The road to obtaining a partner visa, which grants me two years of residency, is long and arduous. When I first looked at all the paperwork, I was so overwhelmed that I cried. Then I pulled myself together and began printing documents, making lists, copies, and appointments. The tricky part is that you need different things from different agencies, which have their own requirements, and everything takes its own time.
Proving that your relationship is “genuine and continuing” is crucial to obtaining a partner visa. After all, this is a visa that is granted on the basis of it. I’m in Australia and want to stay here because of my Aussie partner.
The application requires at least two statutory declarations, “preferably from Australian citizens or permanent residents, who have personal knowledge of your partner relationship (such as a relative and a friend) and support your claim that it is genuine and continuing.” I also need to submit photographs of Theo and I and with our family and friends.
The Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) doesn’t request much more than this when it comes to proving the legitimacy of your relationship, but you can do more that could help the process. My migrant agent recommended that Theo and I register our relationship with the State of Victoria, where we live.
What does it mean to register your domestic relationship? According to the Victorian Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages:
Registering your relationship entitles you to a standard relationship certificate. This in turn 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. The certificate also means that you may not need further evidence that your relationship exists for other official purposes.
Any two adults who are not married, but are a couple where personal or financial commitments exists, irrespective of their genders and whether or not they live together, may register their relationship. The only major requirement is being able to prove residency in Victoria for at least 12 months.
I’ve been here longer than 12 months, but I didn’t immediately have the documentation to prove it. I don’t have an Australian credit card and my name isn’t on the mortgage or any utility accounts. Thankfully, I opened a bank account shortly after I arrived. I used my bank statements, 12 months of them.
As an aside, the police officer that verified them observed that they don’t actually prove I live here. I have bank accounts in the US and I haven’t physically resided there for over a year. But that’s what they want so that’s what I submitted. $233.40 and a month later, I received an unimpressive “Relationship Certificate” (you can get a fancier one for an extra $50).
Here are two tips for Americans coming to Oz and applying for partner visas. First, get your name on something as soon as possible – a lease, a utility account, open a bank account. Second, register your domestic relationship here. Although it doesn’t look like much, it lends legal protection. If possible, present your application in person rather than by mail because an agent will review it immediately and inform you if anything is missing.