Ask LH: How Can I Get Australian Residency For This Chick I'm Seeing?

Hey Lifehacker, I have been in a long-distance relationship for over two years, with me in Australia and her in Belgium. How can we go about getting her Australian permanent residency or citizenship?

She is a library assistant and in a band, so I don't think she'll qualify for a sponsorship by an employer. She has the 12 month working holiday visa and plans on coming over late May to start it. Any ideas? Thanks, Distant Yearnings

Long-distance romance picture from Shutterstock

Dear DY,

Tell her not to arrive by boat!

Kidding aside, there is a depressingly xenophobic climate in Australia right now which can make things complicated for immigrants seeking permanent residency. This goes doubly if their existing qualifications and occupational skills aren't in high demand.

We're not lawyers or immigration specialists and for expert advice you're going to need one — but for now, your first port of call should be the Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection website. You'll find plenty of information here on the types of visa your partner can apply for.

Your girlfriend's best bet is probably a Partner (Provisional) visa (subclass 309) followed by a Partner (Migrant) visa (subclass 100). This allows the de facto partner of an Australian citizen to travel to and live in Australia. Note that the applicant needs to be outside Australia when they apply.

If the applicant is granted a Partner (Provisional) visa, they will be allowed to live and work in Australia until a final decision is made. The entire process typically takes around two years (naturally, you'll need to remain in the relationship throughout). If she is ultimately granted a Partner (Migrant) visa, she will be able to stay in Australia indefinitely and apply for Australian citizenship should she choose to.

As with most things in life, there are various costs involved. This pricing estimator will give you an indication of how much the entire endeavor is likely to set her back. Here's the DFAT Partner (Provisional) visa (subclass 309) and Partner (Migrant) visa (subclass 100) page which includes the necessary forms required to apply. Best of luck!

If any readers have experience in this area, feel free to share your stories and advice in the comments section below!

Cheers Lifehacker

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Comments

    Note that the applicant needs to be outside Australia when they apply.
    Is this new? I was inside Australia when I applied for a Partner visa 3 years ago.

      Partner (provisional) has always been "outside" (at least it was in 2004 when I applied for one) but "Partner" can be inside or outside of Australia.

      From my understanding, there are basically two types of visa that do the same thing; one for inside Australia (Partner visa (subclasses 820 and 801) and one for outside Australia. As the girlfriend is currently outside Australia, I mentioned the latter.

        Yes, 820 is the temporary (1 - 2 year waiting period) visa towards getting a 801 (permanent residency) for someone already in Australia. 309 and 100 are the equivalents respectively starting with the partner off-shore.

        For the OP, bear in mind that you will need to prove that you are spouses or at least de-facto. That means you will need reference statements from people who have known you as a couple for at least a couple of years. And it will help immensely if you can prove you have co-habited or have some financial or legal associations. Otherwise, expect to be put through the wringer and made to show evidence that you are a "genuine" couple. I speak from experience that bombarding them with paperwork ensures an easy passage through the process.

        Per a suggestion already posted, I'd suggest some period of cohabitation here under your partner's existing visa. As soon as you apply she will automatically go onto a bridging visa pending a decision on the 820.

    She is European and educated. You should be fine getting a visa.

      means nothing in this case, have to say it is a bit better in the last couple of years but still
      visas get rejected left and right sometimes with very little reasoning...

    I migrated to Australia from the UK in 2003 and it was extremely difficult.

    The best advice I can give you, is to remember that a large part of the decision on whether you can stay or not, comes down to the discretion of the person processing your application. Obviously Immigration is very much a mandated and structured process. But don't overlook the importance of the person processing your application, empathising with your plight and 'wanting' to facilitate your migration.

    Immigration is a hot topic in Australia because it is wildly abused by people who wish nothing more than to benefit from this country without contributing. If people who realise this are considered "xenophobic", then you can include me in that camp. There's no place for racism in contemporary Australia. But it does frustrate me that people are reluctant to discuss immigration because they fear that they'll be labelled a racist.

    I'm hugely grateful to Australia every day for letting me stay. I can't imagine wanting to take advantage of her generosity.

      I migrated to Australia from the UK in 2003
      Immigration is a hot topic in Australia because it is wildly abused by people who wish nothing more than to benefit from this country without contributing.

      Words just can't

        Clearly I didn't mean that everyone who immigrates here abuses the system. Be an adult and contribute to the conversation if you want.

          I'll pick up the conversation here if I may =)

          I agree with you that it's important to ensure that immigrants to Australia are willing to contribute constructively to society. In fact, I don't think that's a particularly controversial statement ie. people who express similar sentiments are rarely labelled as 'xenophobic' based purely on that proposition.

          From there we could go either way though... When you refer to people "who wish nothing more than to benefit from this country without contributing" to whom are you referring? (if we wanted to go further: "what defines an acceptable level of contribution?")

          I don't mean to patronise you (the reason I iterate this is because you migrated in 2003, which was a weird midpoint in the development of local sentiment towards immigration so you may or may not be aware of the history here) but in the years preceding Howard's election as Prime Minister in 1996, Australia by-and-large embraced its multiculturalism. We were proud of the fact that a multitude of cultures coalesced into the dynamic culture that is 'Australia' (interestingly. we had relatively similar immigration laws to the ones that are currently on the books).

          The Howard Government, however, introduced a very compelling phrase to the local dialect: "boat people". This was the catalyst for the xenophobia that prevails conversations about immigration these days, and is largely the impetus for claims of racism... It's... It's been a long and regrettable story.

