When Adam and I decided to move back to Australia, the biggest hurdle we had to overcome was visas. While I could happily return to my country of birth without any concerns, for Adam the process was always going to be a little trickier…
When the Australian Government announced changes to quite a few of its work visas earlier this year, we started to do some serious investigation as to what would be the best path for us to follow. In the end we decided to apply for a partner visa. We believed we met the relevant criteria and the omission of a third party (like an employer) meant we had a little more freedom regarding job opportunities and movement around the country.
After doing a lot of research and reading about other people’s experiences with the partner visa, we also decided to engage a migration lawyer to help us in our application. The visa application costs $7000 AUD, so we wanted to minimise the risk of it being rejected or being delayed because we’d misunderstood a question or not included certain information. We contacted Julie, a lawyer I’d built up a relationship with when I was working as a journalist in Australia, and who also happened to specialise in migration law.
The partner visa sees the permanent resident of the country (me) sponsor their partner who’s from abroad. Essentially to qualify you have to prove to the government that you’ve been in a committed defacto relationship for at least 12 months, and that the relationship is set to continue. If you apply for the visa in Australia (subclasses 820 and 801), you have to stay put until a decision is made. If you apply for the visa overseas (like we did – subclasses 309 and 100) you have to be overseas when a decision is made. And to answer the most common question we got while going through the process… getting married doesn’t make a difference! Sure your marriage certificate counts as evidence, but it’s not a golden ticket to entry.
Apart from filling out what felt like dozens and dozens of forms, the big component of the visa application is the evidence proving your relationship. It’s broken down into four categories: The nature of your commitment to each other, social aspects of the relationship, the nature of the household and financial aspects. We also needed two statuary declarations, preferably from Australian residents, who could also vouch for our relationship. We asked two dear friends for the stat decs, one more closely linked to Adam, the other me. As for the evidence – we got together joint bank statements, invoices for flights and accommodation we’d booked together, utilities bills in both our names, invitations, letters and cards sent to us, pictures of us together and with friends and printed out Facebook timelines.
We also were required to write personal statements about our relationship. As a writer, it wasn’t too difficult for me. For Adam it was a little harder. My statement was an emotional three full pages, recounting the day we met, our first few dates and the development of our relationship. It was probably a little gushy at times, focusing more on emotions. Adam’s was much shorter, quite factual and sticking to a chronological order. I think it was beneficial that our statements were quite different – it definitely looked like they’d be written separately and with little input from the other. Those statements also included our future plans together as a couple and even things like how we split the running of the household or circumstances where we’d offered support to one another.
Both Adam and I were required to obtain police checks from both the United Kingdom and Australia and Adam also needed to get a medical examination done. We had to send documentation, like our birth certificates, passport photos and actual passports to Australia for verification. All of those costs were separate to the visa application.
The visa was lodged on June 15, 2017 after about six weeks of evidence gathering. I found most of the ‘evidence’, while Adam diligently scanned, uploaded and indexed it all online so it was easy for Julie to access. The government advice when we applied was that it could take 12-18 months for our application to be assessed. We wanted to be back in Australia in mid to late December 2018, so were preparing for the likely scenario where Adam would have to return to Australia on a tourist visa unable to work and then would have to leave the country when a decision was pending.
We were completely blown away when on August 29, 2017, some 11 weeks later, we got an email saying the visa had been approved. Julie told us in her nine years of applying for partner visas, it was the quickest approval she’d ever had. We were over the moon. We credit Julie’s knowledge of the process and her suggestions on what evidence we should provide on our success, as well as the fact that we were super organised when it came to gathering documents. We got as much together as quickly as we could, labelling it plainly so it was easy to see which of the four categories it fell under. We also got onto requesting police checks and the medical check promptly. All in all, the visa probably cost us around $10, 000 AUD in total. It’s a big spend, but in the grand scheme of ‘the rest of our lives’ we think it’s been a worthwhile investment.