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The Partner visa allows an Australian citizen, permanent resident, or eligible New Zealand citizen to sponsor their spouse or partner to live and work in Australia.  The visa applicant must demonstrate that they are either in a spousal relationship, or in a de facto relationship.

Given the lengthy processing times for Partner visas, it is strongly recommended that you seek advice and assistance as soon as possible.

Partner visas

You can apply for a partner visa outside or inside Australia, and different visa subclasses are applicable for either option (with some minor differences).

A partner visa consists of two visa subclasses (one temporary and one permanent) which are applied for together at the same time, and only one fee is paid to the Department of Home Affairs (the Department). If you apply:

  • onshore – this would be for a Partner (Temporary) (Class UK) (Subclass 820) visa and a Partner (Residence) (Class BS) (Subclass 801) visa (820/801 visa); or
  • offshore – this would be for a Partner (Provisional) (Class UF) (Subclass 309) visa and a Partner (Migrant) (Class BC) (Subclass 100) visa (309/100 visa).

Unless the visa applicant and Australian sponsor are in a ‘long term relationship’, the temporary component of the visa is granted first (820 or 309 visa).  This visa enables the holder to travel to Australia, remain and work, until a decision is made on the permanent component of the visa.

The visa applicant will be eligible to be assessed for the permanent component of the visa (801 or 100 visa) two years after the Partner visa application was lodged.  Individuals in a ‘long term relationship’ may be eligible to immediately be considered for grant of the permanent visa and bypass the temporary component altogether.

Processing times

The Department are currently processing about 75% of the temporary stage of a Partner visa applications in about 11 months for offshore applications and 20 months for onshore applications.[1]

The Department are currently processing about 75% of second stage (permanent aspect) of the Partner visa in about 20 months for 309 visa holders, and 15 months for 820 visa holders.[2]

The below flow chart provides a summary of the process with approximate times:

partner visaOnshore v Offshore

The lengthy processing times should give returning Australian expats (and their foreign partner/spouses) some food for thought.

Given that offshore Partner visa applications are taking about 11 months to process, planning with respect of an offshore Partner visa application should take place as early as possible. It is recommended that you commence the visa process as early as 18 months prior to your intended return to Australia to ensure that your obtain a visa within your desired timeframes.

Individuals who are citizens of certain “low-risk” countries have access to visas that would enable them to enter Australia (for the purposes of that visa) and in certain circumstances, apply for the onshore Partner visa. Applying for the onshore Partner visa in Australia would result in the visa applicant being granted a “bridging” visa to enable them to remain in Australia during the processing of the application. This option is preferable for many individuals who are moving to Australia within timeframes less than the processing times for an offshore Partner visa, and do not wish to be separated from their partner/spouse.[3]

More information?

Hannan Tew recognises the difficulties involved in repatriating to Australia and the anxiety involved in such a process, even without visa hassles. Feel free to contact us by email at [email protected] or phone (03) 9016 0484 or (02) 8005 1484 for information on how we can assist to make this aspect of your move as seamless as possible.

[1] Current as at 1 January 2018, see:

[2] Current as at 1 January 2018, see:

[3] Disclaimer: the above is general advice only, and there could be limitations preventing an individual from being able to lodge an onshore Partner visa, and/or work and travel limitations applicable to the bridging visas that would make such an option undesirable.  Please speak to one of our skilled staff at Hannan Tew for more information about the above.

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