With over 100,000 partner visa applications lodged each year, the Australian Department of Home Affairs is positively bursting at the seams with cases to assess. At a time when partner visa processing times can be upwards of two years and partner visa application fees have more than tripled over the last few years, the risk of a partner visa refusal is now more costly (both financially and emotionally) than ever before.
Whilst I know how enticing the prospect of living in Australia is (trust me, most of our team have had to endure this process), it doesn’t come without its challenges. It is imperative that you understand some of the biggest mistakes people make when lodging their partner visas and do everything in your power to avoid making these same blunders. Doing this could save you a lot of money, time and stress.
The Department of Home Affairs and its Data Exchange Program
Now, before I jump into the nitty-gritty, it is important to note that before you listen to your friend who had a friend who said it was “easy”, the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) has access to A LOT of data on both you and your partner which it will not hesitate to utilise in order to prove your relationship is not genuine.
The DHA has a data exchange program with many agencies including, but not limited to:
- The Australian Tax Office – which in turn exchanges data with a range of sources, including banks, financial institutions and other government agencies.
- Dept of Social Security (meaning it will know if a Partner Sponsor is claiming they are single to get the single benefit payments)
- Births death & Marriages
The DHA also scrutinises your social media platforms to assess your relationship’s genuiness – e.g. we once had a partner visa applicant whose Facebook profile showed he was still married to a wife back in his home country, despite lodging a partner visa application with his Australian sponsor!
Take information on Forums & Facebook groups with a grain of salt!
Forums and Facebook groups relating to partner visas can be a great introduction to the steps required to make a partner visa application. However, we have noticed over the years that the accuracy of the information exchanged in such venues is often way short of what is required for a successful application. When your entire future is “on the line” with your Partner Visa application, it is short-sighted not to seek out an experienced professional opinion about what is required to lodge a successful Partner Visa application, and whether you meet the criteria for the grant of a Partner Visa.
The Top 5 Partner Visa Mistakes:
1. Insufficient evidence
When assessing your Partner Visa Application, the DHA looks for proof that the relationship you have outlined in your application is what they would describe as “genuine”. Dr. Google describes the word “genuine” as meaning “truly what something is said to be; authentic.” To do this, you need evidence.
Evidence comes in many forms and the more you can provide, the stronger your case will be. It isn’t enough just to have a marriage certificate and say that you are together, you need stronger proof that shows that you really love each other and are building a life together.
I knew someone who did a partner visa a few years ago and they did not provide enough relationship evidence, assuming it was obvious to the case officer that they were together. The partner visa was refused, and they ended up having to move countries and apply again after a year to come back. They engaged a migration agent the second time around, but it cost them two huge international moves and two application fees for the visa to finally be granted.
Like I said above, the more evidence you can provide, the stronger your partner visa application will be.
How to check your evidence:
By far the easiest way to check if you have enough evidence is to contact a registered migration agent who can make an appointment with you and run through your unique case. This means you don’t a) need to trawl the internet and question the information you’re reading and b) you can be sure that the information you receive is unique to you and is reliable.
From there, you can decide what you do with it, but the consultations are a great way to nut out exactly where you are at and are a small price to pay for peace of mind.
2. Fraudulent Information
Unfortunately, many people feel that providing bogus documents or information on their applications will either not be found out, or not matter. As stated above, the government has access to a huge range of information about you and your circumstances and they thoroughly scrutinise every applicant prior to making their decision.
The DHA also interviews certain applicants, often without notice. In some circumstances DHA officers will also visit addresses provided by applicants to assess whether the couple is living together as claimed.
In a case before the Federal Circuit Court, the DHA stated that when its officers visited the house where the Partner Visa applicant stated he lived with his de facto partner, the applicant did not even remember where he kept his shoes. When he stated they were in a room upstairs a young child who was present retorted that that was her brother’s room and not his!
If you provide inaccurate information on your partner visa application, there may be very serious consequences which will directly affect your future in Australia.
To be successful in any Australian Visa application, you need to satisfy Public Interest Criterion (PIC) 4020 which ensures that the information and evidence in a visa application is true. If you do not meet the criteria, consequences involve being banned from Australia for a period of three or ten years, depending upon the type of transgression.
3. You “do not meet” the health requirements
Applicants are required to undergo health checks by doctors selected by The Department of Home Affairs. The MOC’s (Medical Officers of the Commonwealth) will be required to assess your health status and advise the Department of Home Affairs if you will pose a threat to public health or will be an excessive liability with respect to our public health system, either financially or physically.
If you fail to meet the health requirements, you will not get a visa, unless the visa contains a provision for a health waiver, which means that even if you do not meet the health requirements, the DHA Case Officer has the discretion to overlook the requirements if certain other parameters are met. Fortunately, Partner Visas contain a provision for a health waiver.
Along with general medical examinations, you will be required to also undertake Tuberculosis testing, chest x-rays and/or HIV Tests. You may also be required to take specific tests that address your specific health risks as well as hepatitis B and C tests. All the medicals which are required will also need to be paid by you and are worth factoring in to your visa costs!
4. Character Issues
This is another big one which can get a lot of people, if you have character issues and don’t pass the “Character Test”, you will not get an Australian partner visa.
Character issues leading to a failure of the Character Test include:
- Substantial criminal record (which means you have been sentenced to 12 months or more imprisonment, had two or more prison sentences which total 12 months or more, been found to have committed a certain offence and retained in a facility or institution).
- Affiliation with any groups which the Minister suspects are involved in criminal activity
- Any sexual offences
- Domestic violence, violence against children or people with disabilities
- Pattern of behaviour offences, e.g. repeated drink driving, assaults etc
- There is reason to suspect you will be a risk to Australia and the Australian community
If you have character issues, we strongly suggest you engage an immigration lawyer prior to lodging any visa application. They will be able to advise you on the best course of action in order to move forward and are best placed to draft written submissions to the Minister on your behalf.
5. Muck up at the Interview
Sometimes the Department of Home Affairs will conduct interviews if they are questioning the relationship.
Applicants need to be able to answer personal questions about each other and their relationship including family details, relationship milestones and dates, how the relationship began and many other aspects of the relationship to prove that they are together.
Recently, there was a case where the Department suspected the relationship was not genuine. The applicant was phoned one morning to ask where his girlfriend was and when he responded that she had just gone to work, they were able to determine the relationship was not real. She had already taken a few overseas trips with her real boyfriend and just passed through airport customs again that morning prior to their phone call. The DHA have the means to find out the truth and they do not hesitate to monitor and use their evidence in determining if your relationship is genuine.
NB: If you provide enough evidence to support your relationship, the Department of Home Affairs will be less likely to conduct an interview with you and your partner. This is another reason why getting the help of a migration agent who has experience with lodging partner visas is a smart choice in order to gather as much reliable evidence as you can.
Whilst there is a lot of room here for partner visa mistakes, we feel it is very important for you to get professional help with these matters as your individual case could have other complexities which could result in a refusal.
Booking a consultation with an experienced a reputable registered migration agent, who is experienced in Partner Visa applications is the best way to understand what you need to do in order to avoid a refusal.
To book a consultation with one of our experienced partner visa experts, please book online through the following link to our website www.ahwc.com.au/book-a-consultation Alternatively, phone 1300 887 818 during business hours (9:00am to 5:00pm, Monday to Friday AEST). Overseas callers: +61 3 9573 5200.