The year 2020 was a challenging year, to say the least. Ushering in new norms and being dubbed a Global Pandemic Year due to COVID-19. Health fears caused governments to react without sufficient information and economic environments also felt the impact of changes in consumer behaviour caused by numerous factors that sent the world into chaos.
One of the effects of the Pandemic is the disruption of Australia’s Partner Visa program. Couples that were lucky enough to be onshore were largely unaffected if they were able to lodge an onshore Partner Visa. However, for couples separated by international borders, they have been left confused and ignored by the system.
Global border restrictions have prevented couples from re-uniting and despite the Australian government’s Travel Exemption criteria, Immigration has turned down most overseas applicants who wish to reunite with their Australian partners in Australia.
Below is a case study of a common Offshore Partner Visa (Subclass 309) case, with possible solutions to consider.
Situation: Overseas applicant located outside of Australia, whilst their Australian partner is located in Australia.
Problem: Partners are separated and unable to reunite due to travel and border restrictions caused by the Global COVID-19 Pandemic.
1A. If you do not hold any Australian Visa: Lodge the partner visa from offshore (ie. Subclass 309) and adhere to the government published processing periods; whilst diligently maintaining evidence of the relationship despite the inability to reunite. Note: The criteria that you need to focus on is the criteria related to “not living separately and apart on a permanent basis”.
1B. After lodging the partner visa, consider applying for a visitor visa, with a travel exemption service to enter Australia. Please note however that the refusal rate for this is high, so there is a high level of supporting evidence required to establish compelling and compassionate circumstances to convince Immigration that you satisfy one or more of the Travel Exemption criteria in order to improve your chances of success.
2A. If you hold a current valid Australian Visa: Apply for a Travel Exemption to allow you to enter Australia. Please ensure that you carefully understand the Travel Exemption criteria in order to satisfy the evidentiary requirements in order to maximise your chances of success.
2B. If your travel exemption is approved, and you enter Australia, then you can you prepare and submit an onshore Partner Visa (Subclass 820) as long as you meet the requirements of the subclass regulations.
Understandings: It is important to note that these are unprecedented times. There can be unexpected processing delays, changes to government policies and regulatory (legislative) amendments without any advanced notice to the public. So please seek professional help to minimise your risk.