Applying for a partner visa - what you need to know

Date: Jul 19, 2011

Australia is a popular destination for young professionals. In recent times it's been made easier for skilled international workers to make the move, with changes to 457 visas and the addition of Regional Migrant Agreements to be introduced in 2012.

But what happens to couple when only one partner lives in Australia?

The Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) has a visa that provides for the partner of an Australian permanent resident - citizen or otherwise - to be able to live and work in the country.

These are known as the partner visa and the prospective marriage visa. The partner visa is available for all couples - married, de facto and same sex - while the prospective marriage visa is intended for couples who are engaged at the time of the application.

To gain access to these visas, a couple needs to prove to the DIAC that they are in "a mutual commitment to a shared life together, to the exclusion of all other persons". The partners must also show that they are living together on a permanent basis.

One of the main points that must be demonstrated is that the couple applying for the visa have been in a committed relationship for a minimum of 12 months before the initial application is filed.

Demonstrating this to the department can be made easier with the help of an immigration lawyer, who will provide an up front assessment of the documentation required and the costs involved.

Couples seeking a partner visa are able to make use of bridging visas to allow a loved one to live in the country while the application process takes place.

There are different types of bridging visas, each with different types of restrictions and of different durations. These are dependant on the circumstances surrounding the status of the couple applying for the initial partner visa as well as the applicant's location.

A migration lawyer can provide advice on the particular visa a couple may require.

Exceeding the limitations of a visa can result in a partner not being granted permission to enter the country as a Sydney couple - Maryna Yemchuk's and Richard Black - are currently experiencing.

In an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald, Mr Black said that his wife flew to Ukraine to look after her parents, whose health was failing. The couple were denied a partner visa as they were unable to show to the DIAC that they had been living together for 12 months.