If you are in a committed relationship with an Australian citizen, you may be eligible for a partner visa. This visa allows you to live in Australia permanently. Unlike many working visas, there are currently no age or income restrictions for applying for a partner visa. In December 2018, the government passed a new law that will change the application process for a partner visa. The law is due to come into effect by June 2019. This article will explore some key changes to partner visa regulation and how they might impact you.

What Is the Current Process?

Under the current partner visa system, you and your partner must apply together. You can apply for a partner visa either from overseas (under visa subclasses 309 and 100) or within Australia (under visa subclasses 820 and 801).

As part of the application, you and your partner will need to prepare evidence to demonstrate that your relationship is genuine and continuing. Both will also both need to provide a copy of your:

  • work history;
  • travel history;
  • residency history;
  • police checks; and
  • witness statements.

The Department of Home Affairs will mainly focus on your history overseas and the genuineness of your relationship. Although your Australian partner’s background will also be considered, it is not the department’s primary focus.

Once you have lodged the partner visa and the Department of Home Affairs has considered it, you can apply for a bridging visa. This visa will allow you to remain in Australia after your current visa expires. In many cases, a bridging visa will allow you to:

  • work in Australia;
  • study in Australia; and
  • access Australian healthcare.

What Are the New Rules?

On 28 November 2018, the Australian Parliament approved the Migration Amendment (Family Violence and Other Measures) Act 2018. The regulations under this new law are not yet in effect, and the date that it will come into effect is unknown.

Under the new regulations, the government must approve your Australian partner as a sponsor before you can apply for a partner visa. This adds an extra step to the already lengthy partner visa process where the processing time is between 22-26 months. At this stage, we do not know how long sponsorship approval will take under the new laws.

Under this law, greater scrutiny will be placed on the Australian sponsor in family visa applications with an aim to prevent family violence. Here, Australian sponsors with a history of family violence will be prevented from luring vulnerable visa applicants into relationships. The new laws also aim to stop partners committing violence or bribery to induce vulnerable Australians to sponsor them.

How Will This Affect My Partner Visa Application Process?

The exact operation of the new laws are unknown at this stage, but they will impact more than just increased scrutiny of your sponsoring partner.

Under the current rules, you can apply for a bridging visa once your partner visa application is submitted. Under the new rules, you cannot submit a bridging visa application until your partner is an approved sponsor. At this stage, it is unknown how long the sponsorship approval process will take, but it could be several months.

If you have less than a few months left on your current Australian visa, you may need to leave Australia while the government is processing the sponsorship application. If you apply for a partner visa from overseas, you cannot apply for a bridging visa while your partner visa application is being processed. You will have to remain outside Australia for over two years unless you fit the criteria for another type of Australian visa that may allow you to return.

Key Takeaways

When the new partner visa regulations take effect in 2019, your partner will be under greater scrutiny. Visa processing times will also increase. If you are applying from within Australia, you need to ensure that you start the process several months before your current visa expires. This will avoid the need for you to leave Australia while the government is processing your partner visa application. If you have any questions about Australian partner visas, contact LegalVision’s immigration lawyers on 1300 455 755 or fill out the form on this page.

Blythe Dingwall
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