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A complete guide to getting Australian permanent residency through the 820/801 Partner Visa (start here!)

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. 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 guide to the 820/801 Australian Partner Visa application process, which summarises every single step from gathering evidence to finally clicking submit, in that hopes that it might make the process just a little bit less overwhelming for other couples.

My Partner Visa story

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 in 2015 after we met at Splendour in the Grass in Byron Bay. I’d already been living as a student in Sydney for nearly 3 years at that point (I’m originally from Seattle, USA), 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 a few months later, I eagerly moved down to Melbourne, rented an apartment with Callum in the city, and got a Working Holiday Visa. About 7 months after that, I got a scholarship offer to do my PhD in Sydney, so we packed up and moved back to NSW together.

At the time of submitting our application (December 2018), we’d been together 3.5 years, lived together for 3, travelled to more than 20 countries together, combined our finances, been on overseas holidays with his and my family, and had really intertwined our lives in just about every possible way. 

When the application was granted 19 months later (July 2020), I received the permanent 801 visa just 1 minute after the 820 temporary visa, completely bypassing the usual 2-year waiting period. We were never contacted by a CO and there were no requests for additional information, so I can assume our application was pretty thorough! Here’s what we did:

1 | Learn about 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.

Basic requirements of 820/801 visa:

  • You are in a genuine and continuing relationship with an Australian citizen or permanent resident
  • You and your partner are married or de facto (un-married couple living as a married couple)
    • Note: you can be considered de facto if you’ve lived with your partner 12+ months OR if your relationship has been registered with the state (only available in QLD, NSW, ACT, VIC, TAS). I’d recommend registering your relationship even if you’ve fulfilled the minimum time living together, as it is a good piece of evidence later on!
  • You and your partner are 18+ years old at the time of applying
Process Map

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 (BVA) 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 travel outside Australia for any period of time while your application is processing.

Approximately 1-2 years 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, which is how I went straight to the permanent visa!)

Approximately 1-2 years 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, which is how I went straight to the permanent visa!)


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).

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!):

  1. 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?
  2. 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?
  3. 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?
  4. 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?
  5. 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?


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 put 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.


5 | Complete the main 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.


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.

7 | Enrol in Medicare

While this step isn’t essential to getting your visa, it would be ridiculous not to take advantage of the fact that, as an applicant for a permanent visa, you are now 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 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!

8 | 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!).


9 | Upload your evidence to the main application

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…


10 | Apply for a BVB

While you’re waiting for your Partner Visa to be processed, it’s also possible that you’ll want to leave Australia to visit family, attend an overseas conference, or even just take a holiday.

In this instance, you’ll need to apply for a Bridging Visa B that includes travel and re-entry rights. I’ve been granted 2 BVBs for long-term travel, so check out this post for heaps more information about Bridging Visas and how to apply for a Bridging Visa B before your next trip.


11 | Complete your health assessment

Within a few days of submitting my Partner Visa application, a little notification appeared on my Immi Account asking me to complete my health assessment. Due to the limited validity of the results (only 12 months) and the lengthy onshore Partner Visa processing time, I waited 6 months before actually completing this step in the hopes that my visa would be granted within 18 months (my visa wasn’t granted for 19 months, but they still accepted my health check, so there must be a tiny bit of wiggle room on that 12 month expiry).

Basically, you need to fill out some information about your medical history online and then attend an approved clinic for a series of examinations. This is to ensure that you are not endangering the safety of other Australians (e.g. if you have a communicable disease, like tuberculosis) or placing an unfair burden on Medicare (e.g. if you have a very serious and expensive medical condition).

This doesn’t mean your visa will be refused if you have any health conditions at all, but serious diseases can affect the outcome. I wrote a detailed guide to completing your health check assessment that should help!


12 | Apply for relevant police checks

To satisfy character requirements, it’s also necessary to complete police checks in every country you’ve lived for more than 12 months in the last 10 years. For most onshore applicants, this will include Australia.

Thankfully, the process of applying for an AFP (Australian Federal Police) National Police Check is incredibly simple, quick, and inexpensive! I wrote a quick guide to completing the AFP checks.


Police checks also apply for your home country (or anywhere else you’ve lived for more than 12 months in the last 10 years). If you’ve lived in America or you’re a US citizen, you’ll need to submit an FBI Identity History Summary police check for your visa application.


13 | Update your application while you wait

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, and waiting for your visa to be granted.

It’s important during this time, even though you may have completed all required steps of the application process, to be continually collecting evidence and updating your application during the wait, demonstrating an ongoing relationship with new photos, travel plans, shared assets, or changes to the initial application details. If you and your partner move house together, for instance, make sure to update BOTH of your residential addresses within IMMI as soon as possible!

Some people recommend updating your application every 3-6 months. I personally did a massive update at 6 months, 12 months, and then again at 17 months; each of these covered anything of significance that happened since our original submission. I don’t think there’s any hard and fast rule, you just want to make sure there’s current information on there when a CO finally picks up your application.

14 | Visa grant!

And finally, the moment you’ve been waiting for: the visa grant! There is absolutely no consistent timeline for the Partner Visa— I’ve heard from readers who had their visa granted in as little as 6 months and others who waited nearly 3 years. There are so many factors influencing wait time that it’s truly impossible to predict, but I’d say 1.5 years seems to be the average based on people I’ve spoken to (mine took exactly 19 months).

The typical progression of an Australian Partner Visa, as described above, is that you’ll first be granted the 820 (temporary) visa and then wait a fixed period of 2 years before submitting further documentation to move over to the 801 (permanent) visa. Since this is what most people experience, I’d like to track someone down to do a guest post on applying for the 801 visa (if you’re interested, please let me know!!). However, it’s not the ONLY progression.

If you’ve been with your partner 3+ years at the time of application (or possibly also if you wait an extraordinarily long time for your 820 visa to be granted), you will waive out of that typical 2-year waiting period and effectively go straight onto the 801 (i.e. get your permanent residency without a second round of evidence/application). For me, this meant I got a grant notification for my 820 temporary visa and then 1 minute later received a grant notification for my 801 permanent visa. If this happens for you, there’s absolutely nothing left to do! You are now a PERMANENT RESIDENT OF AUSTRALIA!!


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. 

If you found this post helpful and want to contribute to some of the costs associated with running, I would be infinitely grateful!

You can use the PayPal button below to donate whatever you feel this information is worth. If you aren’t able, don’t worry— I will always keep my posts free and accessible for everyone!

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