Expat Life

Navigating My Way into Temporary Residency: How I Survived the Partner Visa Process

September 15, 2016

Hi Everyone!

So I have been a temporary resident in Australia now for about 5 months. Wow how time flies! It feels like just yesterday I was trying to organise all the paperwork, compile statutory declarations, and schedule an appointment to get the medical check. I am writing this post in the hopes of helping others who are going through or thinking about going through the Partner Visa Process in Australia. The visa I applied for was the Partner Visa (subclasses 820 and 801). I applied for this visa because I was living in Australia at the time.

Note: If you are applying from outside Australia, you will need to apply for the Partner (Provisional) visa (subclass 309) and Partner (Migrant) visa (subclass 100).

Before we go any further I would like to give you some background information on myself so that it may help you better understand how and why I did things when applying for my visa.

Background

My partner (Patrick) and I (Courtney) met in 2010 at Mount St Mary’s University. Patrick had come over from Australia to play for our university’s D1 soccer team. We dated all through university (4 years), but when the time came for us to graduate we knew that Patrick had to return to Australia because his student visa was going to run out. I knew that I wanted to go to Australia with Patrick (since I had previously visited the country twice and loved it), but as a newly graduated college student I was low on work experience, cash and to top it all off now had student loans to start paying off. YIKES! The responsibility of loans really hits you when you graduate college.

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I was lucky enough to graduate university one semester earlier (Dec 2013) than Patrick, and this allowed me to get a full time job in the field of my degree in March 2013. It was then I realised I wasn’t going to be able to follow Patrick over to Australia as quickly as I thought. Therefore, I had to formulate a plan on how I was going to be able to buy a plane ticket, pay student loans from overseas, and get a job in my field once I got over to Australia.

My Plan to get to Australia:

  • Work full time for 1 year to save money & get work experience
  • Save enough money to pay my student loans for 1 year (approx. $10,000 USD)
  • Apply for Work and Holiday Visa (subclass 462)

With my plan written out it was time to follow through, the next several months were going to be tough. Patrick leaving was very hard at first, but I soon got into a new routine and made new friends at my new job. However, with my eye on the prize I made sure I was saving every penny from every pay check. During our time apart Patrick and I texted and Face Timed every day, thank god for modern technology! (Remember this because it will be a key point later).

As the months went by I became more and more restless to get over to Australia, and it just so happens that when November 2014 came around I had had enough and decided that I was just going to go, I couldn’t wait any longer. What helped me make this decision was that I had already saved more than enough money to pay my student loans for a year. With this decided it was time to apply for my Work and Holiday Visa (subclass 462). I submitted my application online (since I am from the USA) on the 8th of December 2014 and received my approval on the 12th of December! That was quick!

Note: The Work and Holiday Visa (subclass 462) application does have a fee of $440 AUD

With my visa approved I started to organised/tie up loose ends in the USA which included:

  • Telling my bank that I was moving overseas and to not freeze my accounts if there is activity in Australia
  • Setting up my student loans to direct debit out of my American Bank account
  • Resign from my full time job
  • With drawling my 401k savings (Since I had only been working for 10 months there was not enough money to roll over into an IRA)
  • Cancelling my American cell phone plan
  • Packing! Figuring out what to take and not take was very hard! (Luckily I was still living with my parents so all my extra stuff could still stay with them)
  • Farewell Party with Friends!

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With all loose ends tied up and my bags packed the only thing left to do was to go to the airport and board my flight to Australia.

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January 30th 2015 – Arrive in Australia

Finally, after a year of planning and saving I had made it to Australia! Patrick was there to greet me at the airport and it was so good to see him in person for the first time in over 8 months! Patrick and I decided that we would stay with his parents until we could afford to move out on our own. At first I didn’t want to do this, but in the end it turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

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Here is a list of a few things I did once I arrived in Australia:

  • Open a personal bank account and a joint bank account with my partner 
  • Apply for an Australian Tax File Number (you will need this for working)
  • Apply for Health Insurance (I used iSelect to help me choose the right policy for me, I have health insurance through Australian Unity, specifically the Overseas Visitors Cover with Basic Extras.)
  • Get a SIM Card for my phone (I use VAYA since its cheap and I already had a phone so I didn’t need to go on a plan.)

