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How to bring your partner to Australia – Complete Guide for 2023

australian partner visa

How to bring your partner to Australia – Complete Guide for 2023

If you are wondering how to bring your partner to Australia, its important to understand both the various visa options and what Australia considers a partner. In this article, we explain the requirements to be successfully recognised as a partner under Australian immigration law and also provide an overview of the various visas types, processing times, costs as well as answers to a number of frequently asked questions by partner visa applicants looking to migrate to Australia.

What is a ‘partner’ under Australian Immigration Law? | Bring your partner to Australia

So what is a partner  under Australian immigration law? A partner is a person who is either the spouse or defacto partner of an Australian citizen, Australian permanent resident or an eligible New Zealand citizen. However, of course it’s not that simple, and a complex body of law has been developed around defining these terms and the types of characteristics that are indicative of a genuine and ongoing relationship. The following is a quick overview of how these terms are defined to give you a better idea of how the Department of Home Affairs will assess your eligibility for an Australian partner visa.

Spouse

A ‘spouse’ is defined in the Migration Act 1954 (Cth) as  two people in a marriage relationship that is recognised by the Act, that have a mutual commitment to life as a married couple to the exclusion of all others, whose relation is genuine and continuing and either live together or do not live apart on a permanent basis. Since Australia legalised same sex marriage on 9 December 2017, same sex couples are also recognised as spouses under the Act.

While most marriages registered in a foreign country are recognised in Australia, there are some exceptions. For example, arranged marriages will only be accepted where the Department of Home Affairs is convinced that ‘real consent’ was given and that the relationship is genuine and ongoing. In the case of polygamous marriage, only the first marriage will usually be recognised. Applicants and sponsors must also not be related by family.

Defacto partner

A ‘defacto partner’ is defined as a person in a defacto relationship who is over 18 at the time of applying for their visa and has been in a defacto relationship for at least 12 months.  This would most commonly be evidenced by a couple evidencing that they had lived together for the requisite period. However it is also necessary that they had commited to a shared life to the exclusion of all others throughout this period. As such, its often important to recognise that the relationship must go beyond a simple dating.

The 12 months will not apply if the relationship is registered under a State/Territory law prescribed in the Acts Interpretation Act (Registered Relationship) Regulations (namely, regulation 3) as a kind of relationship as prescribed in those Regulations. These include the following:

  • Relationships Register Act 2010 (NSW)
  • Relationships Act 2008 (Vic.)
  • Civil Partnerships Act 2011 (Qld)
  •  Relationships Register Act 2016 (SA)
  • Relationships Act 2003 (Tas.)
  • Domestic Relationships Act 1994 (ACT), and
  • Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act 1997 (ACT).

As can be seen, every state and territory of Autralia allows for the registering of relationships besides Western Australia and the Northern Territory.

Defacto couples must also not be related by family or marriage.

What are the four factors?

The four factors form the basis of how the Department of Home Affairs evaluates whether a spousal or defacto relationship exist. These are as follows:

  • financial aspects of the relationship
  • nature of the household
  • social aspects of the relationship and
  • nature of the persons’ commitment to each other

Home Affairs case officers use these factors to satisfy the legislative requirement that the relationship is:

  • relationship is genuine and/or continuing
  • the parties have a mutual commitment to a shared life to the exclusion of all others and
  • the partners are living together (or at least not living apart permanently).

Its important to note that while these must all be considered by the case officer, they don’t all necessarily need to be satisfied by the applicant. Further, case officers can and do also look at other relevant information to determine whether or not or these requirements are met.

In the case of the subclass 300 visa, case officers are still to refer to these factors to ascertain whether or not the couple will likely in the future be able to satisfy the above requirements of a marital or defacto relatioship.

Who can sponsor a partner to Australia?

The general requirement for a person to sponsor someone to Australia on a partner visa is that they are 18 or older and an Australian citizen, permanent resident of Australia or eligible New Zealand citizen. However, there are also some restrictions in place to avoid both abuse of the program as well as protection of the visa applicant and their dependents.

Protection of the applicant and their dependents

Under regulation 1.20KB of the Migration Regulations 1994, sponsorship must be refused if a sponsor has a conviction or unresolved charge for a ‘registrable offence’. This is defined in various acts but focuses on sexual crimes against children.

