A Quick Guide

Subclass 820 Partner Visa

You are currently in Australia and with your Australian partner. What's next? You may qualify for permanent residency via submitting a partner visa application in Australia. This visa is not means-tested and there are no English requirements.

The 820/801 visa application is a combined partner visa application which you submit to the Department of Home Affairs whilst you are in Australia. The first-stage partner visa (subclass 820) can only be granted when the applicant is in Australia.

You may include your dependent children as part of this application. All applicants of this visa must satisfy health and character requirements.

Temporary or permanent?

  • Subclass 820 is a temporary visa. It is a pathway to permanent residency though. As a first-time partner visa applicant, some may not know you are technically applying for both the temporary and permanent visas simultaneously when you submit a subclass 820 visa. This means that you only pay the visa application charge once.
  • However, if you’re not in a long-term relationship you may be required to submit your relationship statements and evidence again for the permanent stage.

When can I apply for PR (permanent residency)?

You can typically apply for permanent residency 2 years from the date you first submit your partner visa. For example, you may submit a partner visa in Australia (subclass 820 visa) on 01 January 2023 and you will be eligible to apply for the permanent partner visa (subclass 801 visa) by 01 January 2025, assuming your subclass 820 visa was granted.

Visa Application charge

Visa application charges are paid directly to the Department of Home Affairs.

The visa application charge for the main visa applicant is $8,850.

Dependents applicants over 18 incur an additional visa application charge of $$4,430.

Dependents applicants under 18 incur an additional visa application charge of $2,215​.

Note that even though this application charge is for a combined subclass 820/801 visa application, you may still be expected to submit further application forms and updated evidence once you qualify for your second-stage subclass 801 partner visa.

What are the critical requirements?

One of the most commonly discussed set of criteria are the 4 aspects of what constitutes a "genuine and continuing" relationship. We answer this popular question here.

The 12-month minimum cohabitation requirement

If you are in a de facto relationship, you are required to prove to the Department that your relationship has continued for at least 12 months.

The 12-month cohabitation requirement is a fixed rule set by the government.

The law does state that if your relationship is registered with an Australian state/territory OR you are legally married overseas in a manner that is consistent with the Australian laws, the requirement could be 'waived' in a sense that your partner visa will not be refused on the grounds of not satisfying this requirement.

Registration with the following Australian state/territories may allow you to bypass the 12-month cohabitation requirement:

  1. Victoria
  2. Tasmania
  3. New South Wales
  4. Australian Capital Territory
  5. Queensland

Each state has their own requirements for registration of relationship. Some require that at least one of the partners usually resides in the state that the relationship is being registered in. If you live in Western Australia or the Northern Territory, you cannot register your relationship to bypass the 12-month cohabitation requirement for immigration purposes. Some couples may choose to marry in these circumstances.

When you are able to successfully register your relationship with the relevant state or territory in Australia, bear in mind that there are still additional hoops you will need to jump through to prove your relationship is genuine and refusal-proof your partner visa application. A relationship certificate alone cannot suffice as evidence to ensure a grant of your partner visa.

Some of the less common ways where this 12-month cohabitation requirement could be waived are: if compelling and compassionate circumstances exist, or your relationship was known to the Department in a previously granted humanitarian visa.

Examples of compelling and compassionate circumstances include but are not limited to where:

  • the visa applicant has a dependent child from the relationship;
  • de facto relationships are illegal in the country where the visa applicant or both the visa applicant and Australian partner sponsor reside.

Long-term partner relationship - special consideration?

If you and your partner are in a long-term partner relationship in the eyes of the Department and meet the evidentiary threshold, you may be eligible for a simultaneous grant of both the first-stage and the second-stage visas.

A "long-term" partner relationship is defined in the Migration Regulations as a spousal or de facto relationship that has been continuing for at least 3 years, or 2 years (if you have a dependent child of the relationship). A child of the relationship is typically the biological child of both the visa applicant and the sponsor. A step-child who is not a biological child is typically not regarded as a "dependent child of the relationship" for the purposes of meeting these requirements, however a child born through surrogacy or adopted by both the visa applicant and the sponsor may be considered as a "dependent child of the relationship".

This is not automatically considered by the case officer. Relevant supporting evidence and formal written request needs to be provided to the Department. Get advice from a registered migration agent before lodging your partner visa application to see if you may qualify for special consideration.

