A couple of weeks ago I pressed submit on what is probably one of the most significant applications I will make in my lifetime. Sounds dramatic but essentially whether I can continue to live and work (for myself) in Oz with my Aussie fiancé is now in the hands of the Department of Immigration. It’s taken months of paperwork to get this point and we’re by no means in the clear yet (estimated processing time is currently 12 to 18 months) but I thought I would share some of my insights into the application process in case there is anyone out there thinking of doing the same.
We didn’t hire an immigration lawyer as our situation is pretty clear cut but below are some of the things we wished we’d known before we started.
- Start the process early. I mean really early. I first looked up the requirements for this visa about a year before we decided to apply for it so that I knew what was necessary way in advance. Even so, it took me about 3 months from the point of downloading the form to the point of submitting it to gather all the evidence and prepare the required paperwork. If you are applying from within Australia don’t leave it until you are nearing the end of your current visa – it will just cause unnecessary stress to get it in before the deadline.
- The paper application form is different to the online version. Because I am a super-organised (anal) person I downloaded the paper version of the form and filled out my answers in draft. Then because it requires less photocopying and printing I decided to submit the actual form online and thought I could read off my draft sheet to write my answers in. That’s not quite the case! In some places the online form wanted more information than I had prepared so my pre-planning didn’t really speed things up. It would have been better to simply choose which version to apply with at the beginning and stuck to it.
- Your personal details. You are going to need certified copies of your identification such as passport and birth certificate as well as those of your partner. If in Australia these documents can be certified free of charge by a Justice of the Peace – I popped into the Supreme Court in Sydney and saw someone within minutes.
- Police check. You are required to have a police certificate for any country you have lived in for more than 12 months. If you are from the UK you will need to apply via post and pay £45 for the paperwork. It takes about 12 weeks for them to send the form back. If it doesn’t come back by the time you want to submit your application you can attach a copy of the request form in the meantime.
- Your family details. One of the things I wasn’t expecting the form to ask was the full name and date of birth of all my siblings, parents, step parents and half siblings. We’re a big family so it took a while to double check these details. For any family members that are married you will also need to state their wedding date (online form only). You’ll also need to do the same for your partner’s family.
- The 12 month requirement. For a de facto partner visa you need to be able to prove you have been in a committed relationship for more than 12 months. If you have lived together (like Justin and I) for a number of years than submitting rental agreements and utility bills will be sufficient. For couples who have lived with family or travelled during that time, supplying the evidence can be a little harder. Evidence that can be submitted include joint travel tickets, joint bills, joint bank accounts, communication, statutory declarations and photographs.
- The social factor. You are also required to prove that you have a shared social life. Aside from years worth of joint travel arrangements, Justin and I found this a little hard to prove (I tend to throw old paperwork out!). Things that are considered are joint membership to clubs, joint invitations, joint mail – so start collecting these items as soon as you think about applying.
- Domestic and financial arrangements. Be prepared to have to declare things like how the domestic duties are divided in your household and your financial arrangements.
- Statutory Declarations. A minimum of 2 statutory declarations from Australian citizens who know you and your partner are required to show the legitimacy of your relationship. Witnesses will need to complete a Form 888 and have it certified along with their passport.
- Bridging visas. If you apply within Australia you will be granted a bridging visa which gives you the right to remain whilst your application is considered. If you apply online the bridging visa comes through instantly. Most applicants are granted a Bridging Visa A which gives you the right to work but does not permit travel. If you want to leave Australia whilst your application is being processed then you will need to apply for Bridging Visa B at the time of travel, and fees will apply.
- Applying online. Once you have completed the online form and paid the fee (ouch) you will be taken to a page where you can upload your supporting evidence. This page includes multiple categories of evidence you can upload but to find out what is required for this specific visa you need to consult a separate document checklist. The maximum file size is not stated but I discovered that pdfs with multiple images are too large so be aware that you may need to cut file sizes down or split them into separate documents.
- Fees. The current fee for a de factor partner visa if applying within Australia is $6865 (if you apply outside of Australia it’s slightly less at $4630). If paying by card (which was the only option for online applications) there is a $75 transaction fee (ouch again).
- Ask for help. I called the Department Of Immigration about 3 times before I even started my application form as I had questions over the bridging visas and when I should apply. (On that note: I was advised to apply as soon as possible as we already met the 12 month criteria and the sooner you apply the sooner you are processed. Bridging visas only come into effect when your current substantive visa expires. For me, this means I can continue to travel up to the point my Working Holiday Visa expires, after which the bridging visa takes effect and I’ll need to seek permission to travel for work.) Each time I called the department I was able to leave a message and someone called me back the same day. I found everyone I spoke to really helpful and thorough, when I was working myself into knots over an issue one lady I spoke to asked me to simply tell her what I was worried about and then she addressed each of those concerns.
Fingers crossed we’ve submitted everything we were supposed to or a case worker will ask us for more if not. Good luck to anyone about to embark on this process. I hope some of these insights will prove helpful.
Update: My temporary partner visa 820 was granted on 12th March 2016. Yay! Read more here!!
Update 2: Please note that I cannot answer emails regarding your personal visa applications. I provided these insights as I know it is a confusing process but I am not qualified to answer questions related to the specific circumstances of your applications. I recommend you call the Immigration Department with any questions – they proved very helpful during our application process. As my inbox has been inundated with emails over the last few months I have no choice but to delete them going forward. Feel free to post any questions in the comments below as other readers may be able to help you. Thanks for your understanding.