Strolling from North Wollongong to Fairy Meadow

My experience with the Australian Partner Visa: 820 & 801 permanent residency granted simultaneously

After an agonising 19-month wait (and absolutely zero communication from Home Affairs), I finally became an Australian permanent resident this week, receiving my 820 (temporary) and 801 (permanent) Partner Visa grant about 30 seconds apart. I was so surprised that I burst immediately into tears— but now that I’ve calmed down a bit, I wanted to take the opportunity to share more about my personal experience with the visa application process to accompany all of the practical guides on this site!

Read my whole series on applying for the 820/801 Australian Partner Visa for more information about preparing your evidence, lodging your application, and the next steps. If you’re just beginning, start with this post to get an overview. And, as always, please remember that 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.

Some background on us

Those who’ve read all of my Partner Visa posts likely already know our story, but for those who are new to this site, my partner Callum and I first started dating in 2015 after we met on holiday in Byron Bay.

I’d already been living as a student in Wollongong for nearly 3 years at that point (I’m originally from Seattle, USA; read more about why I moved to Australia in this post), but he was living in Melbourne, which meant quite a lot of long drives and expensive flights during the early days of our relationship.

When I graduated from uni 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 received a scholarship offer to do my PhD in Sydney, so we packed up and moved back to NSW together. We eventually submitted the Partner Visa application from Sydney, but I finished my PhD and we had moved back to Melbourne (again) by the time it was granted.

Waiting to apply for the Partner Visa

Even though I knew I wanted to live permanently in Australia since I first moved here in 2012, and we also met the de facto criteria after just 12 months, I made a very conscious decision to wait before applying, really for 2 reasons.

Firstly, I never wanted to feel like I was trapped in ANY relationship by my desire to get residency in Australia. Unfortunately, even waiting 3.5 years doesn’t guarantee that there will be no hiccups, and there were definitely times where both Callum and I felt the pressure of the visa hanging over our heads.

Late last year, I quite nearly walked away from the relationship, which would have meant forfeiting my visa and having to leave Australia forever— and this was probably one of the healthiest moments we had as a couple since applying. Me being fully prepared to lose the visa meant that, when I did end up staying, we both knew it wasn’t done so under duress but rather because we wanted to keep trying together.

If more time doesn’t completely erase the presence of doubt in a relationship, I do think it at least made us more equipped to weather challenges and the inevitable pressure induced by this visa. To those wondering when to apply: if you can find another temporary visa (like a student visa, WHV), just enjoy being together without any outside scrutiny for as long as you can. And when you do eventually apply, know that it likely will put some degree of pressure on your relationship— being open and honest about this is the best way to ensure it doesn’t create real problems for you.

Process Map

The second reason I wanted to wait before applying was to hopefully bypass the usual 2-year waiting period between getting the 820 (temporary) and 801 (permanent) Partner Visa.

The typical progression of an Australian Partner Visa, as shown 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. BUT, if you’ve been with your de facto partner 3+ years at the time of application (or 2+ years if you have a child together), you can effectively go straight onto the 801, meaning you’ll get your permanent residency without a second round of evidence/application.

Naturally, this sounded very appealing, and since we were already waiting to apply for personal reasons, it wasn’t a stretch to make sure we had at least 3+ years cohabitation as de facto partners before submitting an application.

Spoiler alert: I received the 801 (permanent) visa about 30 seconds after the 820 and never had to submit a second round of documents!!

Applying for the Partner Visa

At the time of submitting our application (December 2018), Callum and I had been together 3.5 years, lived together for just over 3, travelled to more than 20 countries together, combined our finances, been on multiple overseas holidays with his and my family, and had really made a lot of effort to intertwine our lives.

Still, the application process was insanely stressful and at times felt like an impossible task, especially since I did everything myself with extremely little help from Callum ALL while I was completing a very full-on medical science PhD. Parting with $7.5k was also challenging on a student budget, but I’m proud now to say I paid for it myself (bravo to the couples who split this, though).

It took me a LONG time to get everything together and actually apply, and the uncertainty about how to organise things or what to include threatened to send me off the edge. Just know that, if you are struggling with this process, you are SO not alone (and have a look at my visa guides for help!).

Absolutely everyone who comes out the other end will tell you that it’s 1000% worth the effort when you finally receive that visa grant notification. All the years of waiting really do melt away.

After applying for the Partner Visa

After submitting the application and uploading all of our evidence in December 2018, I heard exactly NOTHING from Home Affairs. I expected that for the first year, but after we passed the 12-month mark, I was sure I’d be receiving an email from my CO requesting more evidence or just giving me some idea of what was going on with my application. That email never came.

In the meantime, I did submit my health check (after about 6 months) and my police check (after about 8 months), aiming to have a complete application that would be ready for approval as soon as a CO picked it up. Looking back, I am really thankful I did this rather than waiting for email communication from Home Affairs, which would have been a long wait.

At the start of 2020, I’d applied for a second BVB to travel to New Zealand with Callum for a short road trip, just 2 weeks and then back to work. I was shocked, then, when my BVB came back with a 12-month travel period. Everything I’d ever read about BVBs was that your visa wouldn’t be granted with an active travel period, since you are required to be onshore in Australia when the 820/801 is finally issued— I took this to mean that I wouldn’t be getting my visa until January 2021, at the earliest, and this absolutely crushed me.

All the while, I was hearing from readers who had used my blog to apply for their visa and then had it granted. And as infinitely happy as I was for all of these people (really, I am so happy for you all!!), and especially that I was able to help, it was really hard feeling like my time would never come.

To anyone experiencing this visa envy, the best advice I can give (knowing full-well that it’s easier said than done) is to not compare your experience too closely to anyone else’s. Every single application is unique, every situation different, and you’ll lose your mind obsessing over other couples’ visa outcomes when it really has NO bearing on your own outcome. Know that it WILL happen, but stressing about the when can and will drive you mad.

I couldn’t have been more surprised to sit down at my desk this Friday and see 2 emails with the subject line IMMI Grant Notification. My heart was in my throat, knowing what this must be and yet not wanting to jinx it. One look at the PDF attachment and I burst into tears.

I’ve been on one hell of a journey to get here— after living in Australia for almost 8 years and dreaming about this moment for literally thousands of days, it’s surreal to say now that I am a permanent resident. I am an Australian.

An Aussie at last

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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