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, here are tips to make your process smoother.
I applied onshore. That is, from within Australia, as opposed to offshore, from another country. I applied for a de facto partner visa subclass 820, which is a temporary visa. If granted and if my relationship is intact after two years, I will receive a permanent visa, subclass 801. If you’re applying for a different kind of visa, your mileage may vary.
1. Save your pennies.
At the time of writing, the application fee for the de facto partner 820-801 visa is $4575. You also have to pay for a medical assessment and background checks. If you use a migrant agent, add another $2k-4k. All up, plan to spend about $8k.
2. Find a good migrant agent.
You can pull it all together yourself, but I recommend hiring a migrant agent. It can be costly, but it is worth it. A good migrant agent will be on your side. They will guide you through the process, advocate for you, 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. Find out where and how to get your medical assessment, your fingerprints, and your background checks. These processes 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. Finding photos of us together was harder than I expected. 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.
5. Begin establishing proof of residency as soon as possible.
Open a bank account. Get a mobile phone. Put a utility in your name. Get a driver’s licence. You will need documents that show your address.
6. Make friends and develop hobbies.
You want to show that you are establishing a life in Australia. You will need people to vouch for your relationship. It can be hard to make friends when you move to a new country. Consider joining a club or taking a class.
7. Save invitations and holiday cards.
It didn’t occur to me to save party invitations and Christmas cards that friends addressed to us both. I threw most of them in the recycling bin. Keep them. These help show 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 differ from mine and 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 specific information 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. You need the dates and locations of birth of parents and siblings (yours and your partner’s). You need to provide a history of your relationship. Take the time to create this timeline once. You’ll be glad every time you come across these questions. You won’t have to worry about making mistakes.
The unofficial 11th tip is to relax. I know it’s 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?