It is the love month once again, and this year’s Valentine’s Day celebration can be very different for most couples. The COVID-19 pandemic has been with us for a year now and it continues to affect our everyday lives and relationships especially for those who cannot be physically together due to the worldwide lockdowns.
This article covers different visa issues for couples who are married or in a de facto relationship and are making efforts to be physically together here in Australia.
Visitor visa holders in Australia with pending offshore Partner visa application
There is a group of people who have lodged their Partner visa subclass 309 while they were outside of Australia. While waiting for their visa decision, they have applied and been granted a visitor visa and thus have been staying in Australia. Most of them would have applied for another visitor visa while in Australia to stay here with their spouse/partner longer– because they could not find a flight back to their country of origin.
The issue faced by these applicants is that the Partner visa subclass 309 can only be granted when the applicant is outside of Australia. This means that when the Case Officer is ready to decide on their Partner visa application, the visa applicant should leave Australia, wait until their Partner visa is granted, and then head back to Australia.
Many people who are in this predicament have requested the Department of Home Affairs to grant their Partner visa 309 while they are in Australia. However, this is not possible as this requirement is set under the Migration legislation. Some decisions on these applications are put on hold as the Department of Home Affairs understands the difficulties of travelling out and back to Australia during the pandemic. The only recourse for people who are under this circumstance is to ensure that they have a valid visa while in Australia by applying for another Visitor visa or any other visas that they are eligible for before their current Visitor visa expires.
Visitor visa applicants or holders who are offshore and intend to join their Australian citizen/PR spouse or de facto partner
Spouses or de facto partners of Australian citizens or Permanent Residents who do not hold a Partner visa can only enter Australia if they hold a valid temporary visa and an approved travel exemption. This rule applies while the Australian borders are still closed. Some people in this case have a valid visitor visa and some are still in the process of applying for their visitor visa.
The issue for people in this situation is getting an approved travel exemption. Applying for travel exemption is online via this link (https://travel-exemptions.homeaffairs.gov.au/tep) and you can get the decision on your application within a day up to a week. However, some are approved on their first application, but some are refused many times before they get approved.
People who are in this situation have two options: They either wait until the borders open before flying to Australia or apply for travel exemption as many times as they can until they get approved. When applying for travel exemption, ensure that you have all your relationship evidence with your Australian citizen or PR spouse or partner uploaded on your application and provide a solid reason why you should travel to Australia.
Subsequent entrant visa applicants or holders intending to join their spouse/partner on a temporary visa
There are many temporary visa holders in Australia who might be holding a Student visa subclass 500, Graduate visa subclass 485, or work visa TSS subclass 482. Before the pandemic, spouses or de facto partners of these visa holders can come to Australia once they are granted a subsequent entrant visa.
People who face this scenario can only enter Australia if they are granted a travel exemption. They can be granted a travel exemption only if they have compelling and compassionate reasons to travel. An example of this is death or critical illness of a family member.
Subsequent entrant applications are still being processed by the Department of Home Affairs. It is suggested that subsequent entrant visa holders wait until the borders open before they travel to Australia as getting a travel exemption approval is slim without having compelling and compassionate reasons to travel to Australia.
(Johanna Bertumen Nonato is a Registered Migration Agent (MARN1386856) and the CEO of BridgeAus Migration Consultancy. For enquiries, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0427 589 274).
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