I’m not an expert and I’m not a lawyer or migrant agent, but I’ve spent a year working on putting my visa application together. With the benefit of hindsight, I offer you some tips to make your process smoother.
I applied onshore (that is, from within Australia, as opposed to offshore) for a de facto partner visa subclass 820, which is a temporary visa. If granted, if the relationship is still intact after two years, I will be granted a permanent visa, subclass 801. If you’re applying for a different kind of visa, your mileage may vary.
1. Save your pennies. The application fee for the de facto partner 820-801 visa is currently $4575 plus you have to pay for the medical assessment, the background checks, etc. If you use a migrant agent, add another $2k-4k to that. All up, plan to spend about $8k.
2. Find a good migrant agent. You can pull it all together yourself, but I strongly recommend a migrant agent. I know it can be costly, but it is worth it. A good migrant agent will be on your side. S/he will guide you through the process, answer all your questions, advocate for you, make sure all your i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed,and catch things you might not.
3. Start as soon as possible. The process is long and can be overwhelming. Don’t procrastinate. Things can take longer than expected and sometimes you have to follow up or re-do a procedure. Become familiar with the forms and requirements. Research, make check-lists, and start doing what you can. Aside from visiting the Immigration website, visit the websites of other services you’ll need such as Medibank for the medical assessment, the police station where you’ll get your fingerprints taken, and the FBI from which you’ll need a criminal background check. These all have their own requirements and these processes can take time.
4. Take pictures. Theo is a photography enthusiast. I love to snap photos to document and to share. This means we’re often behind the lens and finding photos of us together was actually a little bit harder than I anticipated. Everywhere you go together, have your picture taken or take a selfie. When you gather with friends and family, have group photos taken. I submitted 22 photos so you don’t need a large amount, you just need good ones.
5. Begin establishing proof of residency as soon as possible. Open a bank account, a mobile phone account, put your name on a utility, get a fishing licence, get a local drivers license, etc. You will need documents that show your address, brownie points for documents addressed to both you and your partner.
6. Make friends and develop hobbies. You want to demonstrate that you are establishing a life here in Australia, that you’re making friends, that you have pastimes, and that your partner takes an interest in your activities. For example, Theo and I are both members of a local photography club. I am also interested in African drumming, and he is not, but he attends my performances.
7. Save invitations and holiday cards. I tend to throw everything away and I could kick myself for not having saved all those party invitations and Christmas cards addressed to both Theo and I. These help demonstrate that you’re in a genuine and ongoing relationship.
8. Research some more. Revisit the Immigration website and check in with your migrant agent. Your process will undoubtedly differ from mine and it can be substantially different if you’re from a “high risk” country or if you have children or if you’re planning to get married or for a number of other reasons. Plus the procedure can change. By the time I was ready to lodge my application, Immigration had changed some of the forms.
9. Register your relationship. Immigration does not require this, but registering your relationship with the State of Victoria “provides immediate recognition of you and your partner’s relationship, which may make it easier for you to access your legal rights without having to repeatedly prove your relationship in court or to different agencies.” It’s worth it.
10. Create a timeline of your life. The application requires information that is very specific and that we don’t generally think about. For example, it requests a list of employment since birth. Yes, since birth, I kid you not, that’s what it actually says. You need specific dates and you must account for unemployment gaps. Another example: you need to list all the places where you have lived for the past 30 years. That was easy for me because I’ve only lived in two places, but if you’ve moved around a lot, you’re going to need a list of dates and addresses. You’ll also need details about your family such as the dates and places of birth of your parents and siblings as well as your partner’s, and you’ll need to provide a history of your relationship.
The unofficial 11th tip is to relax though it’s really hard. I felt a huge sense of relief after my application was lodged recently, but knowing that processing will take another 12-15 months still creates anxiety. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about it.
How is or was your visa process?