Let’s imagine a possible (albeit idealised) scenario. Suppose you come to Australia on a one-year working holiday visa. You manage to rent out a place and start to get used to the surroundings. Some time into your stay in Australia, you eventually meet the love of your life, and that person sees the same in you. Suddenly you can’t live without that person, and that person can’t live without you anymore. On a whim, you decide to get married, and a few months into your relationship, the two of you decide that you should stay in Australia indefinitely. In such a case, you would need to apply for a partner visa.
Before anything else though, there’s a bit of information we need to unpack. First off, let’s talk about the visas in question. A working holiday visa (also called a 417 visa) is a special visitor visa that allows a person who fulfills a certain set of requirements to stay in the country for 12 months. During this time, the visa holder is also given the privilege to study and work in the country; however, the visa holder’s duration of study may not exceed 4 months and they may not work under the same employer for longer than 6 months. The terms of the six month work limitation is not self-explanatory, however – especially the definition of ‘the same employer’, but if you wish to know more, it is discussed in more detail in the Department of Home Affairs website.
A partner visa, meanwhile, grants the holder the privilege of permanent residency, allowing him or her to live, study, and work in Australia permanently, very much like the ‘green card’ issued in the United States. Although one can apply for a US green card through various ways, the partner visa is only eligible to applicants who are married to Australian nationals. The partner visa comes in two forms, subclass 820 (temporary partner visa) and subclass 801 (permanent partner visa), but you do pay for both forms of the partner visa upon application. The application process for the partner visa varies, but the Department of Home Affairs states that most applications will take around 21 to 26 months for the temporary visa, and another 18 to 24 months for the permanent visa.
With this in mind, let’s move on to the questions.
Can I apply for a partner visa while under a working holiday visa?
Simply put, yes, although there are some things that you have to keep in mind during the application process. Naturally, you will need to apply for your partner visa before your working holiday visa expires in the first place. If you fail to do so, you will have to leave the country, and because eligibility for a partner visa requires you to be in Australia, this means you will have to apply for a different visa to enter the country.
Am I still subject to the six month work limitation while applying for a partner visa?
No, but only if you fill out and submit your Form 1445 to the department processing your partner visa. Form 1445 is a request to extend or otherwise waive your six month work limitation, which will allow you to continue working under your employer as you would normally. Such requests are only granted under specific conditions, one of which is the ongoing application of another visa. In cases such as the one described earlier, the said Form 1445 request will usually be granted.
Is there anything else I need to be wary of?
In most cases you shouldn’t have anything to worry about once you’ve turned in all of the necessary documents and fees. When the application process is already underway, you can for the most part live your life in Australia as you already have. Of course, there is the exceptionally long processing period for your visa, but since your six month work limitation is lifted while waiting for a visa that’s being processed, you can continue your work as normal without any repercussions. This is, of course, assuming you had submitted your Form 1445.
That being said, this is only the case most of the time. Every partner visa application is unique in one way or another, and the office processing the visa will no doubt take some time to evaluate the circumstances of each relationship. There tend to be some instances where the couple may separate during the application process, which will render the visa applicant ineligible; this is often why applying for a partner visa, or a similar permanent residency visa in other countries, takes so long in the first place.
We have to point out that none of the information in this article should be taken as 100% correct information. Because of the constantly shifting nature of immigration policies, the information here can be rendered inaccurate or invalid at any time. And as previously mentioned, the situation of each couple is unique in some way, so your application process may have some variations. Especially if you are immigrating to Western Australia we recommend that prospective Perth partner visa applicants should get in touch with a MARA (Migration Agents Registration Authority)-registered migration agent. They will analyse your specific case and help walk you through the visa application process, as well as give advice on what you can do to cement your eligibility.