12 to 18 months at the point I applied.)
Truth be told, the application process is long and confusing and that’s why I thought I would share some pointers for anyone going through it.
We didn’t hire an immigration lawyer as our situation is pretty clear cut but below are some of the things we wished we’d known before we started.
Tips for applying for Australia Partner Visa 820 & 801
- Start the process early. I mean really early. I first looked up the requirements for this visa about a year before we decided to apply for it so that I knew what was necessary way in advance. Even so, it took me about 3 months from the point of downloading the form to the point of submitting it to gather all the evidence and prepare the required paperwork. If you are applying from within Australia don’t leave it until you are nearing the end of your current visa – it will just cause unnecessary stress to get it in before the deadline.
- The paper application form is different to the online version. Because I am a super-organised (anal) person I downloaded the paper version of the form and filled out my answers in draft. Then because it requires less photocopying and printing I decided to submit the actual form online and thought I could read off my draft sheet to write my answers in. That’s not quite the case! In some places the online form wanted more information than I had prepared so my pre-planning didn’t really speed things up. It would have been better to simply choose which version to apply with at the beginning and stick to it.
- Gather all your identity documents. You are going to need certified copies of your identification such as passport and birth certificate as well as those of your partner. If in Australia these documents can be certified free of charge by a Justice of the Peace – I popped into the Supreme Court in Sydney and saw someone within minutes.
- Police check. You are required to have a police certificate for any country you have lived in for more than 12 months. If you are from the UK you will need to apply via post and pay £45 for the paperwork. It takes about 12 weeks for them to send the form back. If it doesn’t come back by the time you want to submit your application you can attach a copy of the request form in the meantime.
- Your family details. One of the things I wasn’t expecting the form to ask for was the full name and date of birth of all my siblings, parents, step parents and half siblings. We’re a big family so it took a while to double check these details. For any family members that are married you will also need to state their wedding date (online form only). You’ll also need to do the same for your partner’s family.
- Proving your de facto relationship. For a de facto partner visa you need to be able to prove you have been in a committed relationship for more than 12 months. If you have lived together (like Justin and I) for more than a year than submitting rental agreements and utility bills will be sufficient. For couples who have lived with family or travelled during that time, supplying the evidence can be a little harder so keep receipts accordingly. Evidence that can be submitted includes joint travel tickets, joint bills, joint bank accounts, communication, statutory declarations and photographs.
- The social factor. You are also required to prove that you have a shared social life. Aside from years worth of joint travel arrangements, Justin and I found this a little hard to prove (I tend to throw old paperwork out!). Things that are considered are joint membership to clubs/gyms, joint invitations, joint mail – so start collecting these items as soon as you think about applying.
- Include photos – but not too many! You can also include photographs to support your application. I chose 20 images showing Justin and I at various family and social functions with family members and friends. If applying online, I recommend you put these in a Word doc so you can add accompanying captions. Don’t make the mistake I did of making your document too big to upload though! We found putting 3 images and accompanying captions onto 1 page of Word and converting that to pdf worked best.
- Domestic and financial arrangements. You will need to provide statements on how the domestic duties are divided in your household and your financial arrangements. Justin and I wrote a statement each in Word.
- Statutory Declarations. A minimum of 2 statutory declarations from Australian citizens who know you and your partner are required to show the legitimacy of your relationship. They will need to complete a Form 888 and have it certified along with their passport. (Note: We asked 2 friends to do this for the 820 visa and 2 different ones to do it 801 so technically we had 4 in total.)
- Bridging visas. As I applied within Australia I was granted a bridging visa which gave me the right to remain while our application was considered. I applied online and the bridging visa came through instantly. From what I’ve read I’ve seen that most applicants are granted a Bridging Visa A which gives you the right to work but does not permit travel. If you want to leave Australia whilst your application is being processed then you will need to apply for Bridging Visa B at the time of travel, and fees will apply.
- Applying online. Once you have completed the online form and paid the fee (ouch) you will be taken to a page where you can upload your supporting evidence. This page includes multiple categories of evidence you can upload but to find out what is required for this specific visa you need to consult the evidence checklist. The maximum file size is not stated but I discovered that pdfs with multiple images are too large so be aware that you may need to cut file sizes down or split them into separate documents.
- Fees. The current fee for a de factor partner visa if applying within Australia is $7000 (more if you have children and less if you apply outside Australia). We were also charged a $75 card transaction fee (ouch again). Find a breakdown of the total costs of our Partner Visa here.
- Ask for help. I called the Department Of Home Affairs about 3 times before I even started my application form as I had questions over the bridging visas and when I should apply. (On that note: I was advised to apply as soon as possible as we already met the 12 month relationship criteria and the sooner you apply the sooner you are processed. Bridging visas only come into effect when your current substantive visa expires. For me, this means I can continue to travel up to the point my Working Holiday Visa expires, after which the bridging visa takes effect and I’ll need to seek permission to travel.) Each time I called the department I was able to leave a message and someone called me back the same day. I found everyone I spoke to really helpful and thorough – when I was working myself into knots over an issue one lady I spoke to asked me to simply tell her what I was worried about and then she addressed each of those concerns.
Fingers crossed we’ve submitted everything we were supposed to or a case worker will ask us for more if not. Good luck to anyone about to embark on this process. I hope some of these insights will prove helpful.
Update: My temporary partner visa 820 was granted on 12th March 2016 and my permanent partner visa 801 came through on the 10th April 2018 – almost 3 years to the day we first applied. I’ve posted links below to some posts that I hope will be helpful and you can read all posts on our partner visa experience here.
Thanks so much to everyone’s support – it’s been wonderful to see so many people help each other in the comments section. Although I’ve tried to get back to general comments I’m obviously not qualified to give my opinion on individual cases and as such will no longer be replying to comments or emails on this subject. I honestly have found calling the Department of Home Affairs the easiest way to get answers.