There’s been a big upheaval in visa land a.k.a Australian immigration laws, particularly about permanent residency and pathways to citizenship. But buried deep within the turmoil were 2 sneaky even more upsetting news: price hikes and pro-longed processing times.
So I talked about the price hikes here and although I don’t think you should submit incomplete applications (or do I?), you really should get your applications in before 1 July if you want to get ahead of the price hikes. Note: that’s 1 July EVERY YEAR.
The other news that’s really adding salt to the wounds is processing times. They’ve blown out to a ridiculous 15-20 months.
If you look at the service standards here instead (where you really should be looking) you’ll notice that 75% of applications are processed in the 17 months that they claim, but 90% are processed in 19-20 months. This means, best case scenario is 17 and maximum upper limit is 19-20 months and if you’re in that unlucky 10% then the wait is even longer for you.
But there is another way.
Reasons to apply outside of Australia
1. Faster processing times
The above processing times are for onshore partner visa applications. What about applying from outside of Australia? What about the offshore processing times?
Whilst these are not as wow as 6 months or 8 months (like it was once upon a time) it’s still shorter than the onshore queue. To apply for a partner visa outside of Australia, you’ll be looking at a 11-14 month wait.
Why could this be the case? Because it’s basically an encouragement for applicants to stay offshore. I’m not saying that that’s the official stance of the Australian government but we’ve been told that they’re prioritising those that are applied for outside of Australia to encourage people to stay out of Australia.
That being said, what does it mean to apply for your partner visa offshore? It actually is not as bad as you think.
2. You can still go to Australia
After you’ve lodged your partner visa application offshore, you might be under the impression that since you have to be outside of Australia to apply that you might be stuck OUTSIDE of Australia. It’s OK this is a common misconception.
You’re perfectly able to apply for a visitor visa in order to visit your partner in Australia during the processing period.
But wait, the requirements of the offshore partner visa is that you have to be OFFSHORE. You cannot be in Australia. You’re probably thinking, “Don’t lie to me Fiona!”.
If you’re onshore at the time that your visa is granted (which you can’t be) they’ll actually notify you that your visa is ready and that you need to be offshore for it to be granted. Isn’t that awesome?
Instead of denying you your visa because you’re onshore (which is a visa requirement) they politely ask you to leave and come back. That’s one up for the Australian government in this regard. With fees at $7,000 that’s the least they can do for customer service.
Anyway so if you’re onshore, they’ll generally give you 2 weeks to respond to them with your travel details. You’ll be asked to go outside of Australia for at least 5 business days (to ensure that the grant will go through) but in reality (from client experiences) the moment you cross borders outside of Australia, the system automatically sends you your visa grant electronically.
3. Closer to family and support network
This is a huge one. Moving countries is hard and it’s even harder if you don’t have your family or support network in the new country.
By applying outside of Australia, you can remain closer to family and your support network.
Also of consideration is that you can still work in your home country. The number one question that I get for partner visas is whether the foreign partner will be allowed to work in Australia during the processing period.
For onshore applicants who have received a bridging visa A, yes you can. You can also get Medicare.
But if you applied offshore, you don’t get a bridging visa A and you don’t get work rights in Australia.
4. Time to finalise affairs at home before moving
Maybe you need to finish work, maybe you need to sell your house and other assets. Lodging your application offshore will give you more time to do this.
Compared to onshore lodgements, you’ll be free to come and go as you please (provided you have the right visitor visa) and you can use the time to wrap up your affairs at home.
It also gives you breathing space to perhaps scout initial jobs in Australia before actually moving.
So there you have it, some good reasons to apply for your partner visa outside of Australia.
With every pathway, there’s always pros and cons and while I can only provide you with some information on those pros and cons, to choose the best pathway for you still lies with yourself. Or your legal professional. I always suggest to seek professional advice before you proceed with anything.