With global processing times currently at 23-29 months for the 820/801 Australian Partner Visa, it’s very likely that you’ll want to travel outside Australia sometime before your visa is granted, whether it be to visit your family, attend a conference overseas, or simply to take a holiday.
Unfortunately, though, the standard placeholder visa that is issued when you submit your application for residency (Bridging Visa A) does not permit you to leave the country— to be granted limited travel rights before your Partner Visa has been approved, you’ll need to apply for a Bridging Visa B. This is a comprehensive guide to applying for a Bridging Visa B, including how the visa works and who is eligible, how to complete the online application, what supporting evidence to attach, and what to expect when the visa is issued.
When you apply for permanent residency through the 820/801 Partner Visa (onshore), you are automatically issued a Bridging Visa A (subclass 010). Think of this as a placeholder visa— it comes into effect as soon as your previous visa expires (e.g. tourist visa, student visa, work visa) and remains active until your Partner Visa is granted. For most people, this visa includes unlimited work and study rights, which means you can live a totally normal life in Australia while you wait several years (UGH) for your Partner Visa to be processed.
The one hitch is that the Bridging Visa A doesn’t come with any travel rights (or, more specifically, it doesn’t come with any re-entry rights). If you do leave the country on this visa, you’ll not only forfeit your right to remain in Australia while your Partner Visa is being processed, but you’ll probably find yourself caught up in time-consuming and expensive litigation to get your Partner Visa granted at all. Unless it’s a life or death emergency, leaving Australia on a Bridging Visa A is really not smart.
Bridging Visa B
If you want to travel outside Australia for any reason while you’re waiting for your Partner Visa to be approved, you’ll have to apply for a Bridging Visa B (subclass 020).
When granted, this visa will supersede your Bridging Visa A (with the same work/study rights) and remain active until your Partner Visa is approved— but it still doesn’t mean that you can enjoy unlimited travel outside Australia. Your Bridging Visa B comes with a limited travel period based on the dates you requested and the information you provided in your application.
It used to be that the travel period rarely exceeded 3 months, but my first BVB was approved for 4 months and my second for 12 months. Both of these were for personal travel!
You might also be granted different entry rights with your Bridging Visa B. Some BVBs will allow multiple entries within the specified travel period, meaning you can travel in and out of Australia as much as you want, while others will only permit a single entry, meaning you’ll need to apply for a new Bridging Visa B if you want to leave Australia for a second time, even if it’s within the travel period.
Both of my BVBs were issued with multiple entries even though I didn’t specifically request that, but there is no guarantee— if you really need a long travel period or multiple entries on your BVB, you should specify this in your application and provide appropriate evidence to support your request.
What is a “substantial reason” for travel?
To be issued a Bridging Visa B, you must have “substantial reasonsfor wishing to leave and re-enter Australia”— and it used to be that you really did need a substantial reason, like a dying family member or an important overseas conference. As wait times for the 820/801 Partner Visa have absolutely exploded, though, the general consensus seems to be that visiting family, taking a holiday, celebrating an anniversary, or attending a wedding are ALL appropriate reasons to apply for a Bridging Visa B.
Based on the (admittedly limited) forum wisdom, these visas are rarely refused if you apply correctly and provide a compelling or compassionate reason for wanting to travel. I first applied for a BVB to travel around South America for 3 months after submitting my PhD, and thankfully this was deemed to be a “substantial reason” for travel. My second BVB was only for a 2-week trip to New Zealand with my partner, but I actually got granted a full 12 months with multiple entries. Travel seems to be a totally legitimate reason to get a BVB these days!
When to apply for a BVB
One of the main reasons you are required to apply for a BVB prior to travel outside Australia is that Home Affairs needs to check on the status of your Partner Visa application before you leave the country.
You should submit an application for a Bridging Visa B no sooner than 3 months and no less than 2 weeks before your intended travel dates. I applied for my second BVB about 10 days out and it was approved with no issues, but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this.
How to apply for Bridging Visa B
Starting an online BVB application
The easiest way to submit an application for a Bridging Visa B is through your Immi Account:
After logging in to your Immi Account, you should see your submitted Partner Visa application on the “My Applications” homepage.
Click View Details just below your application.
This will take you to a page that says “Application Home” and shows the application history for your visa (e.g. the date you submitted, etc). On the lefthand menu, click Bridging Visa Information.
On the “Bridging Visa Information” page, you should see the original grant date of your Bridging Visa A listed under “Current Bridging Visas for This Application”. Directly above this, click the link that says Apply for a Bridging Visa (it might also be called Bridging Visa Information).
This will bring you to an “ELodgement Page” where you can begin applying for your Bridging Visa B.
