If you are the partner or spouse of an Australian citizen, an Australian permanent resident or eligible New Zealand citizen you may be able to apply for a partner visa which will allow you and any dependent children to live, study and work in Australia. There are two visa categories: temporary (subclass 820) and permanent (subclass 801). You apply for both visa categories together at the same time and pay a single fee. Normally, your temporary partner visa is granted first once your application has been approved, but the permanent visa takes longer.
Who is Eligible for a Partner Visa?
- Be in Australia at the time you apply for a partner visa.
- Be in a genuine relationship with an Australian citizen, an Australian permanent resident or an eligible New Zealand citizen. An eligible New Zealand citizen is one who was living in Australia on a special category visa (SCV) and had spent at least 12 months previously living in Australia before 26th February 2001.
- Be a spouse or de-facto partner of someone in one of the categories above;
- Pay a fee, which at time of writing was AUS$7,715. Dependent child application fees are extra.
- Fill in the partner visa application form online.
- Pass character, police and health checks.
- Provide the documents that are asked for and, if necessary, have them translated them into English by a NAATI accredited translator or foreign equivalent.
- Obey all Australian laws while waiting for your permanent partner visa.
The Partner Visa Application Process
It can take up to 2 years for a permanent partner visa to be granted. The more efficient you are at supplying the information required, the more probable it is that the application will be completed at the shorter end of the time mentioned on the Department of Home Affairs website. Basically, once your temporary visa has been issued, you can do more or less anything that you would be able to do once your permanent visa is issued.
The main difference is that once your permanent visa has been issued, you are issued with a permanent residence visa. This allows you to do nearly everything an Australian citizen can do except apply for an Australian passport and stand for state or federal parliament. While waiting for your permanent partner visa to come through, you are able to study what you want, have a job, apply for a Medicare card, which allows you to be treated in the public health system, vote in an election and leave and return to Australia as much as you want.
The Benefits of having a Permanent Partner Visa
It will be a great relief for you, your partner and your children once you have been issued with a permanent partner visa. It means that you can live in Australia permanently and even become a citizen after 5 years if you wish to do so. Not having to worry about your status in the country or keep applying for extensions of a temporary visa means that your family can plan a future in Australia, e.g. start paying off loans, arrange a mortgage, sort out schooling for kids and participate more fully in the community.
Once you have your permanent visa you have 5 years from the date it is issued to go to and from Australia as many times as you want. After the initial 5 year period is up, you can choose whether to apply for Australian citizenship or a returning residence visa (RRV). Basically an RRV is a continuation of your permanent residence status. If you become an Australian citizen you are able to apply for an Australian passport. Note that this may affect any citizenship rights you may still have from your country of birth. Many, but not all, countries allow dual citizenship. Retaining your original citizenship may be useful because it means that your spouse and any children that are born in Australia might have more rights if you choose to visit or work in your country of birth.
What if your Relationship ends before being Granted a Permanent Partner Visa?
If your situation changes between being granted a temporary partner visa and a permanent visa, you will normally need to let an immigration officer know. If your relationship has ended, it may not affect your application for a permanent visa. This will be at the discretion of the Department of Home Affairs.
What about Dependent Children?
Generally, any dependent children you have when you apply for a partner visa will be allowed to stay in Australia with you. There may be separate checks on their health and police records. Usually, any dependent child over 16 will need a police certificate from their own country. A separate application for dependent children is filled in and they will be issued with a separate subclass of visa until you get your permanent partner visa when you are all issued with permanent residence status.