Since I had been to Australia before I had already met a few people, made a few friends and was able to get a casual job at one of Patrick’s family friends shops. I started working there about 4 weeks after I arrived in Australia. Patrick was fortunate enough to have found a job working in Clinical Research when he first arrived back in 2014. One day a position became available at the company that Patrick worked for and I decided to apply. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the job, but a few weeks later luck seemed to hit my way when the boss called me up asking me if I wanted a different temporary contract job in the company which I jumped on immediately. I thought if I got my foot in the door it would hopefully lead to more opportunities. After being in Australia for only two months I was about to start my new job (which just happened to relate to my Biology degree) in the beginning of April 2015. YAY!

Note: Getting a job in Australia is not easy, I applied online several times to several places and did not hear back once! I was extremely lucky to find something in my career path so soon and it definitely helps if you know people sometimes as they can help you get into the job market. Don’t get down if you don’t hear back from places right away. Keep Applying!

Deciding to Apply for a Partner Visa

Patrick and I decided together to apply for a Partner Visa in April 2015, knowing that at some point in the not so distant future we would marry. We started to do some research and decided the partner visa was the easiest route to go for us. Now I had previously looked up Partner Visas before and I knew this was going to be no easy task. As daunting as it seemed I knew we had to do this in order for us to be able to stay together in Australia.

Choosing the Right Visa

The first thing I did was go online to the Australian Government Department of Immigration and Border Protection website. It was through this website that I used the Visa Finder to find the best visa for my current situation. This is where I found the Partner Visa (subclasses 820 and 801).

This is what I did first:

  • Read all information about the visa to know what I was applying for and what legal obligations I will have to adhere to if I am approved
  • Use the cost estimator to determine how much the visa will cost
    • When we applied our visa cost approx. $7,000 AUD. That is a lot of money so make sure you and your partner are serious about one another and your future before you spend the money. YOU WILL NOT GET A REFUND if you decide to part ways or pull out of applying for the visa
  • Since we are not married we registered our relationship as de facto in our state (NSW)
    • You will need this to prove that you are indeed in a de facto relationship

Note: In NSW this application has a fee of $213 AUD and a 28 day cooling off period (basically it will sit on a desk for 28 days before they process it, so you may want to do this first!) To find out how to register your relationship in your state go to your states Births, Deaths & Marriages website.

  • Print off the Partner Visa (Subclass 820 and 801) Document Checklist
    • This is no longer available in a PDF, but instead is just a webpage. Print the webpage it will help you keep organised. Cross out the information that does not apply to you i.e. if you don’t have children then those sections won’t apply.

When I was first starting to get my head around things I thought I needed to have all the documents (that applied to me) in the checklist ready before I could submit online. So when I applied (paid the fee & lodged) I had actually uploaded ALL required documentation for my partner visa. In the end I’m glad I did it this way because I didn’t have to worry about going online and uploading anymore documents later, all I had to do was sit back, relax and wait to hear from Immigration.

However, if this is not what you would like to do you can go online to Australian Government Department of Immigration and Border Protection website and create your Immi Account, fill out the online portion (which includes Form 47SP and Form 40SP) of the application and pay the application fee. Done and dusted, you have lodged your Partner Visa in 20 minutes. The thing to remember here is that you now have to make sure you upload all the supporting documentation before they start processing your visa or you may get denied.

Note: There is a limit (60 attachments) on how many items you can upload for your application.

Getting my Documents in Order

This is the complete list of the types of documents I used for my application and which areas/question/topics I uploaded them too. You will notice that there is a lot of uploading the same document 2 or 3 times for different topics! I found that each section often asked the same questions so I reused several of the same documents for each.

Patrick’s Documents:

  • Driver’s license
  • Passport
  • Birth Certificate
  • AFP National Police Check

Courtney’s Documents:

  • Length of de facto Relationship

    • Travel Tickets
      • plane tickets of places we had gone together/confirmation emails of purchased flights with our names on them
    • Facebook Direct Messages
      • How do you get your Facebook Direct Messages? Well I’m here to tell you!
        1. Login to Facebook and go to your General Account Settings
        2. Scroll to the bottom of the page and Click ‘Download a copy of your Facebook Data’
        3. Click ‘Start my Archive’ you will be prompted to enter your Facebook password.
        4. Enter password and download the file
        5. Open the file you just downloaded
        6.  Next open the html folder
        7. Inside the folder there should be a document called messages.htm (this is what you want) Go through the document till you find the messages you need. then copy and paste them to a word doc and save as pdf.
    • Flower Delivery Receipts & Cards
      • Patrick logged onto his pro flowers account and printed off proof of all the orders he had made. It included my name and my address at the time
    • My scrapbook of our relationship
      • Since I am a pack rat I kept every single movie ticket, sports ticket, event, pictures and basically anything else that we did together in kept it all in a notebook. This made it easy to upload everything by just scanning the pages instead of every single thing one by one. Excerpts from my book below.capture1capture2
        • Emails
          • I compiled all emails sent between Patrick and I and turned them into individual PDFs, I then merged all of those into one PDF document.
        • Photographs
          • Now I take a lot of photos! I mean a lot! I basically went through every photo I’d ever taken of us and compiled it into a word document. I then saved that word document to a PDF. The only problem was that I my PDF was too large to upload to my Immi account. So I went online and found a free online PDF compressor and compressed my PDF to a smaller size so that it could be uploaded! This way I didn’t have to leave out all my photographic evidence of our relationship
        • Superannuation Document
          • Showing that we are each other’s beneficiary’s on our superannuation.

