Compared to most other visa subclasses, partner visa applications take a long time to process.
Despite what you might hear on Facebook or in migration chat forums, there’s actually no way to speed processing up. Whenever you lodge, you join a queue, so the sooner you get that application in, the sooner a Case Officer will be allocated.
Onshore partner visa processing times
The current processing time for an onshore 820 partner visa is 24-29 months. Times have increased steadily in recent years, which means it’s more important than ever to submit a solid application that won’t be held up by further requests for information by your Case Officer. The good old days of getting an onshore partner visa approved within six months are sadly behind us. The problem is this: the Department receives more applications in a ‘migration program year’ than they can get through, which means your application remains in the queue until they’re able to make a decision on it.
Partner visa application levels remain pretty steady, so the only way processing times will fall is if the Department allocates more resources to onshore partner processing. This may very well happen. The Covid-19 crisis and temporary closure of Australian borders might result in more resources being channelled to onshore processing, but we haven’t seen an impact as of yet.
The second stage of the partner visa (subclass 801) doesn’t take as long to process.
If you’ve been living with your partner for a long time prior to your application (three years or more) or if you have a child together and can prove you’ve been cohabiting for at least two years, you might be able to skip the 820 visa step and apply for an 801 visa straight away.
Offshore partner visa processing times
Offshore processing times for the subclass 309 partner visa are slightly shorter. According to figures from the Department of Home Affairs, around 75 per cent of applications are decided in 13 months and 90 per cent within 21 months.
With offshore visas, it’s important that you don’t race off and get your police checks and medicals too soon. When a decision is made on an offshore partner visa 309/100, the visa grant letter is issued with a “must arrive by” date. This date is 12 months from when your medical or police clearance was issued, whichever was earlier.
So, if you were super organised and collected all your documents early on in the process, you might only have a few weeks or days to activate your visa. It’s important to pace yourself to avoid hiccups. If the current Coronavirus pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that a bit of wriggle room is important. Imagine if your 309 visa was granted in March and you had only a few weeks to get to Australia.
There’s a balance to strike because you obviously don’t want to delay your application, either. If your application has been processing more than one month after the advertised processing time, you can complete the medical and health check, so when your application is picked up it can be finalised faster.
If your application is still processing after two years, you can attach a submission asking Immigration to consider your temporary and permanent application at the same time. The Case Officer will generally ask for more detailed information and evidence of the relationship. Sometimes a long processing time works in your favour.
There’s no way to speed processing, but you can definitely avoid unnecessarily delaying your application.
If you don’t have the right documents attached to your application, it will either fail or be delayed because the Case Officer issues you with a formal request. Case Officers aren’t under any obligation to issue requests. They won’t walk you through the process, so don’t rely on being asked for things. We have had plenty of people come to us to lodge visa appeals because applications they prepared themselves were refused over relatively small issues.
You also need to continue uploading documents as your visa processes. A few years can be a long time in a relationship! Your Case Officer needs to see proof that it’s still ongoing. Your visa application isn’t done on the day you lodge it; that’s just the beginning. You do need to be careful and properly organise your documents because there is a limit on the number of attachments you can upload to an application. You don’t want to upload too much at the start and have no space for evidence further down the line. If you work with a Registered Migration Agent to lodge your application, they’ll assist you with this.
It can be tempting to lodge your application soon, or maybe even leave sections incomplete with a view to adding information later, but this can not only jeopardise your application, it can even result in you receiving a PIC 4020 penalty which prevents you lodging another application for up to three years.
With partner visas, there are some requirements that need to be met at the time of application and some at the time of decision. Confusing, isn’t it?!
Don’t harass the Department
Repeatedly calling the Department is a major no-no when it comes to visa processing. They process millions of applications every year and have strict systems and procedures in place. In the vast majority of cases they just can’t expedite applications.
In the rare cases where compassionate and compelling reasons exist for requesting early processing, your application may be prioritised, but you’ll need to provide plenty of evidence to support your claims.
Is the COVID-19 pandemic impacting processing?
Visa processing is continuing within the constraints of the COVID-19 pandemic.
It’s likely the Department will divert more resources to onshore processing whilst borders are temporarily closed. We don’t expect to see onshore partner processing times blow out. If anything, wait times may even drop slightly.
The Migration Institute of Australia (MIA), the peak body representing migration agents in Australia, recently surveyed its members to see whether practitioners have noticed any changes in visa processing since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
MIA research found that onshore applications are being granted five times more frequently than offshore applications. Members reported that subclass 482, 186 and 494 visas are being granted more than any other type, with 801 onshore partner visas coming in second.
The organisation did however note that responses were too low to strongly confirm a trend in processing yet.
Free visa assessment
If you think you’re ready to get started on your partner visa application, the first step is to confirm your eligibility with a Registered Migration Agent. We offer free assessments and will let you know whether you meet the criteria.