For those of you who don’t know, I currently live in Australia but am from the UK. This post is the story of my visa applications for Australian residency. I found blog posts a really valuable source of information so I hope this helps!
When I first moved over to Australia, I came on a Working Holiday Visa. This was pretty easy to get, you apply online, get a decision in a few hours, and it cost about 250 GBP. That visa entitled me to remain in Australia for 1 year, unless I did regional work for 3 months, which would entitle me to a second year.
The 1 year WHV was great as it gave us time to see if I liked it in Australia, and if I wanted to stay, without having to make a big financial commitment. We decided the next step was for me to apply for a Partner Visa (subclass 820/801). Well let’s just say it wasn’t an easy process, in fact it was an incredibly long, expensive, stressful and time consuming process.
You can apply either online or in person/by post. I applied in person because there is no limit on how many documents you can provide (whereas there is online), and I had already collected a lot of physical documents. I did however scan a copy of every single thing and save them in folders on our laptop, so I had a back-up of everything.
The Australian immigration website isn’t the best source of information. We couldn’t really even figure out which visa was suitable for me using that website. Feeling overwhelmed by the whole thing, we booked an appointment with an immigration consultant. We knew there would be a fee for their services, but we weren’t expecting a quote of $4000+ ( on top of the $8000 you’re already spending)! Also during the meeting it became apparent that I knew more than I thought, and that we wouldn’t be getting much for our money. So we decided to go it alone, a decision that many people balked at and said “are you mad?!”.
I submitted my application on 20/10/2015 in person in Brisbane (1 month before the end of my current visa, I didn’t want to leave it too late), and I was granted my Temporary Partner Visa (820) on 30/03/2016 with no contact in between! So it was a big surprise when I checked my emails and saw that I had been granted my 820 visa after only 5 months, with no requests for further information. Happy days! Proof that you can do it yourself if you are organised. With this visa, if successful you will first be granted the temporary 820 visa, and then your case is automatically re-assessed after 2 years and then if all is well you will be granted the permanent 801 visa. There is no second application or fee required, but they may request additional information.
Before I start, a certified copy is when you copy an official document (i.e. passport), and it is stamped and signed by a justice of the peace (or other on the approved list) who has also sighted the original document, to verify its authenticity. Getting all our documents certified was a royal pain. in. the. ass. However we found a lovely JP who lived near us and was happy to bulk certify documents for us after hours, as most JP’s in shopping centres are only there during working hours.
So there are many (many) different components of applying for a Partner (820/801) visa, I will attempt to list them here:
- Application Form (47SP)
- Sponsorship Form (40SP)
- Personal Particulars Form (Form 80)
- Certified copy of my birth cert, or stat dec of where you were born, date, name of parents, etc, signed by JP. I had a non-certified copy so sent it anyway, along with certified stat dec.
- Police check certificate from UK (do this just before you apply, as they expire after 1 year)
- If you have spent 12 months in Australia since you were 16, you will also need a police check from the Australian Federal Police. I think I had to do this even though the aforementioned rule didn’t apply, but I can’t remember the reason, look into this further!
- Certified relationship statements by me and T – when and where you met, how your relationship progressed, future plans, when the relationship became official, domestic and financial arrangements, how we coped when we were apart, etc. This is to give them an overview of our relationship, and can be written colloquially – they want to get to know us. As long as you include what they ask for, it can have a relaxed tone.
- Certified housework statement (really, about who does what at home)
- Certified copy of both our driving licences
- Certified copy of both our medicare cards
- Two passport photos of me
- Certified stat dec (form 888) from at least 2 Australian citizens/permanent residents that know both of us and our relationship. We did 4 of these to be on the safe side. They have to complete them on the correct form, and get them certified themselves.
- BUPA visa medical – they send the results directly to the dept of Immigration. You can either do this before submitting, or wait till they request that you do so. You can’t book your medical without your HAP ID from dept of immigration. I submitted my visa application first, and received my HAP ID via email that day, so booked my medical as soon as I had it. Not having your medical results can slow down a visa application, so I wanted it done as soon as possible.
