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Applying for a partner visa and the impact of the 20/21 Federal Budget

A partner visa is one of the most important type of visas because it affects a substantial number of families. This visa allows a foreigner to stay in Australia so that he or she can be united with his or her Australian partner. Following the Australian federal budget 2020-21, several changes are made to the partner visa scheme with significant implications. In this article, we will take a brief look at such changes and their impact on partner visas.


The visa applicant must be ‘sponsored’ by his or her partner who is an Australian citizen, Australian permanent resident, or a New Zealand citizen who satisfies specific criteria. The visa applicant’s partner must first apply to and be approved by the immigration authority to be a sponsor.

The visa applicant’s partner must be visa applicant’s ‘spouse’ or ‘de facto partner’. In either case, they must be committed to each other in a shared life to the exclusion of others. Moreover, they must live together or not be separated permanently. For a de facto partnership to be recognised, it must have lasted for at least 12 months.

To be granted a partner visa, the partnership must be proved as genuine and continuing. All circumstances of the partnership must be considered by the immigration authority, including four essential aspects, namely financial aspect, nature of household, social aspect and nature of commitment to each other.

Application process

There are permanent and temporary partner visas: a permanent visa grants permanent residency in Australia, while a temporary partner visa allows the applicant to stay in Australia before the permanent visa is granted. The applicant must apply for a temporary visa and a permanent visa at the same time. Assessment of the permanent visa application will normally start two years after its lodgment.

Partner visas can be applied for either in Australia (on-shore) or outside Australia (off-shore). An interesting fact is that an offshore applicant can apply for a prospective marriage visa to come to Australia to marry his or her Australian partner. After the marriage, the applicant can apply for onshore partner visas.


The Australian Federal Budget 2020-21 has brought significant changes to the partner visa scheme including:

  1. more visa places allocated to partner visas;
  2. priority to regional residents;
  3. mandatory character check for sponsors; and
  4. English requirements.

More visa places

In the 2020-21 visa program year (starting from 1 July 2020), the Australian Government has planned to grant 72,300 partner visas, compared to 39,799 in the 2019-20 program year.

Priority to regional sponsors

Partner visa applications will be given priority in the application process if the sponsor lives in ‘designated regional area’ such as Perth, Adelaide, the Gold Coast and Canberra. In other words, applicants with a regional sponsor might obtain permanent residency faster.

Sponsor’s character check and obligations

The sponsor applicant must provide the immigration authority with a police check. Moreover, the sponsor applicant must consent to the immigration authority disclosing his or her criminal records to the visa applicant.

The sponsor is obliged to provide the visa applicant and his or her children with accommodation and financial assistance 2 years after the temporary partner visa is granted, even when the permanent visa is granted before the 2 years expiry. The visa may be cancelled if the sponsor fails to perform his or her obligations.

English requirement

Both the partner visa applicant and the sponsor are required to have ‘functional English’ by the time the permanent partner visa is granted. They must at least demonstrate that they have made reasonable efforts to learn English. Such efforts may be demonstrated by, for example completing 500 hours of free English language classes through the Adult Migration English Program.


Applying for a partner visa is a long process and has a handful of requirements. This year, the Australian Government has created more opportunities for partner visa applicants and tightened the requirements for sponsors. At Legal Point Lawyers, we can help you with your application and offer a service that is smooth and efficient.

Disclaimer: This publication is general information only and does not purport to provide legal advice. We do not accept responsibility for any losses for reliance upon this publication.

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