Further under 1.20KD, sponsorships may also not be approved where the sponsor has committed a ‘relevant offence’ and has a significant criminal record. Relevant offences include:

(a)  violence against a person, including (without limitation) murder, assault, sexual assault and the threat of violence;

(b)  the harassment, molestation, intimidation or stalking of a person;

(c)  the breach of an apprehended violence order, or a similar order, issued under a law of a State, a Territory or a foreign country;

(d)  firearms or other dangerous weapons;

(e)  people smuggling;

(f)  human trafficking, slavery, or slavery-like practices (including forced marriage), kidnapping or unlawful confinement;

(g)  attempting to commit an offence involving any of the matters mentioned in paragraphs (a) to (f), or paragraph (h);

(h)  aiding, abetting, counselling or procuring the commission of an offence involving any of the matters mentioned in paragraphs (a) to (g).

A ‘significant criminal record’ is defined as having been sentenced to 12 months or more in prison, a life sentence or a death sentence. It’s important to note that the 12-month period is cumulative and shorter periods of imprisonment all count towards the 12-month period. The Minister does however have the discretion to waive this requirement if he or she deems it to be reasonable.

Protection against abuse of the program

To protect the program from suffering from serial sponsors, the Department has limited the number and frequency of times a sponsor can sponsor a partner to Australia. Under the current rules, a person may only ever sponsor 2 people via the partner migration program. Furthermore, at least 5 years must have lapsed between the date of application of the first visa and the second visa. Further, sponsors who were themselves sponsored via the partner program are unable to sponsor a partner until the 5 year period of their own visa approval has passed. There are certain exceptions to these rules which we recommend.

What visa options are available to people looking to sponsor their partner to Australia 

We have summarised the main types of Australian partner visas in the table below. As a rule of thumb, people applying in Australia will apply for the subclass 820/801 while people offshore will apply for the subclass 309/100 if married or in a de facto relationship or the subclass 300 if they intend to marry their spouse in Australia.

Australian Partner Visas Comparison Table

RequirementsSubclass 820/801Subclass 309/100Subclass 300
LocationApplicants must be onshore to apply for the subclass 820 visa and when it is decided however may be onshore or offshore at the time the subclass 801 is decided.

Applicants must be offshore at the time of application and grant. However a 309 applicant  who is in Australia during the Covid concession period, can be granted their visa in Australia under certain circumstances.

A subclass 100 applicant may be inside or outside Australia at the time of grant

Applicants must be offshore to apply for this visa
VisaApplicants must hold a substantive visa unless ‘compelling circumstances’ exist to waive this requirement.N/AN/A
Requirements

Applicants must have a partner who is an Australian citizen or permanent resident or an Eligible New Zealand citizen

In the case of someone sponsored on a 300 visa, the sponsor for the subclass 820 visa must be the same sponsor.

Applicant and sponsor must be able to evidence that their relationship is genuine and ongoing

If the applicant is a holder of a regional sponsored visa requiring them to work and live in a regional area, they must have substantially complied with those visa conditions.

Applicants must meet the character requirement – in most cases, this means that they must not have  received custodial sentences that amount to 12 months in total and must be generally found to be of good character.

The sponsor has not committed a ‘related offence’ unless it has been quashed or fully pardoned so that crime is deemed to have never been committed

Applicants must also satisfy the Department of Home Affair’s health criteria.

Applicants must have a partner who is an Australian citizen or permanent resident or an Eligible New Zealand citizen

Applicant and sponsor must be able to evidence that their relationship is genuine and ongoing

Usually, the sponsor should have turned 18 however in the case of a partner who is under 18, their parent or guardian who is an Australian citizen, permanent resident or Eligible New Zealand Citizen aged over 18.

Applicants must meet the character requirement – in most cases, this means that they must not have  received custodial sentences that amount to 12 months in total and must be generally found to be of good character.

Applicants must also satisfy the Department of Home Affair’s health criteria.

The sponsor has not committed a ‘related offence’ unless it has been quashed or fully pardoned so that crime is deemed to have never been committed.

Applicants must also satisfy the Department of Home Affair’s health criteria.

The applicant and sponsor must be both free to marry

The sponsor must be at least 18 years old

The applicant and sponsor must gain a letter from a State or Territory registry or celebrant confirming partial completion of a Notification of Intention to Marry and details of the proposed wedding date and location to show that they intend to marry

Applicant and the sponsor must have met each other in person since both turned 18.

The Minister is satisfied that the parties genuinely intend to live together as spouses and that intend to marry within the period of the visa.

