2 women drinking wineWhat to do if your partner’s visa is about to expire.

Life is a funny, unpredictable, busy road. You might be out working, shopping, going clubbing, doing sports, and suddenly, like an unexpected shower, you see the one. You feel like you have been in a shaker and not able to say a word, but no panic, it is temporary and it will go by the night. And what happens if it doesn’t go by the night? You will actually say: I have met someone.

You seem to enjoy her company and you start a relationship, you meet her family and friends, share your daily life with her and start planning your future together. But after a few months, you realise that there may be no future together, because of a bureaucratic detail: she is from overseas and her visa is going to expire soon. What do you do?

Initially, you might feel upside down, then you start gathering information from friends, acquaintances, blogs, internet forums and finally, the website of the Department of Immigration. In the end, you have this massive amount of official and unofficial information and you believe that it is certainly not too hard to put some evidence of your relationship together. You have lots of family members and friends, who are ready to write some letters to support you, you have got plenty of photographs of the two of you and you have gone to concerts, movies and all other kinds of entertainment together. So, you decide that it is not necessary to hire a migration agent, after all the visa fee is already very expensive, it is $6,865, and you do not want to add any more costs to your application. You gather your papers and lodge your application.

What happens next? First of all, you get disappointed that it takes 12 to 18 months to process, so you put your life on hold for that time. Then after more than a year, you receive an email from the Department of Immigration that requests more evidence of your relationship and you are a bit lost because you thought you gave all you had available.

Will it be a visa grant or a visa refusal? How many stories like that! So, is it really that easy to obtain a Partner visa? Current statistics say it is not. After a refusal, it is possible to appeal with the Administrative Appeals Tribunal and it appears that at 31.1.16, 40% of the total Tribunal caseload was about Partner visas. A substantial amount, considering the previous years the percentage was much lower, at 30.6.15 it was 29%, while in 2014 it was 19%. Definitely, in the last couple of years, the number of Partner visa applications has increased considerably and this has led to a bigger queue and long processing times, as well as more attentive scrutiny from the Department of Immigration, not to mention that few scams reported by the media added more fire to the topic.

But what is it that is so difficult? Unfortunately, there are no statistics in this regard, however, experience and feedback from migration consultants say that applicants do not place enough weight on details and evidence. The sponsor must be an Australian citizen or a permanent resident or an eligible New Zealand citizen. The relationship must be a marriage or a registered relationship or have lived together for at least 12 months. But this is not enough, as the relationship must be proved to be genuine and continuing and more papers are necessary for this purpose.

A joint property lease is a good start, but this is not always available and, depending on cases, alternative evidence must be found. A joint bank account is a good way to show financial sharing, but not much weight could be placed on it if the account is empty or does not have transactions, so other evidence should be presented. Even the application forms may be confusing, this happens in particular with the relationship relevant dates, as the couple may not be sure about the meaning of the question and may indicate the wrong dates. The Department of Immigration is not very keen at responding to applicants’ doubts and it is then advisable to contact a professional, at least for a consultation, before applying, in order to avoid later being part of that 40% cases, awaiting to have their appeal heard from the Tribunal.