          [If you're still of the 'boat people are not real immigrants' train of thought, I'll offer this factoid as an argument against the perceived danger of allowing 'illegal immigrants' to gain legitimate refugee status... The average number of refugees that arrive in Australia by boat per year is (at most) 20,000... The average number of European backpackers that overstay their visa and work in Australia without claiming taxes on that income, per year, is ten times that amount...]

          Australia is a funny place...

          Last edited 19/01/14 2:13 am

      I hate to do this on a 'burner' account (but I don't have my Aussie gawker set up yet, why it is different to the American one I do not know) but I think immigration policy in Australia is both racist and stupid. My girlfriend has a PhD (in a STEM subject, not something shit like contemporary french literature) and had to come here on my visa because she didn't count as a skilled worker, you know, like a nurse or a plumber. Also I don't understand the whole 'benefit from this country without contributing' argument; most migrants are not covered by medicare unless they are from white-people countries that have reciprocal agreements with Australia. Migrants come here, do jobs Aussies don't want and still pay taxes, how is that exploiting Australia in any way?

        Well, Mr Migrant2, I'm a "shit" French literature graduate, and guess what? I got my PR skilled migration within 3 months of applying. I'm clearly a SKILLED worker. Something your Phd girlfriend can only dream of at the moment...

        Yeah, your girlfriend might be a supreme mind, but did you consider that her supreme PHD might be 'irrelevant' to the needs of Australia at this time and age?
        People (especially the self-centered western educated mob) assume that because their heads are full, people will want them. Well, they need to realise that Australia might not give a finger about your STEM Phds for the moment, especially because they don't have much research going on in their University, or because all the local super kids have already taken these positions.

        Shortages don't exist, only poor repartition. If your Phd girlfriend applied to go to overinflated migrant-crowded NSW, while SA/WA are left ou because they are less "trendy", well, she will be rejected.
        You don't need to have a Phd to see that being pragmatic and practical takes you further in life than thinking the world should lick your feet for having studied Sciences. Calling Australian Migration law racists are not going to help your case either...

    Just wanted to add, best luck to you "Distant Yearnings"!!

    A friend did this 10 years ago. He was inside Oz when he did, but he was on a tourist visa. What he did was print out years of emails and phone call logs demonstrating the duration of their relationship, to justify that even though he was a newcomer to Australia, he had legitimately been that woman's partner for several years prior. Any evidence of that sort that you can think of could be useful. According to my friend, who is not an immigration agent, Partner or Provisional Partner worked for "de facto" relationships as well as marriages.

    I made it through skilled migration last year myself. Best of luck.

    Get her to come out on the working holiday visa then live together for 11 months.
    Then apply for the onshore defacto visa online and you will receive an instant bridging visa to one your forms and payment have been submitted.
    Bridging visa enables full working rights.

    Get a joint bank account. Rent in joint names. Save sent correspondence.
    I have a feeling that Belgium does not allow Dual Nationality like the UK does, she may have to make a choice down the line - Aus or Belgian citizenship.

      I have dual nationality and I'm from Belgium. Luckily she doesn't have to choose!

    The visa pricing estimator has been broken on their website for months. I've reported it thus twice, without any follow-up.

    Was it less depressingly xenophobic when hundreds of people were drowning at sea on the way here? Between your depression and people killing themselves, I'm glad you're not happy.

    I applied for the partner visa from inside Australia a few years ago and was lucky to have it approved within a month (then you go on a 2 term temporary residency one before they consider you for a permanent one). One thing we did was to register the relationship as a de facto in the state - which may have helped. Also do spend the time on the "proof of relationship" documentation as I think the main thing they are on the look-out for are non-serious relationships. Good luck!

    I went through the prospective marriage visa with my wife, then when we got married it was the partner visa (first temporary, then 2 years later permanent). Its a huge pain and a very stressful time, you constantly have to jump through hoops and prove your relationship is genuine and solid. I think we got in just in time because it cost about 2.5K in fees all up, plus all the medicals, police clearances, documentation etc. Pretty sure its quite a bit more now.

    My advice, get as much in both names as possible, make sure you take photos and document things you do, places you go together.

    The whole process is not very transparent, they give no feedback on where your application is, how long its going to take etc. All you get is a letter saying please provide X,Y,Z and then letters once they make some kind of decision. It causes a lot of stress and uncertainty. I really think they could improve this, peoples futures are hinging on the decisions they make.

    Don't do it if it is 'this girl I'm seeing' you've got to be sure she's the one, I guess you'll know after living together for a year. It is however a good relationship test, if you can make it through the process then you can likely make it through all the other shit life throws your way.

    It's worth mentioning that you only get to sponsor a partner visa application once every 5 years, and only twice in total, so don't waste it if you are not sure that her feelings are reciprocated and genuine. There have been people who are willing to fake their relationship with their partner just to qualify for a visa, and then desert them once it is approved.
    From the IMMI website:
    Your partner’s visa application may be refused if you are
    affected by the following sponsorship limitations that are
    imposed if you:
    • have previously sponsored or nominated 2 other
    persons as a fiancé(e) or partner for migration to Australia
    (including sponsorships/nominations you may have
    withdrawn but your former fiancé(e) or partner obtained
    permanent residence on family violence grounds); or
    • have sponsored another fiancé(e) or partner within the last
    5 years

    I'm a qualified migration agent within Australia specialising in Partner visas and i would recommend talking to a MARA certified agent within Australia. Every situation calls for a personalised strategy and the advice given online can lead people astray. The only information online that is current and trustworthy is on the immigration website.

    With that amount of control and scrutiny over someone's private life, I would pass the marriage thingie, and rather stay single.
    Seriously, sending your emails:text message as a proof of de fato? How is that relevant to evidencing a relationship?
    This world is gone crazy...

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