The sponsor has not committed a ‘related offence’ unless it has been quashed or fully pardoned so that crime is deemed to have never been committed

Applicants must meet the character requirement – in most cases, this means that they must not have received custodial sentences that amount to 12 months in total and must be generally found to be of good character.

Applicants must also satisfy the Department of Home Affair’s health criteria.

NotesThis is a two step visa – the 820 visa is a temporary visa that allows the applicant to be granted the 100 visa 2 years after the date of application. This period can be reduced to zero if the applicant and the sponsor have been married or in a de facto relationship for 3 years or in the relationship for 2 years and had a childThis is a two step visa – the 820 visa is a temporary visa that allows the applicant to be granted the 100 visa 2 years after the date of application. This period can be reduced to zero if the applicant and the sponsor have been married or in a de facto relationship for 3 years or in the relationship for 2 years and had a child<This visa is designed to allow couples to marry and settle in Australia before lodging their spouse visa application. After approval, a couple must marry within the duration of the visa. The visa applicant is then able to lodge a spouse visa at a reduced cost.

How long do Australian partner visas take to get?

The Department of Home Affairs has announced the following as the official processing times for the partner visas:

Australian Partner Visa Processing Times (2022/Aug)

Visa25% Of Visas Finalised50% Of Visas Finalised75% Of Visas Finalised90% Of Visas FinalisedAdditional Information

Under section 86 of the Migration Act, partner visas are not subject to capping and this is an area that the new Labor government has made a commitment to decreasing the backlog. Family visas are processed in order of priority which is currently as follows for family visas:

Interestingly offshore partner visa are processed more quickly than onshore visa applications likely due to the desire to the potential issues of separating partners. This can be an important consideration in migration strategy planning as an offshore visa may lead to a visa being granted more quickly.

How much do Australian Partner visas cost?

Australia has been called the most expensive country in the world to bring a partner so it’s essential to get the visa right from the beginning to avoid the time and expense wasted if the application needs to be relodged. The major costs for a partner visa besides agent fees and ancillary expenses is the visa application fee itself. Please see below for the costs of the various partner visas in August 2022.

Australia Partner Visa’s Fee table

Applicant outside Australia

All charges shown below are in Australian Dollars (AUD).

Visa subclassNoteBase application chargeNon-internet application chargeAdditional applicant charge
18 and over
Additional applicant charge under 18
Partner (Provisional and Migrant) visa (subclass 309 100)17aAUD8,085N/AAUD4,045AUD2,025
Prospective Marriage visa (subclass 300)AUD8,085N/AAUD4,045AUD2,025

17a People who apply for a Partner visa and who hold a Dependent Child visa (subclass 445) are eligible for a nil visa application charge.

Applicant in Australia

All charges shown below are in Australian Dollars (AUD).

Visa subclassNoteBase application chargeNon-internet application chargeAdditional applicant charge
18 and over
Additional applicant charge under 18
Partner visa (subclass 820 801)17bAUD8,085N/AAUD4,045AUD2,025
Partner visa (subclass 820 801) application by Prospective Marriage visa (subclass 300) visa holderAUD1,350N/AAUD675AUD335

Partner visa (subclass 820 801) application by:

  • former Prospective Marriage visa (subclass 300) visa holder or the equivalent which existed under the 1989 or 1993 Migration Regulations and
  • person who entered Australia before 19 December 1989, was engaged to an Australian citizen or permanent resident at that time and subsequently married that person.
17bAUD1,710N/AAUD855AUD430
Partner visa (subclass 820 801) application by a spouse with transitional Extended Eligibility Temporary Visa (EETV)17bAUD485N/AAUD240AUD125

17b People who apply for a Partner visa and who hold a Dependent Child visa (subclass 445) are eligible for a nil visa application charge.

Frequently asked questions

Can I travel after I apply for my Australian partner visa?

Yes, you are allowed to travel throughout the processing of your Australian partner visa with the following caveats:

  • You should keep immigration advised of your travel movements and update them on any change of address
  • If you have applied for an onshore visa and have been granted a bridging A visa, you should apply for a bridging B to ensure your rights to travel outside of Australia or you might not be able to return during the processing of your visa or satisfy the conditions of grant
  • A partner visa can be refused if you are at the wrong location at the time of decision. With this said, the Department will usually advise applicants if they need to return onshore or go offshore before making a decision on their application. If however an applicant does not arrive or depart within the agreed timeline, the case officer may proceed to refuse the application.

Can I get medicare on an Australia partner visa?