 

  • Relationship – Spouse, De facto Partner, Evidence of

    • Travel tickets
    • Facebook messages
    • My scrapbook of our relationship
    • Emails
    • Superannuation document
    • Flower Delivery Receipts & Cards
    • Text messages while apart
      • Remember when I said this would be an important part? I was able to download all the texts we exchanged during the eight months we were apart. At first I wasn’t sure how to get all of our text message evidence off our phones, but I ended up doing some research online and found a website that would allow me to download all the text messages (currently on the iPhone) that Patrick and I had sent to each other over the past several months. It was definitely worth it in order to have the evidence for the Partner visa)
    • Financial Statement – joint
      • Printed off a financial statement from our joint bank account

 

  • Character Evidence

    • Form 80
    • FBI Clearance 
      • Since I am from the USA I needed a police check from my country. I went to the Visa Document Checklist Page and clicked on Character Requirements, read through the information and then scrolled down to North America and clicked United States of America. Scroll to the bottom of this page until you see the heading Police Check. click ‘United States of America’. This will bring up the information you need. Including other approved FBI Channellers.

For my police check I used National Background Check Inc. I went to their website Clicked FBI Channelling downloaded the application and filled it out. Went to my local police station to get finger printed. The FBI check through this FBI channeller does have a $50 USD processing fee. The plus side of using this service is that you can opt to have your FBI check emailed to you, but it does require a US cell phone number so if you have a family member back home who can help you out I would take advantage of this. When I used this service I received my FBI check in 2.5 weeks! That’s a lot faster than using the regular FBI’s website, estimated time 8-16 weeks I believe I have heard some people say.

Note: My local police station would not let me take the fingerprints home with me to mail them myself, you may need to have your application, envelope and stamps ready. I had to return to the police station the next day with the envelope and stamps put the stuff in the envelope and then they mailed it out for me.

Note: You will need to have all your statutory declarations & subsequent attachments witnessed by person prescribed by the Statutory Declarations Act 1959 and Statutory Declarations Regulations 1993 which include:

• Justice of the Peace; • medical practitioner; • legal practitioner; • civil marriage celebrant or registered minister of religion; • dentist; • nurse; • optometrist; • pharmacist; • physiotherapist; • full-time teacher; • bank manager or bank officer with 5 or more continuous years of service; • postal manager or permanent employee of the Australian Postal Commission with 5 or more continuous years of service; • police officer; or • public servant with 5 or more continuous years of service.

A full list of prescribed persons can be found on the Attorney-General’s Department website

  • Contact while apart

    • Facebook messages
    • Emails
    • Text messages
    • Flower Delivery Receipts & Cards

  • Nature of the couple’s mutual commitment to each other, Evidence of

    • Facebook messages
    • Emails
    • Flowers
    • Text messages
    • Flower Delivery Receipts & Cards
    • Photos
    • Superannuation document

 

  • Photograph – Passport

  • Form 1221

  • Form 80

  • Identity

    • Passport
  • Nature of the couple’s household, Evidence of

    • Joint mail (we uploaded wedding invitations since we had some friends getting married)
    • Cell phone Bill (my Australian cell phone bill with my Australian address)
  • Couple are living Together

    • Joint mail
    • Cell phone Bill
  • Medical Examination

    • Receipt for Medical Examination 
      • The dreaded Medical Examination!!! You will need complete the My Health Declaration electronic form and then arrange your health examination with the Migration Medical Service Provider. You can only go to a specific doctor’s offices to get your health check. The Migration Medical Service Provider will give you a list of the approved offices. Luckily for me there was an office in Newcastle, otherwise I may have had to travel to Sydney. You will be required to undergo the Medical Examination which includes: medical exam, chest x-ray and HIV test. The Health Examination cost me $355 AUD!!!! It is not cheap! Once you complete your medical examination they will give you a receipt and your results will be uploaded to the immi account for you through your My Health Declarations

Note: You will be there for at least three hours! The reason for this I found was because they usually only had 2 doctors working and they were very slow.

