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The family stream of Australia's migration program enables the reunion of immediate family members such as partners, fiancés, dependent children and stepchildren. It also includes other members of extended families including parents, orphan relatives, carers, aged dependent relatives and remaining relatives.
This fact sheet covers in general terms the migration procedures for partner visa applicants, including partners and fiancés.
Further information on the family stream is available on our website.
See: Fact Sheet 29 – Overview of Family Stream Migration
For the purposes of migration, the term 'partner' means the husband, wife or de facto partner (opposite or same-sex) of the Australian sponsor (‘partner category’ includes both partner and prospective marriage visa classes).
The parties in a married or de facto relationship must have a mutual commitment to a shared life together, to the exclusion of all other people. The relationship must be genuine and continuing and the parties must live, or intend to live, together on a permanent basis.
Although applying for permanent residence through a partner visa is a two stage process, only one application is required. The one application includes an application for both a temporary and a permanent visa. Applicants can apply in or outside Australia.
At both stages of the process, the department must be satisfied that the parties are in a genuine partner relationship.
De facto partners must have been in the relationship for at least 12 months immediately before lodging their application.
See: Fact Sheet 35 – One-Year Relationship Requirement
While it is not common for permanent visas to be granted less than two years from the date of application, in certain circumstances it is possible for a visa to be granted in this time. An example of when a visa may be granted within two years is when the relationship is long-term at the time of application (long-term is defined as three years, or two years if there is a dependent child, excluding a stepchild, of the relationship).
Dependent family members of the applicant, such as children or lone aged relatives, may be included in the application.
A person overseas who intends to marry their Australian fiancé may apply for a Prospective Marriage visa.
It is a requirement of a Prospective Marriage visa that the parties have met as adults and be known to each other in person. There must also be no impediment to the marriage under Australian law.
Fiancés who apply successfully for a Prospective Marriage visa receive a temporary visa which is valid for nine months from the date of the visa grant. They must travel to Australia and marry their intended spouse within that period. If fiancés want to remain permanently in Australia they should then apply for a permanent visa such as a partner visa.
Fiancés in Australia
People already in Australia on temporary visas are unable to extend their stay in Australia by applying for a visa as a fiancé. There is no visa category available to cover this situation.
However, if the marriage takes place during the period of authorised stay in Australia, the person may be eligible to apply in Australia for a partner visa.
All applicants for partner migration, whether they apply in or outside Australia, must be sponsored by their partner (or by a parent of their partner in certain circumstances).
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
There are limits on the number of partner visa category sponsorships a person may make and the time-frame in which they are made:
- There is a limit of two approved sponsorships or nominations that can be made, with a minimum of five years apart.
- If the sponsor was sponsored or nominated to Australia as a partner, they must wait five years before sponsoring a partner or fiancé.
- Approved sponsorships or nominations are those which result in the applicant being granted a partner or Prospective Marriage visa.
The limitations may be waived in compelling circumstances, including:
- if the previous fiancé or partner has died or abandoned the relationship, leaving young children
- if 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 fiancé for five years from the visa grant date 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 processed as part of, their parent's partner visa application. There are cases where a dependent child is not considered for the temporary (first stage) 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 spouse, partner or interdependency visa, the child can apply for a temporary Dependent Child visa.
This visa will enable the child to travel to Australia and apply to be added to their parent's permanent visa application.
To be granted the visa, the child must be under 18 years of age or be financially dependent upon the parent in Australia. It is important to note that the child must apply for this visa before the parent's permanent visa application is decided.
Permission for dependent children under 18 years of age to migrate must be obtained from another 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 the country.
Where the sponsor has a conviction or an outstanding charge for an offence against a child, if the application includes a dependent family member under 18 years of age, the sponsorship cannot be approved (except in very limited circumstances). There 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.
In order to assess the sponsorship application and the best interests of the child requirement, sponsors of children 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 applications
There are specific provisions in migration legislation to limit the potential for unsuccessful applicants in Australia to continually delay their departure from Australia by lodging successive applications.
People who are unlawfully in Australia, or no longer hold a valid visa, and who have previously been refused a visa or had a visa cancelled, have the opportunity to make an application for a limited range of visas.
A person in these circumstances may be eligible to apply for a Partner visa to remain in Australia, provided they meet certain specific criteria. They must not have had a visa cancelled or refused on character grounds or have had a partner visa refused since their last entry to Australia. They must provide with their application:
- Form 40SP Sponsorship for a partner to migrate to Australia completed and signed by an Australian citizen, Australian permanent resident or eligible New Zealand citizen who declares that they are the spouse or de facto partner of the applicant
- two statutory declarations from Australian citizens, Australian permanent residents or eligible New Zealand citizens supporting the existence of their relationship with their sponsor.
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
Further information is available on the department's website.
The department also operates a national general enquiries line.
Telephone: 131 881
Hours of operation: Monday to Friday from 8.30 am to 4.30 pm. Recorded information is available outside these hours.
Fact Sheet 30. Produced by the National Communications Branch, Department of Immigration and Border Protection, Canberra.
Last reviewed January 2012.
© Commonwealth of Australia 2011.