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There are two types of partner category visas: partner visa and prospective marriage visa. The type of visa for which you should apply depends on the type of relationship you are in.
Partner visas are available to people who are married to, or in a de facto relationship with an Australian partner (the sponsor). The application can be made in or outside Australia.
Partner visa applicants must:
- have a mutual commitment to a shared life together, to the exclusion of all others
- have a genuine and continuing relationship
- live together or not live separately and apart on a permanent basis.
Married visa applicants must also show that their marriage is valid under Australian law.
De facto visa applicants must show that they are not related by family, and that their relationship has existed for at least 12 months immediately before lodging the application.
See: Fact Sheet 35 – One-Year Relationship Requirement
A partner visa applicant submits one application form and pays one visa application charge but the department assesses the application in two stages. A temporary partner visa is granted at first stage, and the permanent visa is granted at second stage.
Generally, the permanent partner visa is granted two years after the application is made, if the couple is still in a married or de facto relationship. If the couple is in a long term relationship when they lodge the application, the two year period does not apply. A long term relationship is one that has existed for at least three years, or two years if the couple has a child.
In certain circumstances, it might be possible to grant the permanent partner visa sooner than two years, for example, if the relationship breaks down and the applicant has a dependent child or the applicant or dependent child has suffered family violence committed by the sponsor.
A partner visa applicant may be able to include certain dependent family members in their application. This however, will depend on where the applicant and family member is at the time of application and whether the visa applicant has been granted the temporary visa or not.
Prospective marriage visa
The prospective marriage visa is available to people outside Australia who intend to marry their Australian sponsoring partner after they enter Australia. This visa is not available for people in Australia.
Prospective marriage visa applicants must:
- be at least 18 years of age
- have met their sponsor, in person, since they both turned 18
- be known to their sponsor
- be able to enter into a marriage that is valid under Australian law (that is, there must be no impediment to their marriage).
A prospective marriage visa is valid for nine months from the date of grant. A prospective marriage visa holder must enter Australia, marry their sponsoring partner and apply for a partner visa in Australia within the nine month period. The visa cannot be extended in Australia.
All applicants for partner migration, whether they apply in or outside Australia, must be sponsored by their partner. If the partner is under 18 years of age and the application is made on the basis of a married relationship, the partner's parent or guardian must sponsor the applicant.
The sponsor must be an Australian citizen, Australian permanent resident or eligible New Zealand citizen and be 18 years of age or older.
Limitations on sponsorship
A sponsor who has previously sponsored a partner or prospective marriage visa applicant cannot sponsor another partner or prospective marriage visa applicant until at least five years have passed since the first application was made.
A person who themselves were granted a partner or prospective marriage visa is also prevented from sponsoring a partner or prospective marriage visa applicant until at least five years have passed since they made their own visa application.
A person may sponsor two partner or prospective marriage visa applicants in total.
The sponsorship limitations referred to above may be waived if the sponsor has compelling circumstances affecting them. These include but are not limited to situations where:
- the previous fiancé or partner has died or left the relationship, leaving young children
- a new relationship is formed that is long-standing or involves dependent children of the relationship.
Current and previous contributory parent category visa-holders
A person who has been granted a contributory parent category visa on or after 1 July 2009 is unable to sponsor a partner or prospective marriage visa applicant until at least five years have passed since they were granted their visa, if they were in a married or de facto relationship with that person on or before the date they were granted the last contributory parent category visa. There are some exceptions to this limitation in compelling circumstances.
Dependent children and protection of children
Dependent children are usually included in, and assessed for grant of the visa at the same time as their parent's partner or prospective marriage visa application. There are cases where a dependent child is not considered for the temporary (first stage) partner visa because they are not living with their parent.
Where a dependent child is outside Australia and their parent is in Australia and has been granted a temporary partner visa, a dependent child can apply for a dependent child visa. This visa allows the child to travel to Australia where their parent can apply to have the child added to their permanent partner visa application.
To be granted a dependent child visa, the child must be under 18 years of age or be financially dependent on the parent in Australia. It is important to note that the child must apply for this visa before the parent's permanent partner visa application is decided.
Permission for dependent children under 18 years of age to migrate must be obtained from the other parent or any other person with a legal responsibility for the child. Alternatively, evidence must be provided that the partner visa applicant or their sponsor has sole legal right to remove the child from their country of residence.
A sponsorship cannot be approved (except in very limited circumstances) if the application includes an applicant under 18 years of age and the sponsor has a conviction or an outstanding charge for an offence against a child.
It is also a requirement that there is no compelling reason to believe that the grant of the visa would not be in the best interests of that dependant.
To assess the sponsorship application and the best interests of the child requirement, sponsors of applicants under 18 years of age are required to submit an Australian Federal Police (AFP) National Police Check and/or foreign police certificate/s, depending on the sponsor's circumstances. If the sponsor has spent a total of 12 months or more in Australia since turning 16 years of age, the sponsor must provide an AFP National Police Check. The sponsor must also provide police certificates from each country in which they have spent a total of 12 months or more in the last 10 years since turning 16 years of age.
See: AFP National Police Checks
Limits on further visa applications in Australia
There are specific provisions in migration legislation to limit the potential for unsuccessful visa applicants in Australia to continually delay their departure from Australia by making further applications.
People who have had a partner visa refused in Australia cannot apply for another partner visa while in Australia. People who do not hold a visa (unlawful) and people who have had a visa cancelled or refused for reasons other than character can make a valid partner visa application in Australia, provided they submit the following with their application:
- Form 40SP Sponsorship for a partner to migrate to Australia completed and signed by their sponsoring partner (or their partner's parent or guardian if the partner is under the age of 18 and the application is made on the basis of a married relationship)
- two statutory declarations from Australian citizens, Australian permanent residents or eligible New Zealand citizens supporting the existence of a partner relationship between the visa applicant and their partner.