 

  • Citizenship

    • passport
  • Address – Residential

    • Bank Statement with my address on it
  • Health, Evidence of

    • Proof of Health Insurance
      • When I signed up with Australian Unity they sent me a Health Cover Confirmation letter for my Work and Holiday visa, I used this same letter for the partner visa.
  • Registered Relationship             

    • Relationship Certificate from government authority
  • Birth of Age, Evidence of

    • Birth Certificate

Patrick and I lodged our Partner Visa on June 29th 2015!! YAY!! This process did not happen overnight! It took us almost 2 months to get all the required documentation compiled, certified, downloaded, compressed, and uploaded to my immi account so that I was ready to lodge. Now all we had to do was wait! I received an email almost immediately notifying me that immi has acknowledged my application and that I had been granted a Bridging Visa A (subclass 010) which became effective on the date my Work and Holiday visa expired.

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Bridging Visa A

I was happy to have the Bridging Visa because this gave me peace of mind to know that I would be able to stay in Australia until my partner visa was decided. However, the Bridging Visa A had two conditions that I forgot to take into account:

  • No Travel outside of Australia
  • I will not get full work rights until my Work and Holiday Visa Expires and I am officially on my Bridging Visa A

With these issues in mind I started to do some further research and found that I could travel outside of the country temporarily. All I had to do was first apply and be approved for a Bridging Visa B (subclass 020).

Note: The Bridging Visa B is a temporary visa and it also has a fee of $140 AUD. It lets you leave and return to Australia while your application for a substantive visa (partner visa in my case) is being processed. If you return to Australia within the specified travel period, you can then remain lawfully in Australia while your substantive visa application is being processed.

So with the first issue solved and out of the way I was able to focus on what to do for work I still had 7 months until my Bridging Visa A kicked in and only I was only allowed to continue working at my current job for 3 more months! I really didn’t want to give up the job so I went ahead and did some more research to try and find a way to make it work.

Form 1445 – Request permission to work with an employer beyond 6 months on a Working Holiday or Work and Holiday visa

I ended up calling immigration, and if any of you have gone or are going through this process you know that you will be sitting on the phone on hold for hours. So I grudgingly sat on hold for almost 2 hours in order to find out if there was a way that I would be able to work at my current job longer and not have to abide by the 6-month work rule of my current visa.

Thank the Lord and baby Jesus!! The lovely lady from immigration answered my prayers by sending me Form 1445!! And telling me that when I filled it out just send it to the partner visa email address. Now this form is hard to find (I couldn’t locate any info about it on the Border website) basically I’m assuming they don’t want that many people knowing about it and being able to use it. So at first this form may seem confusing (written terribly) and if you have applied for a partner visa you may think it does not apply to you when you start reading through the fine print. BUT under the “All other cases – exceptional circumstances only” there is a bullet point at the bottom which states:

  • remaining in your current job while a decision is being made on an application for a visa which would allow you to continue full-time work with your employer without leaving Australia, such as an application for a Temporary Business (Long Stay) visa or a Spouse visa.

Spouse Visa. Which can also be known as a partner visa! So here is how I was able to stay at my current job for more than 6-months.

  1. Talked with my boss about applying for the 6-month work Waiver/Form 1445 (since I was on contract I wanted to make sure I still had a job after my contract was up)
  2. Filled out Form 1445 (said I only needed the waiver until my Bridging Visa A kicked in)
  3. Got my boss to write a letter about how they wanted to keep me on
  4. I wrote a short 1-page cover letter detailing why I wanted to stay on. (i.e. the need for financial stability, how it’s hard to find long term work let alone find work in my chosen field, how the extension would be beneficial to my career and my partner’s and my futures. This is not required, but I felt Form 1445 did not accurately reflect my situation and why I need the 6-month work waiver.)

I sent Form 1445, my cover letter, and the letter from my employer on Sept 2nd 2015 and received my approval on Sept 7th 2015! I was quite surprised to hear back from them so fast. With both issues sorted the only thing I now had to do was wait for immigration to process my partner visa.