BVB application questions
If you’re wondering what information you’ll need to provide on your Bridging Visa B application, here’s an overview of all the questions:
Select the reason for applying for a Bridging Visa
Tick to seek permission to travel outside of Australia (application for a Bridging visa B).
Request permission to travel
Complete the form with your personal details (name, passport number, expiry) and intended dates/countries of overseas travel. You can enter multiple countries on the form, but you only need to provide travel dates for when you’re actually leaving and returning to Australia. Finally, you have 2000 characters to tell Home Affairs about your “purpose for travel”.
Keep in mind that you can also attach a letter to your application to provide additional information about your travel plans, so this doesn’t need to be exhaustive. In this box, I just wrote that I was “hoping to travel outside Australia to visit my parents, enjoy a holiday with my partner and celebrate the submission of my PhD” and also provided dates of when I was travelling to each country and with whom.
Enter details of your residential and postal address. If you’re staying more than 14 days at an overseas address (e.g. staying at your parents’ house for a few weeks), you should provide this address; otherwise, just provide your address in Australia. This should match the address information that you put on your Partner Visa application!
Answer yes or no: “Has any applicant… ever had, or currently have, tuberculosis? … been in close contact with a family member that has active tuberculosis? … ever had a chest x-ray which showed an abnormality?”
Answer yes or no to a long series of questions about whether you’ve ever been charged with a legal offence, been involved in illegal activity, etc. If you answer yes to any of the questions, you’ll need to provide further details.
Answer yes or no to a series of questions about whether you understand the visa process, have provided true and correct information, etc.
Attaching evidence to your BVB application
After reviewing all of your responses and clicking Submit on the application, you’ll be taken to an Attachments page, where it’s possible to upload relevant supporting evidence. There’s pretty minimal guidance on what documents you should include to demonstrate a “substantial reason for travel”, but the upload categories (in the photo below) give you some idea of what you might provide.
If you’re going to visit a sick relative, for instance, you might upload medical records or a letter from a doctor explaining the condition. If you’re going on a business trip or attending an international conference, you might upload a letter from your employer or proof of conference registration. Personally, I uploaded a colour scan of my passport, a summary of my travel plans, copies of my flights, and a few assorted bookings (e.g. hotels, tour reservations).
Submitting your BVB application
After uploading any supporting documents, you will be taken to a payment page, which is the final step in submitting your application to Home Affairs. The application cost for a Bridging Visa B is $145 (as of June 2019) and can be paid either with a credit/debit card or Paypal (both incur a $1-2 fee).
If the payment has successfully gone through, you should be given a PDF receipt and your Bridging Visa Information page on ImmiAccount will display the status of your application as “Submitted [date]”.
Update: As of 1 July 2019, the application fee for Bridging Visa B has increased to $155AUD.
IMMI BVB Grant Notification
I’d previously heard that Home Affairs might only grant your BVB a week before your travel dates, so I was prepared to settle in for a long (and somewhat stressful) wait. Thankfully, that was far from the case! I applied on a Friday afternoon (5 weeks before my trip) and received my BVB via email the following Monday morning. My second BVB was exactly the same. Of course, everyone’s wait time will depend on personal circumstances and how busy Home Affairs is, but it’s nice to know that a long wait isn’t a guarantee with this visa.
As soon as you receive a visa grant email, your Bridging Visa B will replace your Bridging Visa A, typically with the same work and study conditions (i.e. if you had unlimited work rights on your BVA, you will still have unlimited work rights on your BVB).
Your Bridging Visa B Grant Notification email will tell you whether you have single or multiple entries and also specify your approved travel period— as an example, you can see my travel period in the screenshot below, which extends from the date of the visa grant to 20 October 2019. This is a full week after my requested date of re-entry into Australia, so it’s great that Home Affairs has given me a little cushion in case my flights are delayed. Overall, a very simple and speedy process to get a BVB!
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.
* I am not a migration agent or affiliated with Home Affairs in any way, so all the information provided in these posts and in the comments below is based entirely on my own experience and my own understanding of the application process.
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UPDATE: A MASSIVE THANK YOU to everyone who’s commented on these posts to let me know that you found the information helpful— I can’t tell you how much it means to me, because it was a crazy amount of work to put this together (while I was trying to finish my PhD, no less), but knowing that it’s being used makes it all totally worth it. More importantly, though, thank you to everyone who has shared their own experience or answered questions for other readers in the comments below!!
We are building a little community of Partner Visa applicants and survivors here and it’s massively reassuring for anyone just beginning their application to hear stories of success or get advice from those who’ve come out the other end. SO, if you felt like these posts or the information in the comments helped with your application, I’d encourage you to come back after your visa is granted (or even after various milestones) and let us know what happened! It could end up being a huge help to someone else 🙂 xx Brooke