To the uninitiated, getting Australian permanent residency through a sponsored Partner Visa may seem like a mere technicality rather than the Herculean task that it truly is (the number of times people have told me to “just get married”..). One look at the Home Affairs 820/801 Partner Visa page (or even a scroll through this post) should clear that misconception right up, though. Gone are the days when you could find an eligible Aussie to “anchor marry” or when you could hop off a plane in Sydney and be issued a passport on the spot (no joke). Get ready for hundreds of pages of scanned documents, statutory declarations on everything from your first date to the division of household chores, and for far more scrutiny to be applied to your relationship than really feels comfortable.
Considering how much I relied on the advice of previous Partner Visa applicants and an array of other forum wisdom, I took meticulous notes throughout my own journey so that I could share information about my experience and answer questions once I came out the other end, just as many people did for me. I created this enormous step-by-step guide to the 820/801 Australian Partner Visa application process, which summarises the whole process from gathering evidence to finally clicking submit and links out to my other posts with heaps more detail about each step, in that hopes that it might make the process just a little bit less overwhelming.. After all, how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
To provide some context to all of these posts and our own partner visa journey, here’s a bit of background on us. Callum and I first started dating back in July 2015 after meeting on holiday in Byron Bay. I’d already been living as a student in Sydney for nearly 3 years at that point, but he was living in Melbourne, which meant quite a lot of long drives and expensive flights during the first few months of our relationship. When I graduated in November 2015, though, I packed up and moved down to Melbourne, where we got an apartment together in the city (I got a Work & Holiday Visa) before eventually moving back to Sydney together in July 2016 so I could do my PhD.
Fast forward to present day, we’ve been together 3.5 years, lived together for 3, travelled to more than 20 countries together, been on overseas holidays with his and my family, been to visit my parents in Seattle 3 times, and have really intertwined our lives in just about every possible way. To me, our situation is entirely uncomplicated, but unfortunately that hasn’t meant that the visa application process has been easy. Read on for a complete overview that will hopefully make your application a bit less stressful!
STEP 1 // Get your head around the 820/801 Partner Visa
The 820/801 Partner Visa is actually a pair of subsequent visas on the road to Australian Permanent Residency (PR) that require sponsorship by an Australian spouse or de facto partner. It’s important to note that it actually makes no difference whether you are married or in de facto partnership with your Aussie guy or gal, as long as you can demonstrate a serious, long-term commitment (12 months cohabitation is pretty much the bare minimum), and it’s this “demonstration” that will constitute the bulk of your visa application.
As you can probably tell from my introduction to this post, it’s a monumental amount of work to apply for the 820/801 Partner Visa (and I’ll go into heaps more details below), but here’s the 10 second summary of what happens after you apply: If you’re in Australia when you apply for the 820/801, you’ll be granted a Bridging Visa when your current visa expires so that you can stay with your partner while Home Affairs processes your application. The BVA usually allows you to work and study in Australia, although you’ll have to apply for the BVB if you want to leave the country for any period of time while your application is processing. Approximately 18 months later, your 820 Temporary Partner Visa will be granted. Then, depending on the length of your relationship, you’ll either submit more evidence and wait a further 24 months for the grant of your 801 Permanent Partner Visa or you may be eligible to have your 820 and 801 granted simultaneously (the “long-term” exception requires a minimum of 3 years married or de facto).
STEP 2 // Build a “Relationship Timeline”
The first thing I did when Cal and I finally started getting serious about our 820/801 application was to compile every date, event, trip, and significant milestone of our relationship into a timeline. The original intent was to submit this PDF (complete with statements, plane tickets, lease agreements, photos, etc.) as part of my application, but the document ended up being about a million MB and, more importantly, didn’t really conform to the upload layout specified by Home Affairs (which is a lot more categorical than chronological). Still, building this timeline and even having the finished product to look back at was such a great way to see our entire relationship laid out and realise what gaps I needed to fill.
If you don’t want to spend 2 weeks assembling the world’s largest PDF, at least spend a few days writing notes about when you met your partner, when you started dating, when you moved in together, when you took trips or went to events, when you met each other’s families.. and then start to “reference” all of this information with photos, invitations, ticket stubs, utility bills. Anything you can’t find solid evidence for, you’ll want to write all the specifics down in a signed statement. In speaking to other couples who applied for the 820/801 or reading through forum posts, it seems pretty common to include at least half a dozen statements from you or your partner confirming specific details about your relationship that can’t really be confirmed by a single document (e.g. how your partner supported you financially when you were unemployed).
STEP 3 // Organise your evidence
Whether you built a timeline of your relationship or not, the next step is to view all of your collected evidence across the 5 categories defined by Home Affairs to ensure that you have adequately proven a “genuine and continuing” relationship. I go into enormous detail about satisfying each of the category requirements in this post, but here are some questions you should attempt to answer with your evidence (and do keep in mind that these will be different for everyone!):
- Financial aspects of the relationship: how do you and your partner share finances, do you have joint accounts or shared financial responsibilities (lease, mortgage, loan), do you have shared assets, who pays the bills?