- Proof of sponsor’s right to be in Australia – either certified copy of Australian passport, or proof of permanent resident status. Certified, of course.
- Certified rental agreement, and past rental agreements showing both our names
- Certified utilities bills showing both our names
- Certified bank statement/bills/letters showing my name at our address
- Proof of joint finances – we did bills, receipts showing we have both paid rent, proof of joint bank account (open one if you don’t have one), proof of joint car ownership, joint car insurance, receipts of household purchases, bank statements with household purchases circled, joint travel receipts.
- Proof that we had registered our relationship – certificate which we got certified. We had to do this as we had been living together for less than 12 months when we submitted our application, and is a way of getting around that requirement. Not all states let you register de-facto relationships.
- Correspondence addressed to both of us
- Joint invitations
- Photos of us together – preferably with friends/family also in photos, to prove we are legit. I sent a ton of photos, but copied and pasted them into a word document with a brief caption for each photo (i.e. London April 2014).
- Concert tickets, plane tickets, anything that shows that you participate socially together.
- Proof of contact during periods of separation – this was difficult for us, as our main methods of contact were Facetime and Whatsapp. Unlike with phone or Skype, you can’t get a printed overview of calls with Facetime. I did figure out a way to download our entire whatsapp history, but it was 1000’s of pages. I explained this in my covering letter, and said that I was happy to provide the Whatsapp if they required it. We also included letters we had posted to each other, printouts of facebook messages, emails, and a limited skype history.
- Proof of commitment – registered relationship cert, and proof that T was the beneficiary in my super.
- Covering letter explaining any holes in your application. We also said that we were more than happy to be interviewed or provide further information.
- Evidence of length of relationship – we included screenshots of our Facebook friendship and when it started, and also photos to prove this.
- I had to provide the name and email of a professional (very small list of professions), that had personally known me for at least three years and wasn’t related to me. Luckily one of my housemates at uni is a doctor, but it was hard to find someone that fit their requirements. I think this for one of the forms, but I can’t remember which one.
- Sponsor’s payslips and annual payment summaries (yup, really, they have to show they can financially support you)
- Payment! If you apply online I think you can pay online which is easy. However it’s a weird payment process if you’re submitting in person/by post. You can write card details on the application form, but this is only for credit cards, they don’t accept debit cards. Alternatively you can write a cheque (I don’t have a cheque book or a credit card). The third option is to get a payment order from the post office, which I had never heard of. So we did this, but we had to get 2 because you can only put so much on one… gah. So we included the receipt things with the application. The visa application fee was $6865, but you also have costs for police checks, medicals, etc. It was a lot of money for a young couple like us.
In terms of presentation, I had separate labelled plastic wallets for each section, just to make it easier for our case officer. So, Applicant info, sponsor info, financial info, household info, social aspects, etc. It also made it easier for me to get my head around. I took it into the Immigration office in Brisbane as I was too scared to post it! So much work!
I recommend doing a lot of research and making your own checklists. I found lots of useful websites and blogs written by people that have gone through the same process. Please note that the checklist above was what I submitted, and the requirements may differ depending on your circumstances (i.e. married, divorced, dependent children, soldier, etc).
I really hope this is helpful as I found it such a difficult confusing process, and I just wished there was 1 single document that would tell me everything that I needed. There is an official checklist on the immigration website, but it’s not detailed enough!
- Get a joint bank account asap and start using it
- If you won’t have been living together for 12 months when you submit your application, get your relationship registered now.
- Start asking people for their 888 forms early as it can take a long time for people to get round to doing them, getting them certified, and then posting to you.
- Find a local JP and get them to certify as many documents as possible in one go. This means waiting until you think you have everything you need, otherwise you will end up making multiple trips. https://www.qld.gov.au/law/legal-mediation-and-justice-of-the-peace/about-justice-of-the-peace/search-for-your-nearest-jp-or-cdec/
- Give yourself enough time – this process took months, you don’t want to leave it until the last minute!
- Make copies of everything just in case
- Submit too much evidence rather than not enough
- Include a cover letter to explain any gaps in your application
Disclaimer: I am not a registered immigration agent, this is just an account of my experience and what I did.