Are you involved in online dating, and want your partner to come to Australia? This article is for you. It contains everything you need to know about the application process.

Online Romance. Image used under Creative Commons attribution license. Image by Don Hankins on Flickr.
Used under license. (Source.)

So you met the man of your dreams. He is kind, considerate, and romantic. You talk together for hours, watch movies together, read the same publications, and have similar work. Your music tastes are the same, and you both love blue cheese with your wine. He is a perfect match, and you can’t believe that you’ve been lucky enough to meet him. Now you’re both wanting to take things to the next level. You want to move in together and share your lives.

There’s only one problem. He’s overseas.

Online dating is not the weird situation it used to be. But when it comes to immigration, an online relationship has its own difficulties. How do you get a partner visa, when you don’t live in the same country, let alone the same house?

We talked to Richard and Julie to find answers to all our questions about online dating and partner visas.

What are the first questions you would ask someone looking for information about getting a partner visa?

We would ask for a detailed relationship history. Things like: When did you first start talking, how did the relationship become a non-platonic one, how often to you speak to each other, have you met in person, have either of you previously been in a de-facto or married relationship.

Then we’d move on to finding out (if the applicant is in Australia) whether he is subject to Condition 8503 (no further stay). We’d ask if he has had any previous visas refused or cancelled.

And then we would ask whether the sponsor has capacity to sponsor (citizen or permanent resident of Australia, or an eligible NZ citizen). We’d want to know if have they sponsored a partner before, and whether they were sponsored on a partner visa previously themselves.

Where do people tend to fall short?

People tend not to understand the importance of providing absolutely all evidence available. They have to show not only that they are currently in a relationship, but that the relationship has existed for at least 12 months (if applying on de-facto grounds). They also have to prove that it is genuine.

People also tend to forget to write a detailed statement about their relationship. A detailed statement needs to be at least 3 pages long. You can also provide a timeline of major events, which helps DIBP see how long you have been together, and when your relationship became serious.

What sort of things does the statement need to say?

Ideally it should tell the story of the history of your relationship.

It should talk to the “four relationship factors”. In other words, financial aspects, social aspects, the nature of your household, and the nature of your commitment together. You need to be able to show your daily routine together, and talk about your plans for the future.

When you think of it that way, it’s not hard to put together three pages on your story.

What is considered evidence?

Truly, “giving evidence” is hard to understand. What you have to remember is that the person assessing your application has never met you before. He or she can only work out whether you are really in a relationship based on what you provide.

This means providing text with photos to explain who is in them, and where they were taken.

You have to organise your evidence correctly, too. This means putting things in date order, or grouping similar evidence together.

Is there different criteria than meeting in the local pub? How do you show online dating as being just as serious?

Not necessarily. The difficulty is showing that you are in a de-factor relationship. How do you do that when you don’t live together permanently, being in separate countries? The answer is evidence of constant communication. Sharing information about your financial or parental obligations therefore becomes much more important.

Is it the same for all nationalities?

Yes, it is. Although, if English is not the applicant’s first language, it is important to demonstrate that you are able to communicate with each other.

Is one visit to see each other enough evidence?

Maybe? Obviously, the more time you spend with each other, the easier it is to show that you are in a genuine relationship. Also, when you think in terms of evidence, it gets easier to provide evidence that goes towards showing you spending time with each other if you have visited more than once.

What happens if you split up?

Break-ups are never easy. It gets trickier in this situation! What happens really depends on when the break-up occurs and whether you apply within Australia or off-shore.

If you apply within Australia, you would continue to meet the requirements only if your partner died and you have strong ties to Australia. Or, if the relationship ceased but there was child or domestic violence.

If you apply offshore, and the break-up happens before you are granted a temporary visa, then the application would have to be withdrawn. It wouldn’t satisfy the criteria. If it happens after you are granted a temporary visa, but you break up before you are granted a permanent visa, then the situation of death or violence (as above) would apply.

Does the overseas partner need to be in Australia to apply,  and if so on what type of visas?

No. There is an on-shore and off-shore option that will apply depending on your situation.

If you are in Australia, you can apply for a Class UK/BS, Subclass 820/801, and you will be able to remain in Australia until a decision is made on your 820 (on a bridging visa if your other substantive visa expires before a decision). The 820 is a permanent visa, and the 801 is a temporary visa.

If you are off-shore, you apply for a Class UF/BC, Subclass 309/100 and you have to wait for a decision on the 309 to enter Australia (as you have to be off-shore at the time the decision is made). As with the on-shore application, a 309 is temporary and a 100 is permanent.

Are there any other options?

Yes there are. If you are outside Australia but planning to marry, a Class TO, Subclass 300 is a Prospective Marriage visa that might apply. This allows you to enter Australia after granted entry, and marry your partner within nine months. You can then apply onshore for a 820/801. After that you can stay in Australia until a decision is made on an 820.

What else is good to know?

Many people don’t realise that it can take up to 12 months for a decision on a partner visa (the temporary first stage – either 820 or 309).

This can be a very stressful, and it is vital to understand this before applying. Even though it is especially hard when you are apart from your partner during this period (applying for an offshore 309/100 visa), it may be possible for them to visit Australia for a short period after lodgement (provided they leave Australia before a decision is made if applying for a 309/100).

These visas can now be applied for online. It means you can scan and upload all information to your application. It also means you can check on the progress of your application online, organise your medicals through that system, and receive emails from the DIBP rather than waiting for them to arrive in the post.

What warnings would you give to those trying to apply themselves?

Understand the importance of providing a clear and detailed history of your relationship.

One thing we see constantly is that people do not provide a detailed relationship statement that demonstrates the length of their relationship, and its genuine and continuing nature.

This statement can be done together or separately. But it should be at least 3 pages in length and speak to the four (4) factors that the DIBP will take into consideration: financial aspects of the relationship, social aspects of the relationship, nature of your household, and the nature of your commitment together (future plans).

Also, don’t forget you can also keep providing updated evidence to the DIBP following lodgement, right up to the time of decision. This means that if you go on a holiday together, purchase a house, have a child, etc., you can keep providing evidence of this to show the continuing nature of your relationship.
 
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