8503 "No Further Stay" Condition and Waiver

Have a look at your visa grant letter for your currently valid Australian visa and ensure that you do not have an "8503 No Further Stay" Condition attached to your visa. If you do, then you will not be able to apply for an onshore partner visa unless you are able to waive the "8503 No Further Stay Condition. Typically, the best step forward is to apply for an offshore partner visa or a prospective marriage visa, depending on which one you satisfy the requirements for.

Acquiring an "8503 No Further Stay" Condition Waiver is by no means straightforward. Generally, the Department advises that significant changes must have occurred since you were granted with the visa (which carried the 8503 condition), which were beyond your control, and these changes must constitute "compelling and compassionate" circumstances. "Compelling and compassionate" circumstances, as you might imagine, are not defined in legislation. It is hence considered entirely on a case-by-case basis.

If you have an "8503 No Further Stay" Condition on your visa, you definitely should seek advice from a registered migration agent in relation to your particular circumstances.

Applying as a bridging visa holder or as an unlawful non-citizen.

If you are in Australia and holding only a bridging visa or do not hold any valid Australian visa (i.e. an unlawful non-citizen), take note.

Additional schedule 3 requirements will apply if you are applying as a bridging visa (or non-substantive visa) holder or an unlawful non-citizen.

If you are a visa applicant and you:

  1. are holding an Australian visa with an "8503 No Further Stay Condition";
  2. have had a previous Australian visa refusal;
  3. have a health concern;
  4. have some criminal history; or
  5. have dependent children,

it is best that you seek advice from a registered migration agent who will be able to highlight all the risk factors and whether it is possible to make a valid application.

If your Australian partner has sponsored someone else previously or has been sponsored under the partner visa program, restrictions may apply to them. Character requirements also apply to your Australian partner.

Temporarily living apart?

Long-distance relationships are difficult most couples. The Department sets out additional requirements for couples who have spent time away from living with their partner. Where your physical separation is temporary, it is often possible to show through phone and electronic communication records covering the financial, social, household and commitment aspects of your relationship.

Permanent residency?

Following the grant of a the first-stage partner visa (subclass 820), you will be invited to apply for a second-stage partner visa (subclass 801) around 2 years after the grant of your first-stage partner visa. You may not need to apply for your partner visa in two stages if you could be considered by the Department of Home Affairs as being in a "long-term" partner relationship.  A long-term relationship typically means either 3 years of cohabitation if you do not have a child together, or 2 years of cohabitation if you do.

The basics

Document checklist

Every relationship is different, and a unique set of evidence would be required to support your relationship. If you or your partner had a previous de facto/spousal/traditional marriage relationship, you will need to provide evidence that the previous relationship had ceased entirely too.

Applying for an Australian partner visa, which allows you to join your partner in Australia, can be a daunting process. The specific documents required can vary depending on your circumstances and the type of partner visa you are applying for, but here are the typical documents and evidence that you may need for a Partner Visa (subclass 820/801 or 309/100):

Application Form:

  1. Form 47SP (Application for migration to Australia by a partner).
  2. Form 40SP (Sponsorship for a partner to migrate to Australia).
  3. Form 888s
  4. Form 888 is a statutory declaration used in Australia to provide evidence in support of the genuineness of a relationship between a visa applicant and their sponsoring partner. This form is commonly used in partner visa applications (such as the Subclass 820/801 or 309/100 visas) and is filled out by friends or family members who can vouch for the authenticity of the couple's relationship.
  5. What makes a strong Form 888?
  6. It's beneficial to have multiple Form 888s from a variety of people who know the couple in different capacities (e.g., family, friends, colleagues).
  7. Ensure that the information provided is consistent with other evidence and statements given in the visa application.
  8. Being detailed and specific in observations and statements will provide a stronger case than vague or general comments.

Always ensure that the information provided on the form is truthful and accurate. Providing false or misleading information can lead to serious consequences both for the declarant and the visa applicant.

Applicant's Personal Documents:

  1. Valid passport.
  2. Birth certificate.
  3. Two recent passport-sized photographs.
  4. Police clearance certificates from every country lived in for 12 months or more during the past 10 years since turning 16.
  5. If previously married, divorce decree or death certificate of the deceased spouse.

Proof of Relationship:

  1. Marriage certificate (if married).
  2. Joint bank account statements, joint bills, shared lease or property deeds.
  3. Photographs together.
  4. Evidence of social aspects of the relationship, such as joint travel, shared social activities, or statements from friends and family about your relationship.
  5. If in a de facto relationship, evidence that the relationship has existed for at least 12 months prior to the application.

