Typically a temporary visa is first granted for those who meet the eligibility requirements while the permanent visa is being processed which can take between one and two years but which may be granted soon after the temporary visa in cases of long-term relationships.
The application process varies whether the partner is applying while living in Australia or living overseas.
For those who apply while living in Australia a bridging visa will automatically be issued while the partner visa is being processed which allows the applicant to continue enjoy the same work or study rights once their initial substantive visa expires. The bridging visa may have restrictions on travelling outside of Australia and applying for government subsidies.
Around 50,000 people come from overseas each year to reside with their Australian partners, the majority from China and India. Both parties in a relationship need to complete an application for the partner visa, one being an application for migration to Australia by a partner and one being a sponsorship for a partner to migrate to Australia. Both parties will be required to submit identification documents and evidence of citizenship or permanent residency status in the case of the sponsor.
Things you need to be aware of
Partner visas in Australia are expensive. Currently there is a base fee of $7160. For additional family applicants including children the fee is $1,785 for each person aged under 18 and $3,585 for persons over 18. On top of this there are costs for a police check and a medical exam. Any children of the partner will also need to undertake health checks, whether or not they are being included on the application. There are additional fees when using a migration agent or migration lawyer.
For married couples, the marriage must be valid according to Australian law. Unmarried couples, i.e. those in a de-facto relationship, can apply for a partner visa but have to provide evidence that the relationship has existed for longer than a year. Evidence to prove a de-facto relationship is genuine could include records of joint finances in the form of bank accounts, loans or property leases, and recognition of the relationship by family and friends in the form of statutory declarations. People who are married but separated from their spouse may also lodge an application for their new partner as long as they can provide evidence of being legally separated.
Applicants are encouraged to continue submitting evidence even after their application is lodged both to keep the immigration department updated with any changes and also to further support that the relationship is genuine and ongoing. Such evidence could include travel itineraries and details of functions attended as a couple. Applicants are also advised that the immigration department may cross-reference publicly available records such as social media posts.
More information on partner visas is available on the Department of Home Affairs website.