- Nature of the household: who does the cleaning, where do you live, are you on the same lease or mortgage, do you have friends over together, do you both get mail to the house, do you live with roommates?
- Social aspects of the relationship: do you spend time with one another’s friends and family, do you have mutual friends, do you get invited to events together, do you travel together, do your work colleagues know your partner, what shared interests do you have?
- Nature of the commitment: are you married or is your de facto relationship registered, are you beneficiaries on one another’s Wills or Supers or accounts, how have you kept in contact during periods of separation?
- Development of the relationship: how did you meet, when did you become committed, have you ever spent substantial time apart, what do you do together for fun, what are your future plans together?
STEP 4 // Gather information for your application
Before you sit down to start filling out your online application, there’re a few challenging questions and a bit of obscure information that might require some digging to find. I took the liberty of putting together a short list of all this information, so you can go ferreting around and find everything you need now rather than coming to each page of the application and realising you can’t go any further until your mum scans you a copy of your birth certificate.
STEP 5 // Complete the online application
Now that you have collected your evidence and all the necessary information, sit down and get cracking on that application! If you don’t already have an Immi Account, you’ll need to create one, but the application process itself is pretty straightforward. Check out this post for a detailed guide on every single question and some clarification on the weirdly-worded ones. At the end of the application, you have the opportunity to view all of your responses on a single page— read and re-read this to make sure everything is correct before finally submitting.
STEP 6 // Pay the application fee
After you’ve completed all the questions on your 820/801 application, you’ll need to pay the associated fee, which was $7,160AUD as of December 2018. You can pay the application fee using a credit card, debit card, or PayPal, all of which incur fees of 1-1.32%, but if you have an Australian bank account, I would highly recommend using BPAY instead to save yourself some money (1.32% was $95!!). The BPAY payments might take a day to be processed and linked to your application (mine happened in about 6 hours), so it’s imperative that you submit the payment within 3 days of your application to avoid unnecessary lag and potential cancellation. They will give you the Biller Code and Biller Reference when you select this option at the end of the application, so it’s quite easy to manage.
STEP 7 // Enrol in Medicare
While this step isn’t essential to getting your visa, it would be ridiculous not to immediately take advantage of the fact that you are now, as an applicant for a permanent visa, eligible for Australia’s free healthcare scheme! As soon as you receive a confirmation of visa submission from IMMI (sent to your email the same day that payment goes through), bring the attached documents (evidence that the application was received), evidence of your current visa (or Bridging Visa), a completed Medicare enrolment form, and your passport to a Medicare service centre (use this search function to find one near you). They will issue you a paper Medicare card on the spot and your plastic card will come in the mail a few weeks later!
Just as a side note, I was under the impression that I could stop paying for my ridiculously expensive mandatory health insurance (it’s a common visa condition that you have private health cover while living in Australia) as soon as I got Medicare. And for most visas, that’s totally the case, but the one exception is a student visa, which is unfortunately what I’m on— basically, I have to keep paying my OSHC until I graduate. If you are unclear about what conditions apply to you and don’t want to risk accidentally violating your visa terms, call Home Affairs on 131 881.
STEP 8 // Get your partner to submit the sponsorship application
Using the Transaction Reference Number (TRN) quoted upon submission of your own application, your partner now needs to complete the Sponsorship for a Partner to Migrate to Australia application. I found it easier just to do this from within my existing IMMI account: on the main “My Applications” page, click the link for “New Application”, select the “Family” tab, and then click “Sponsorship for a Partner to Migrate to Australia (300, 309/100, 820/801)”. Just as I did for the main 820/801 application, I created a post detailing all the questions asked on your sponsor’s application, just so they know what to expect (thankfully, it’s much shorter!).
STEP 9 // Upload your carefully cultivated evidence
After paying the application fee, you will gain access to the evidence upload portal, where you can attach all of the photos and supporting documents that you’ve been collecting. Even though Home Affairs asks for evidence of your relationship to satisfy requirements across 5 categories (social, financial, household, mutual commitment, development), that’s not entirely apparent in the layout of the upload portal, so it can be a little confusing. Ideally, you will have already read through my guide to uploading evidence so that all of your documents fit nicely under the headings provided, but either way, just get all the necessary information in! Unfortunately, that’s still far from the end in terms of your 820/801 visa journey…
STEP 10 // Wait to be contacted for more information
After working tirelessly to scrape together your application (and yes, it totally feels like it should be a full time job to submit one of these visa applications!), there’s now quite a bit of waiting.. Waiting to be assigned a case officer (CO), waiting to submit more information, waiting to be asked for health checks, biometrics, or police checks (these have a limited validity, so most people will choose to wait until their CO requests this to avoid the risk of paying for a check, having it expire before their application is assessed, and then having to get it done again).
I will write more about what happens during this waiting period and all the additional information you might need to submit as it happens for me, so stay tuned for more information about the 820/801 Partner Visa journey!
I hope this information has been helpful and I wish you so much luck on your Australian Partner Visa journey! Feel free to ask any questions below and I will do my very best to answer them.