Sponsor's Documents:

  1. Proof of Australian citizenship or permanent residency (like a passport, birth certificate, or residency card).
  2. Any divorce or death certificates from previous marriages, if applicable.
  3. Police clearance certificates if required (especially if there have been any previous sponsorships or if the sponsor has spent significant time overseas).
  4. Statutory Declarations: From both the applicant and the sponsor, detailing the nature of their commitment to each other.
  5. Translations: If any of the documents are not in English, they must be translated by a NAATI-accredited translator.
  6. Other Documents: Depending on your circumstances, you might also need:
  7. Documents proving any name change.
  8. Custody documents if there are children involved.
  9. Documents related to any debts to the Australian government.

Remember that the Department of Home Affairs might ask for additional documents or information based on your specific circumstances. It's always a good idea to consult the official website or engage the services of a registered migration agent to ensure you provide a complete and accurate application. The requirements and policies can change, so always refer to the latest guidelines provided by the Australian government.

Examples of standard evidence required for most applicants are:

  1. Clear coloured scanned copies of your and your partner’s identity documents
  2. Police clearances (Offices outside Australia (homeaffairs.gov.au)
  3. Form 888 witness statements (888 - Supporting statement in relation to a Partner or Prospective Marriage visa application (homeaffairs.gov.au)
  4. Relationship evidence proving you’re in a genuine and continuing relationship (link)
  5. A completed Form 80 (80 - Personal particulars for assessment including character assessment (homeaffairs.gov.au))
  6. Medicals
  7. Invitation from the Department: Typically, after lodging your partner visa application, the Department of Home Affairs will send you an invitation to undergo health examinations. This is common, as the health exam results have a validity period (usually 12 months), and by waiting for the Department's invitation, you can ensure that your health results remain valid for a significant portion of the visa processing time.
  8. Proactively Before Application: Some applicants choose to complete their health examinations proactively before lodging their visa application. This can potentially speed up the processing time, as you've already provided the necessary health information when you submit your application. However, considering the processing times for partner visas can be lengthy, there's a risk that your health examination results might expire before your visa is granted. If this happens, you'd need to redo the exams, incurring additional cost and time.
  9. Lodging Other Visas Simultaneously: If you're applying for another visa simultaneously (like a visitor visa while your partner visa is being processed), you might need to undergo health examinations for that visa. In such cases, the same health results can often be used for both visa applications, as long as they remain valid.
  10. Country-Specific Factors: If you're in a high-risk country for certain health conditions (like tuberculosis), it might be beneficial to undergo examinations earlier. If any health issues are identified, it gives you time to address them before they impact your visa application

Length of visa

Subclass 820: When your subclass 820 visa is granted, the grant letter will typically show the length of stay to be “unlimited” - however please do not be mistaken, as this just means the department is waiting to assess the second-stage subclass 801 (permanent visa). Generally you will be on the subclass 820 visa for approximately 1.5 years, but this period may be shorter or longer depending on when the subclass 801 visa is assessed.

Subclass 801: When your subclass 801 visa is granted, you will be a permanent resident of Australia. However, your re-entry to Australia will only be valid for 5 years. If you intend to travel internationally and return to Australia after the 5 years are up, you will need to apply for and be granted a resident return visa (subclass 155 visa) before you leave Australia.

Planning ahead

When preparing a Subclass 820 visa or Subclass 309 Partner Visa application, applicants can encounter several challenges:

Common issues

Duration of relationship

We have come across some applicants who have only been living together for a few weeks or a few months, and may find it challenging to gather sufficient evidence across the 4 aspects of their relationship.

Incomplete or Incorrect Documentation or Information

Mistakes or omissions in the application can result in delays, requests for more information, or even visa refusals.

Long processing times

The processing time for Subclass 820 visas can be long, which can be a point of stress for many applicants, especially if circumstances change during the waiting period. {Decide if you wish to apply for the offshore Subclass 309 visa instead?}

De facto relationship

Some applicants might mistakenly assume their relationship qualifies as de facto under Australian immigration law when it might not meet the strict definition. To satisfy this definition, the applicant must show evidence supporting an intertwined life between themselves and the sponsor (see “4 aspects of a genuine and continuing relationship”) {link}.

Less common issues

Complex visa history

If the applicant has had previous visa refusals, cancellations, or breaches of visa conditions in Australia, further steps usually will need to be taken to address this history in the newest visa application, if the applicant was eligible to apply in the first place.

Health and character issues

Applicants must meet health and character requirements. Medical conditions or certain criminal records might lead to visa refusal. Police checks from every country where the applicant has lived for a total of 12 months or more in the past ten years are required.

