Arguably one of the greatest milestones of your life has just occurred, you have said the magic ‘yes’ or ‘will you’ and are ready to walk to down the aisle and promise the even bigger, ‘I do’. Only you are separated by oceans and an incredibly rigorous Australian migration system which does not seem to want to let you live out your happily ever after.
At the close of the financial year of 2018, the Australian Federal Government had built up a backlog of over 80,000 partner visa applications, with average processing times reaching two years. For the years 2019 to 2020, the family migration program has allowed for around 39,799 places.
Annually, between 3,000 to 7,000 of the family visas that come through the Department’s doors are Prospective marriage visas.
The following are matters that the sponsoring Australian partner and the non-Australian applicant should consider when embarking on the journey to say, ‘I do’ in Australia.
It is important to keep in mind that the requirements the Department is assessing will vary depending on the case officer deciding on the matter and on each case’s personal circumstances.
When you are granted the Prospective Marriage Visa, you will be issued with a nine-month window to enter Australia and officiate your wedding day with the Court. Once your magic moment is signed and sealed, you will be eligible to apply for the Onshore Partner Visa (subclass 820/801) and move onto the pathway towards permanent residency.
The primary criterion for both Partner Visa applications and Prospective Marriage Visa applications is that the sponsor and the applicant are in a genuine and continuing relationship. The assessment is made based on supporting evidence that is provided to the Department by the applicant and the sponsor. Partner Visas however, have a much higher evidentiary threshold to cross to demonstrate a genuine continuing relationship. There are certain times where this may not be available to all applicants. In comparison, the Prospective Marriage Visa threshold is significantly less onerous.
Below are some common scenarios where applying for a Prospective Marriage Visa would more suitable and advantageous than applying for a full Partner Visa:
- For Partner visas you must demonstrate significant cohabitation, which you may not have the ability to do due to religious reasons.
- You haven’t yet started living together and are happy to wait to move in together.
- Generally, you feel you may not have a strong enough application with respect to satisfying the evidentiary burden to provide genuineness, but you and your partner are committed to one another and wish to demonstrate that in a matrimony ceremony.
The current cost of the Prospective Marriage visa is $7,715. This is a significant amount of money and you should be well informed of your prospects of success prior to pursuing this application. The fee covers only the visa application charge. The applicant will also be required to complete extensive health checks which incur further costs. The applicant must also obtain a national police clearance certificate for each country in which they have resided for at least one year in the last ten years. Each of these clearances are time consuming and costly.
It is important to note that the Australian government has specific requirements for different countries regarding police clearance certificates.
If you are unsure in which format to provide certain documents, it is advisable to speak to an immigration lawyer first.
Next, keep in mind if you have documents which are not in English, they will need to be translated by an official language translator. The Department has strict guidelines when applying translations so you must ensure that your translator is aware of the most recent updates. An official translation can cost you anywhere up to AUD$100 per page.
Most importantly, you need to register your Notice of Intended Marriage with a local marriage celebrant or your local Court Registry. This document will give you a date that your marriage will be officiated.
Where should you tie the knot?
Firstly, you must be outside of Australia when you apply for the visa. Current processing times are between 16 to 22 months. This means when you apply for the visa, you may have to be flexible with organising dates.
You must complete your marriage and all paperwork in Australia, within the nine-month period allowed by the Department.
This application is very costly, time and document sensitive. You want to make sure you have everything completed correctly the first time. Planning a wedding ceremony at the same time is an extra stress to throw into the mix. Ensure you have the right advice and team with you to streamline the process and to ensure your costs are minimised. In the event that you are thinking of migrating to Australia via the Prospective Marriage Visa pathway or the Partner Visa pathway, contact one of our expert migration lawyers today to help you chart the best course forward.