The Minister for Immigration and Border Protection has issued a general direction giving guidance to processing officers on the priority order in which family stream applications should be processed.
Applications to be given the highest processing priority include dependent children (including children for adoption), partners and fiancés.
See: Fact sheet 37 – Processing Priorities for family stream migration
Commonly asked questions
How do I know if my overseas marriage is valid under Australian law?
An overseas marriage will generally be recognised in Australia if it:
- was a valid marriage in the overseas country
- would have been recognised as valid under Australian law if the marriage had taken place in Australia.
In some cases, a marriage will not be recognised in Australia even if it is valid in the country in which it was solemnised, for example, same sex marriages.
To be legally married in Australia, a man and woman must:
- not be married to someone else
- not be marrying a parent, grandparent, child, grandchild, brother or sister
- be at least 18 years old, unless a court has approved a marriage where one party is aged between 16 and 18 years old
- understand what marriage means and freely consent to becoming husband and wife
- use specific words during the ceremony
- give written notice of their intention to marry to their authorised celebrant.
Further information about marriage in Australia can be found on the website of the Attorney‑General's Department.
Why do I need to provide extra evidence of my relationship if I am married and the marriage is already valid under Australian law?
To be eligible for a partner visa, it is not sufficient for you to simply show that you are married or in a de facto relationship. You must also demonstrate that your relationship with your spouse or de facto partner is genuine, continuing and mutually exclusive, as per the prescribed legislative definitions. If you fail to demonstrate that you are in such a relationship you may be refused a visa, regardless of whether you are married or in a de facto relationship.
Can my visa application fee be refunded if my application was refused?
The visa application charge is the amount of money that must be paid for a visa application. The department will not usually refund the visa application charge, even if the visa application is refused or withdrawn.
Further information about fees and charges can be found on the Department's website.
See: Visa Application Charges
My partner will be migrating with a child from their previous marriage. Does this mean she still needs to wait two years before being granted a permanent partner visa?
Yes, your partner will need to wait two years from the date of application before she is eligible for grant of the permanent partner visa, unless you were in a long term partner relationship when the application was made.
A long term relationship is one in which you and your partner were in a spouse or de facto relationship for not less than three years or not less than two years if there is a dependent child of both you and your partner.
As the child you refer to is not a child of the relationship, your partner becomes eligible for grant of the permanent visa two years from date of visa application, unless you had been in a partner relationship for three or more years when she applied.
I am like a father to my nephew. Can he migrate to Australia with me as part of my partner visa application?
Only members of the family unit may be included in a partner visa application. Your nephew would generally not be considered part of your family unit unless he is usually resident in your household, is dependent on you as the family head and does not have a spouse or de facto partner himself.
I applied for a prospective marriage visa but my partner and I got married before arriving in Australia. Can I still be granted the prospective marriage visa?
If you marry your fiancé(e) after you apply for a prospective marriage visa but before it is granted, your application can be processed as a partner visa at no extra charge. For this to happen, you must:
- send written notification to a departmental office or overseas visa office processing your application as soon as possible after the marriage
- provide a certified copy of the extract from the relevant marriage registry office
- provide a written request that, due to your marriage, you wish to withdraw your application for a prospective marriage visa and that you wish to change your application to that for a partner visa.
I sponsored a partner who tricked me and left after getting their visa. Does the five year waiting period to sponsor another person apply to me?
Yes, the waiting period applies to you if the partner or prospective marriage visa application that your former partner made was made less than five years ago. You can however apply for a waiver of the sponsorship limitation requirements if you can demonstrate compelling circumstances. Compelling circumstances may include situations such as, but not limited to:
- the death of the previous partner
- the previous partner abandoned the sponsor and there were children involved who require care and support
- where the new relationship involves children or is longstanding.
The sponsorship limitation provisions were introduced to enhance the integrity of the partner visa programme. The department takes very seriously allegations of fraud in relation to visa applications. All claims of migration fraud and misconduct are thoroughly investigated by the department and action taken as appropriate. There are powers under migration law which allow visas to be cancelled. For example, a visa may be cancelled if information provided at the time of application was incorrect. If you can demonstrate that your former partner provided incorrect information or false documents to obtain the visa, please contact the Immigration Dob-in Service on 1800 009 623 (toll-free).
Why is my application taking longer than the average processing time?
We appreciate that each applicant wishes to have their application finalised as quickly as possible and within the average processing time. However, each application presents with unique circumstances and some applications will take longer than average to finalise. You can assist in the timely resolution of your application by ensuring that you have provided all relevant documentation, and that you have responded to all questions on all relevant forms.
Can my application be processed as a priority?
Every partner visa application has an emotional or compassionate element and therefore, partner category visa applications are generally processed in the order they are received. There is, however, provision to allocate a higher priority to applications if it can be demonstrated there are circumstances that are significantly more compelling than would normally be associated with a partner category visa application.
Should you consider that your situation warrants priority processing within the partner category, you should forward a brief submission for consideration to your case officer. The submission should outline the compelling and/or compassionate reasons why the application should receive priority processing and include adequate evidence to support the claims.
See: Fact sheet 37 – Processing Priorities for Family Stream Migration
More information on applying for partner category visas, including application forms, is available in the Partner Migration booklet. This is available on the department's website.
See: Booklet 1 – Partner Migration
Fact Sheet 30. Produced by the National Communications Branch, Department of Immigration and Border Protection, Canberra.
Last reviewed December 2013.