Sponsorship limitations - previous sponsorships

Sponsors who have previously sponsored partners may be subject to limitations on further sponsorships.

As a general rule, a sponsor can only sponsor two partners in their lifetime, and there must be at least five years between each sponsorship application. Otherwise, a sponsorship limitation will apply and the partner visa application fails. These requirements may be waived where there are compelling circumstances affecting the interests of the sponsor.

These circumstances are assessed on a case-by-case basis by the Australian Department of Home Affairs. Some examples of them can include:

  1. Bereavement: If a previous spouse or de facto partner has passed away, this could be considered a compelling reason to allow another sponsorship.
  2. Family Violence: If the sponsor or their family members (including children) have been subject to family violence by the previous sponsored partner, this could be a compelling reason for a waiver.
  3. Best Interests of Children: Where the visa applicant is the parent of an Australian child, and refusal of sponsorship would be detrimental to the child's well-being, this could be seen as a compelling reason. If the refusal of sponsorship would result in the separation of immediate family members, causing significant emotional or financial hardship, this can also be taken into account.
  4. Enduring and Genuine Relationship: Evidence of a long-term, genuine, and committed relationship can sometimes be considered a compelling reason, particularly if the relationship predates the previous sponsorship.
  5. Serious Health Conditions: If the sponsor has a severe medical condition that requires ongoing treatment and care, and there is no other suitable person (apart from the visa applicant) to provide that support, this could constitute a compelling circumstance.
  6. Significant Changes in Circumstances: Any significant and unforeseen changes in circumstances since the last sponsorship that necessitate a new sponsorship might be considered. If a significant amount of time has passed since the last sponsorship, it might be seen as a compelling reason, especially if the sponsor's circumstances have significantly changed.
  7. Humanitarian Reasons: Circumstances involving humanitarian issues, such as a partner being at risk of significant harm in their home country, may also be considered.

What qualifies as compelling is highly subjective, and ultimately up to the discretion of the case delegate. Each case is unique, and objective facts should be presented to the application in a systematic manner. When seeking a waiver for an additional sponsorship under these circumstances, the visa applicant and sponsor should provide thorough and detailed explanations, along with relevant supporting documentation. Engaging a legal professional who specialises in immigration law and understands the nature of these sponsorship limitation waivers can provide valuable guidance on how to present the case and navigate the complexities of immigration laws and regulations.

Sponsorship limitation - previous criminal history

There are also character requirements for sponsors, including disclosure of any criminal records. If an Australian sponsor for a partner visa has a criminal history, it can impact their ability to sponsor their partner. However, there are steps they can take to address this issue and potentially waive the sponsorship limitation.

  1. Full Disclosure: The sponsor should fully disclose their criminal history in the sponsorship application. Concealing information can lead to a visa refusal or cancellation.
  2. Provide Context and Character References: The sponsor can provide context for their criminal history, explaining the circumstances, how long ago the offenses occurred, and any mitigating factors. Including character references from respected community members or professionals can also be beneficial.
  3. Evidence of Rehabilitation: Demonstrating rehabilitation since the time of the offenses is crucial. This can include undertaking counseling or rehabilitation programs, abstaining from substances (if related to the offenses), and engaging in community service or other positive activities.

Complications & considerations

Previous de facto relationships and traditional marriages

Whilst many de facto relationships would not have come with a certificate, it is still essential for you to declare any past de facto relationships. For others that have obtained a certificate with a previous partner, it is essential that they ensure the cessation of the previous relationship is reported to the authorities.

One of our clients, who is now in a new de facto relationship with her current partner, found out through a consultation with us that she had forgotten to dissolve another de facto relationship years ago with an ex-partner! This situation can prove to be slightly tricky if your visa is running out and you have not lived together with your current partner for 12 months yet.

Traditional marriages

Previous traditional marriages may also add complication to your prospective marriage visa or partner visa process. Even though some traditional marriages may not be recognised as legal under Australian law, others may actually be considered legal here if it satisfied the relevant requirements of a legal marriage under the Australian Marriage Act. It is worthwhile seeking legal advice if you have concerns about the status of any previous relationships of yours or your partner’s affecting your current partner visa application.

Changes in circumstances

Marriage breakup / relationship breakdown/death of sponsor

Generally, the breakdown of the relationship can lead to the refusal of the visa application. The partner visa is granted based on the genuineness and continuity of the relationship. If the relationship ceases to exist, the fundamental basis for the visa is no longer valid. The visa applicant is obligated to inform the Department of Home Affairs as soon as possible if the relationship ends. Failure to notify the Department of Home Affairs can have negative implications for future visa applications.