And the Wait Begins

Over the next several months’ things in our life changed and we ended up moving out of Patrick’s parents’ house! YAY! We moved into our first apartment together in February 2016 and we now had a few more bills to pay such as rent, gas and electricity. All the more evidence to help our partner visa application! Since I had exceeded the attachment limit on the immi account I emailed a change of address Form 929, our new joint energy bill, and our lease agreement to partner.temporary.nsw@border.gov.au.

Key to Happiness

Key to Happiness

In early March I received an email letting me know that my partner visa was going to begin to be processed (and that I could have approval by June 30th 2016) and I had until April 30th to submit all outstanding documentation. As it came closer to April 30th I was notified that I needed to have an AFP National Police Check. At the time of the lodgement of my partner visa back in June 2015 I did not need an Australia Police Check (because I had not been in Australia for more than 12 months). However, since I had now resided in the country for more than 12 months it was now required.

So here is how I did it. I went to the AFP National Police Check website and clicked on the link to take me to the Application Portal. I read the information, ticked the box and clicked Start New Online Application. I filled out and submitted the application and sent the receipt to the partner visa email showing them that I had applied and was waiting. I received my AFP National Police check via email 10 days later. I emailed the results of my AFP Police Check to the partner visa email address on 02/05/16.

Note: The AFP National Police Check costs $42.00 AUD for EACH AFP National Police Check application from a government department of an individual.

Visa Granted! – May 5th 2016

I received my Partner Visa Grant Letter THREE days later (on 05/05/16) and was now officially a temporary resident! I was in pure shock! I didn’t expect to get it so soon. Especially when I was prepared to wait 12-15 months for approval, but I had just gotten mine in 10 months. All the stress, hard work and money spent paid off because now I was able to stay in Australia with Patrick.

It has now been 5 months since I was approved and it has been great. Life without the stress of visa approval lingering in the back of my mind has allowed Patrick and I to make ACTUAL FUTURE PLANS! Before I felt we couldn’t commit to doing certain things (i.e. buying a house, car, etc.) because we did not know for sure if I was going to be approved.

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In total Patrick and I spent over $8000 AUD throughout this entire process! Looking back this seems like a ridiculous amount of money, but hey the things you do for love right?

I wanted to write this post to inform people who are thinking about applying or who are in the process of applying that you can do it all on your own and there is sometimes a way around rules like in my case only being able to work for one employer for 6-months. I did not use a migration agent or lawyer at all during this process. I just used the power of the internet to find solutions to my problems.

I’d like to wish all those applying Good Luck! I hope you get approved!

If anyone has and questions they would like to ask me feel free to contact me through email I would be happy to answer 🙂

Update! – check out From Temporary to Permanent Residency: Part II of the Partner Visa Process

Court

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6 Comments

  • Reply Courtney Steltenpool October 27, 2016 at 2:28 pm

    Sounds like a crazy, long, frustrating process, but so glad you’re here to stay! Now can you and Pat get married already please? We need another family catch up! xx

    • Reply Court October 31, 2016 at 8:47 am

      Haha its not up to me! and yes we do need another catch up!

  • Reply Lily November 29, 2016 at 9:02 am

    Thanks for writing this, Courtney! My guy and I have a ways to go before making that sort of leap, but I’m a planner and it’s good to know that this process isn’t impossible! So nice of you to post this is such detail with links!

  • Reply From Temporary to Permanent: Part II of the Partner Visa Process - The Mind of Court June 8, 2017 at 9:26 am

    […] about Part II of the Partner Visa Process. Now, it has been a while since I wrote my original post Navigating My Way into Temporary Residency: How I Survived the Partner Visa Process so I thought it would be best to start off with a brief recap of my timelines of the whole […]

  • Reply Zar Zar November 13, 2017 at 1:07 pm

    Hi Court! I have been scouring the internet for help and came across your blog. My husband is american and we are in the process of getting his spouse visa from a work holiday visa. I have found the 1445 form you mentioned but have been searching everywhere trying to find a sample letter for the employer letter. Basically I want to give them as little work and stress as possible so I figured, within reason I could write it for them and then ask them to make it official. Any chance you could send me what your boss wrote? We just had a baby last month and he will have 3 months between this visa and the bridge visa…I’m totally stressing about it!
    glad yours all went relatively smoothly! Hope you are still loving Australia!

    • Reply Court November 18, 2017 at 8:22 pm

      Hi Zar Zar,

      I can have a look and see if I still have the letter they wrote for the application. I do remember that they put the letter on company letterhead and part of the information in the letter explained how I was valuable to the company. If I find a copy of the letter would you like me to email you ? If so you can write to me in the contact section in the menu and then I can reply. 🙂

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