Medicare is available to applicants who apply for a permanent visa. As applying for both the 820 visa and 309 visa also means you have applied for the permanent stage subclasses 801 or 100, applicants are eligible to apply for Medicare. However, it’s important to be mindful of your existing visa obligations as these could often mean you should continue to meet the insurance requirements of the visa you currently hold. Subclass 300 visa applicants and holders are not however eligible for Medicare and as such should take out appropriate coverage. We are able to assist our clients who need help with taking out suitable insurance.

Can I get Centrelink on an Australia partner visa?

For the subclasses 801 and 100, as these are permanent residency visas, you are eligible for Centrelink after you complete the waiting period.  The waiting periods for the following payments are as follows:

4 year waiting period
There’s a 4 year waiting period for the following payments and concessions:

  • Austudy
  • Commonwealth Seniors Health Card
  • Ex-Carer Allowance (Child) Health Care Card
  • Farm Household Allowance
  • JobSeeker Payment
  • Low Income Health Care Card
  • Mobility Allowance
  • Parenting Payment single and partnered
  • Pensioner Education Supplement
  • Special Benefit
  • Youth Allowance.
  • 2 year waiting period

2 year waiting period

  • Carer Payment
  • Dad and Partner Pay
  • Parental Leave Pay

Can I buy property on an Australian partner visa?

Yes, you can buy property on an Australian partner visa. If you have a permanent visa you will have similar rights to an Australian to purchase property. If you are on an 820 or 309 or 300 visa, you will need to apply for foreign investment approval and pay an additional fee on your purchase. Its also important to note that you generally will not be able to apply for the First Home Owners Grant if you purchase the property with your partner until you are a permanent resident. As such applicants and their partners often need to think carefully about whether to wait or buy their property now.

What happens if my relationship breaks down or my partner dies during the processing of my Australian partner visa?

If your relationship breaks down due to family violence or your partner passes away during the processing of your partner visa, it is possible in the right circumstances to still be granted your visa. If you find yourself in this situation, we strongly advise you to seek professional assistance as soon as possible.

What types of documentation do I need to support my Australian partner visa application?

The types of documentation that you will need to support your application will vary depending on the type of partner visa you choose to lodge. However in general these can be broken down into the following

  • Identify documentation for the sponsor and applicant
    • Passport passports
    • Birth certificates/ Family register etc
    • Citizenship certificates etc
  • Health
    • This will usually be via a health examination at a recognised hospital, examination provider or panel doctor
  • Character documentation
    • Police clearances for both the applicant and sponsor for every country that they have lived since turning 16 in the last 10 years
    • Certificates of military service etc
  • Evidence of the relationship covering the four factors
    • Evidence of combining financial affairs
      • Bank accounts
      • Payments
      • Joint asset ownership
      • Insurance
      • Reporting to various government bodies
      • Bills
    • Evidence of social aspects of the relationships
      • Letter and statutory declarations
      • Social media evidence
      • Photographs
      • Evidence of joint activities
    • Nature of the household
      • Statements
      • Photographs
      • Evidence of children
    • Nature of the persons’ commitment to each other
      • Statements by the applicant and sponsor
      • Evidence of children
      • Joint assets and accounts

However, knowing the right amount of evidence to provide and what the value of such evidence is often a matter of experience as often applicants may provide voluminous information that does not address the types of things that the Department is looking for or might even introduce new issues.

How we can help

As registered MARA migration agents with a combined experience of over 30 years in the field, we have an abundance of experience helping couples make Australia their home. We can assist you in all parts of your Australian visa journey by providing you with:

  • A comprehensive review of your eligibility – both sponsor and visa applicant
  • Permanent residency strategy planning
  • Reviewing and advising on the supporting documentation to evidence your relationship
  • Advice on the character and health issues
  • Preparation and submission of decision-ready applications (sponsorship and visa)
  • Seamless processing of your visa application reducing the stress from the process
  • Acting as your liaison to the Department of Home Affairs
  • General advice throughout
Taina Silva

Taina Silva

Director | Registered Migration Agent
MARN: 1802671 | MMIA: 19470

Taina is a Director and Registered Migration Agent of Migration Unity, specialising in skilled work visas, partner visas and complex cases. She has an outstanding track record of approvals and provides a range of timely, ethical and transparent solutions to Australian businesses in various industries, including hospitality, construction, health, IT and regional operations. She has a growing client base which consists of migrants from all over the world and small to medium enterprises through to large national groups