  1. Consideration of Children: If there are children involved, especially children of the relationship or children being cared for by the couple, their welfare is taken into consideration.
  2. Instances of Family Violence: If the relationship breakdown is due to family violence during the relationship, the applicant may still be eligible for the partner visa under certain circumstances. The applicant would need to provide evidence of the family violence during the span of the relationship.
  3. Long-term relationship: If the relationship was long-term (usually at least three years) and genuine until the point of breakdown, under certain conditions, this may be considered as a basis for granting the visa.
  4. Death of the Sponsor: In cases where the sponsoring partner passes away, but the relationship was genuine and continuing until the sponsor's death, the applicant may still be eligible for permanent residency.

How good is your evidence in the eyes of the Department?

The both of you will know your relationship better than anyone else. The challenge is with proving to Departmental case officers who do not know the both of you or your relationship personally "on paper".

The Migration Act 1958 and Migration Regulations 1994 are the two critical legislations that case officers must refer to when making a decision on your partner visa application. All evidence and  answers to the forms that you provide must satisfy requirements of the legislations.

One type of evidence that you provide would be most helpful if other types of evidence can corroborate with the former type of evidence. For example, when you are proving that you and your partner had a wedding ceremony, your can provide photos of the ceremony itself.

Case officers may also look at payment for the venue (if applicable), wedding invitations issued to friends and family, and statements from your witnesses who have attended the ceremony that the ceremony did take place. Marriage or relationship registration certificate is also one obvious piece of evidence, but as I'd always like to emphasise: evidencing is much more than providing a certificate.

How much more? This is where a one-to-one session with our registered migration agent will help you discover.

Why do onshore partner visa applications get refused?

Many couples set out on the partner visa journey thinking as long as their relationship is genuine in their eyes, that their evidence will surely prove that.

Evidencing your relationship can be challenging. More people have their visas refused due to inconsistency of information than having insufficient evidence provided.

We find that most people tend to overlook some of the following:

  1. inconsistent description of relationship between the visa applicant and Australian partner sponsor in statutory declarations
  2. mistakes in dates or facts in witness statements that do not align with evidence presented by the couple
  3. inconsistent information submitted in application forms and evidence
  4. inconsistent declarations or information in visa applicant's previously submitted visa applications or incoming passenger cards

Any inconsistency can potentially trigger the application of Public Interest Criterion 4020 within the migration regulations, which mandates refusal of visa application or even cancellation of visa (of the Australian partner sponsor's visa).

So check your application carefully over and over again! Even if you have engaged a registered migration agent or lawyer to look after your application for you, the responsibility still lies with you to ensure the information that you have provided to your agent or lawyer is 100% accurate.

What are my chances?

Have a look at the following quick list for you to examine whether your relationship has a good chance of meeting the requirements:

Make sure firstly that your visa does not have an "8503 No Further Stay" condition attached.

It will also be helpful if you and your partner can show that you:

  1. Have a certain level of contact and know each other well
  2. Your family and friends are aware of your relationship
  3. See the relationship as a long-term one
  4. Pool your financial arrangements
  5. Have lived together for at least 12 months
  6. Satisfy the relevant character and health requirements

If you and your partner are not able to show one or more of the above, it does not automatically mean that the partner visa application is out of the question.

Both the applicant and sponsor must also meet independent character requirements. The applicant must also meet health requirements.

To check your eligibility requirements in detail and find our your chances of receiving a visa grant, we recommend you seek tailored advice from an experienced registered migration agent who regularly checks against the latest immigration policies and legislative provisions.

New: subclass 491 and 494 applications

If you hold a subclass 491 or 494 visa application, you will not be allowed to apply for an onshore subclass 820/801 partner visa application until three years have passed since your last 491 or 494 visa grant.

To clarify or plan ahead before these legislative requirements apply to partner and prospective marriage visas, seek professional advice now with a registered migration agent.

At Kin Migration, we are centered on providing timely and tailored support. Book your Strategy Session for:

  • Detailed advice from an experienced Registered Migration Agent on the critical requirements applicable to you and your significant other
  • Expert guidance on how to make the best of your evidence
  • Discover short-term and long-term risks with each option available to you
  • A strict focus on the most straightforward pathway to permanent residency

Gentle reminder: The content on this page is general advice only, and does not constitute legal or immigration advice. For advice on your specific circumstances, please book a
Strategy Session here to speak to our Australian-registered migration consultant.

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Subclass 820 Partner Visa

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