When should you lodge your partner visa application?

“My partner is on a tourist visa and going back to the UK next month. So we are just going to apply  while Meg is in the UK. She has all her documents and photos  there so its going to be much easier that way for us. Meg needs to go to a wedding there plus she wants to spend more time with her family before settling here”

I gasp, thinking of all the ways I can possibly think to convince him not to do that, without sounding like I’m rail roading him into changing an important decision, going against what they believe is best for them.

This is because if Meg applies in the UK she is most likely going to have to stay outside Australia throughout the entire processing of the visa application.  Now this can be a year or more (although I proudly claim for some of my clients I have had partner visa grants within 4 weeks).  This means that there will be perhaps an entire year or more that Meg cannot enter Australia!  No, Meg can’t even come over on a tourist visa unless there is strong and convincing evidence that Meg would leave before a tourist  visa expired.   The reason is due to immigration’s policy.

Policy holds that a case officer, the person who assesses any visa application,  must refuse a tourist visa if they doubt an applicant intends to come to Australia for just a visit.  They will most likely not believe that an applicant is just going to visit Australia if they are in a relationship with an Australian citizen or permanent resident. They will very likely write back, acting on the policy:

Decision-makers are are guided to consider…whether there any other more suitable visa options for the visa

Subsequently Meg is most likely to be advised to apply for a partner visa, if it has not been lodged yet. If it has been lodged Meg will most likely be told that they do not believe Meg’s intentions are to visit Australia only and then refuse the visa.  Usually this is devastating for couples.  A visit visa might be granted if strong and convincing reasons can be established showing Meg would return to the UK before the visit visa expired.  However, so many people in this situation return back to their home country to no job, and no intention to apply for a job because they plan to settle in Australia. Not being able to show significant employment to a case officer very much goes against a positive tourist visa application assessment.

Meg and her Sponsor could try what they want to do which is wait for Meg to go back to the UK, lodge a partner visa application while over there, and then apply for a visit visa to come back to Australia. But the chances of a visit visa refusal is high could easily lead to much disappointment and heartache.

I have seen countless numbers of visit visas refused where couples have opted to apply outside Australia (sometimes this is their only option of course).  It is usually heartbreaking and distressing for all family and friends involved.   I hate to see couples separated due to immigration law and policy even for brief periods of time – so will always urge the following strategy, if possible, and of course based on eligibility for the partner visa.

STEP 1 Strive to collect all the minimum ‘time of application’ requirements to be able to lodge a Partner Visa before Meg leaves Australia. If there are any mandatory documents that Meg does not have in Australia she should ask family or friends to obtain them, scan and email them to Meg.  (There are different requirements for ‘time of application’ and ‘time of decision’ on whether or not to grant the visa).  

STEP 2 Use the Bridging Visa A details obtained when the partner visa is lodged to apply for a Bridging Visa B.  The Bridging Visa A is granted to allow Meg to stay in Australia, after her cuurent visa expires, while a decision is being made on the partner visa application. This visa will allow Meg to leave Australia but not re-enter.  The bridging visa which allows Meg to leave and re-enter is the Bridging Visa B. This usually needs 2 weeks to process so you can see how quickly Meg and her Sponsor should take action if she wishes to go back to the UK a month later.  I will most likely be able to help clients achieve a bridging visa more quickly if necessary.  You cannot apply for a Bridging Visa B without the Bridging Visa A.

STEP 3 Meg goes back home to the UK continuing to gather significant documents to add to the partner via application. All the’ time of application requirements’ would be submitted so it’s about sending documents to meet the’ time of decision’ requirements.   They should be sent to immigration as soon as possible.  Requests for extensions of time to provide documents can be made also.  Meg has a great time and after a month she returns back to Australia easily.  In Meg’s case she  will have full work rights and can commence employment while waiting for an outcome on the partner visa application.

So in this case, it is far better to lodge sooner, rather than later, and before leaving Australia.

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