Top 10 Tips - Partner Visa Applications Part 2

webster By Mark Webster
Monday, 31 October 2016

Last week, we published part 1 of our top 10 tips for partner visa applications.

This week, we conclude the series with the final 5 tips for partner visa applications:

6. Onshore Lodgement

It is possible to apply for a partner visa whilst you are in Australia (onshore lodgement) or whilst you are outside Australia (offshore lodgement). You would need to be in Australia and generally hold a substantive visa (as opposed to a bridging visa) without a "no further stay" condition to lodge an onshore application. If you lodge onshore, this has several advantages. For instance:
  • Bridging Visa: when you lodge onshore, you would generally be granted a bridging visa allowing you to stay in Australia during processing. This is a big advantage as it may take 12-15 months for your application to be processed
  • Work Rights: your bridging visa would generally have work rights if you have applied for a partner visa
  • Medicare: you would generally be eligible for Medicare whilst awaiting a decision on your partner visa. This would allow you to access free basic medical care in Australia
The main disadvantages of onshore lodgement are:
  • Processing Time: at 9-12 months, the processing time for offshore partner visas is currently faster than onshore applications
  • Travel Restriction: if applying onshore, your bridging visa would cease on departing Australia. It is possible to apply for a Bridging B visa if you can show a substantial reason for travel and have applied onshore whilst holding a substantive visa.

7. Repeat Sponsorship

Restrictions can apply if you have previously sponsored a partner or have been sponsored yourself. The most commonly encountered restrictions on partner sponsorship are as follows:
  • If you have previously sponsored a partner: in this case, you would need to wait 5 years in between sponsorships, and a lifetime maximum of 2 partners applies
  • If you were previously sponsored as a partner: you would need to wait 5 years before sponsoring a partner yourself
  • If you were sponsored as a contributory parent: a 5-year waiting period applies before sponsoring a partner
Note that the above bars only apply if the relevant visa was actually granted. The waiting period starts from the date the sponsorship was lodged.

A waiver of the bar is also available where you can show compelling grounds - this is quite involved but is possible if a strong submission is made.

8. Health Waivers

When applying for a partner visa, all family members included in the application will need to do health checks.

If one of the family members fails their health check, this would normally result in refusal of the application. Health for permanent and provisional visas operates on a "one fail, all fail" basis.

In the case of partner visas, a health waiver is available. This means that even if a family member fails the health check, the application can still be granted if you can establish that:

  • If there is significant cost to treat the condition, the cost is "not undue"
  • If the condition will use scarce medical or community resources, this will not result in undue prejudice to access for Australians to these resources
Applying for a health waiver is an involved process. Unlike the general medical requirement for visas, you can provide evidence such as your financial resources, medical insurance policies and the ability for family members to provide appropriate care.

9. Lodging After Visa Refusal or on a Bridging Visa

In general, you are not able to apply for a further visa onshore if:
  • You have had a visa refusal since last entering Australia; and
  • Hold a bridging visa (rather than a substantive visa)
This is called a Section 48 Bar.

Partner visas are exempt from Section 48, providing the last refusal was not for a partner visa. This means that if you have had a refusal for, say, a 457 visa or 485 visa, you could consider applying for a partner visa onshore without needing to depart Australia.

In this case, you would need to show compelling reasons for applying whilst holding a bridging visa - this is referred to as a "Schedule 3 Waiver". This was previously relatively simple to achieve. However, the Department of Immigration has tightened the Schedule 3 waiver policy significantly in the last few years and this is now quite difficult.

10. Including Partners in PR Applications

If you are in the process of applying for permanent residence yourself, it is generally more beneficial to include your partner in your application if possible. Benefits would include:
  • Lower Cost: the additional fee to include a partner in a permanent visa application is $1,800 for General Skilled Migration or Employer Nomination Scheme. The application fee for a partner visa is currently $6,865 so there is a significant cost saving
  • Avoid Waiting Period for PR: if you include a partner in your application for PR, then both you and your partner receive permanent residence on grant. This avoids the 2-year waiting period for PR which is associated with partner visa applications
  • Processing Time: partner visas take a long time to be processed, due to limited numbers allocated in each program year. An onshore partner visa currently takes 12-15 months to be processed. General Skilled Migration applications are currently taking 3-4 months to come through

Conclusion

Whilst partner visas may seem to be simple conceptually, there are many fine details associated with the application process. Knowing these finer points can greatly smooth the application process and may also mean the difference between success and failure.

If you would like assistance with your partner visa application, please book a consultation with one of our advisors and they can come up with a plan to guide you through the process.

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