HOW TO: Write about your relationship history for a Partner (Spouse) Visa application

JENNIFER KHAN how to blog image

I tell all of my clients that when they write about their relationship history that once it is submitted their case officer will in the very least ask

  1. Is it genuine?
  2. Does it satisfy the legislative criteria under regulation 1.15A to the Migration Regulations 1994?

The last one sounds complicated.  The first can be – how can you prove someone is being genuine??  For this  blog, I will tell you about how you may achieve that in part.   The regulation above (1.15A)  includes:

(1) For subsection 5F(3) of the Act, [I am deleting a big chunk of legislation here that basically means ‘For a Partner Visa’] the Minister must consider all of the circumstances of the relationship, including the matters set out in subregulation (3).

(3) The matters for subregulation (2) are:
(a) the financial aspects of the relationship, including:
(i) any joint ownership of real estate or other major assets; and
(ii) any joint liabilities; and
(iii) the extent of any pooling of financial resources, especially in relation to major financial commitments; and
(iv) whether one person in the relationship owes any legal obligation in respect of the other; and
(v) the basis of any sharing of day-to-day household expenses; and

(b) the nature of the household, including:
(i) any joint responsibility for the care and support of children; and
(ii) the living arrangements of the persons; and
(iii) any sharing of the responsibility for housework; and

(c) the social aspects of the relationship, including:
(i) whether the persons represent themselves to other people as being married to each other; and
(ii) the opinion of the persons’ friends and acquaintances about the nature of the relationship; and
(iii) any basis on which the persons plan and undertake joint social activities; and

(d) the nature of the persons’ commitment to each other, including:
(i) the duration of the relationship; and
(ii) the length of time during which the persons have lived together; and
(iii) the degree of companionship and emotional support that the persons draw from each other; and
(iv) whether the persons see the relationship as a long-term one.

This is read more easily if we break it down into the following subjects 1) finances, 2) the nature of the household, 3) the social aspects of the relationship and 4) the nature of your commitment to each other.  You need to write in a statutory declaration about all of these aspects of your relationship covering all points for each subject.  I advise anything from 1 ½ to half a dozen pages.  The average is four pages typed.   For example if we take the first subject: finances.

“Susan and I are waiting on the outcome of the visa application before deciding whether or not we will buy a house. If the visa is granted Susan will arrive as soon as possible and I will start making enquiries for home loans.  We were  travelling the last year so didn’t have any regular income,  Susan and I worked as we travelled staying in back packers, or taking out short term leases.  We took turns paying and I have provided the receipts.”

This type of statement can lead to your visa being refused with no refund for a nearly $7000 application fee to DIBP.  In the example above the person has tried to take into account all points (i) joint ownership, 2)joint liabilities, 3)financial pooling, 4) legal obligations and 5) household expenses but they haven’t been able to accumulate any of that type of financial history because they were travelling. It is a valid reason, but the visa would  be refused. The case officer is directed under their own policy to refuse visas where they are not satisfied that the r.1.15A legislation has been met.

I see these types of cases all the time, especially for couples where one person is in Australia on a Working Holiday Visa.  I know that many of these people are told that they cannot apply for a visa in such as situation.  But – with some careful attention, making up for the weaknesses in the application, referring to similar situations in case law  I know that I know I can end up with a grantable visa application.  Working with you I will need to draw out as much as I can about your situation and future plans to convey the full story to the your case officer.  Then I need align your information up with all the relevant legislation including the one I pasted above (1.15A).

I have to paint a picture of you and your loved one that the case officer can hold up to all DIBP regulation and policy and come up with a positive answer.  I believe that most case officers have many times  actually wanted to grant visas that they have had no choice but to refuse because the relationship history might miss one of the r1.15A criteria.  If you are in a situation that you can provide evidence of everything listed under r1.15A then you will be able to write solid relationship history.   If you can’t provide some of the evidence do not worry – there is a high chance you can go ahead anyway but don’t go it alone!  Seek advice as there is too much at stake if the application is refused.

3 reasons

Sponsored Family Visit Visas- how to get them granted

family visitor visas how to get them jpg

These visas (Sponsored Family Visit Visas) appear easy to obtain.  The fee to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection is only $135, you need only have a relative in Australia, a reason  and some relevant identity documents – yes?   No.

I have received countless calls from immigrant Australians upset, offended even, that there Sponsored Family Visit visa was refused.   I feel their frustration.  The news can also be devastating if the refusal means they cannot be with certain family members at very important times in their lives. I feel their devastation.  I respond every time, “I’m sure the decision record stated it was a refusal based on ‘genuine entrant criteria’.  I see this so many times I can even give you the clause number  ‘600.211’.”  “Yes,”  they respond.

This is what will be written on the decision record:


The applicant genuinely intends to stay temporarily in Australia for the purpose for which the visa is granted, having regard to:

(a) whether the applicant has complied substantially with the conditions to which the lastsubstantive visa, or any subsequent bridging visa, held by the applicant was subject; and

(b)whether the applicant intends to comply with the conditions to which the Subclass 600 visa would be subject; and

(c) any other relevant matter.

The applicant failed to meet the legal criterion in clause 600.211 of the Migration Regulations1994 as I am not satisfied that they intend a genuine visit to Australia

Really the word ‘genuine’ is so significant for this visa application, and many other types of visa applications that, no matter what type of documentation you provide, the entire application endeavour will fail should the case officer conclude that you, or your family member, is not genuine.   How do we prove that a person is genuine?  I will walk you through this with regard to temporary visa applications, more specifically the Sponsored Family Visit visa applications.

For any visit visa (Subclass 600)(Class FA) application the case officer must be satisfied that applicant will return to their country of origin before the expiry on a visit visa if granted.  And to convince your case officer of this I need to give them as much detail as I can about all the reasons you or your family member have to return home.  The Department of Immigration and Border Protection’s Procedures Advice Manual 3 (PAM 3) classify this topic under ‘The genuine temporary stay requirement’ and directs the case officer to ask for evidence of ‘incentives to return to the home country such as evidence of financial, person and community ties’.

The policy implies that the case officer after having received an application, will ask  for further evidence before reaching a decision. However under migration legislation the case officer does not have to ask for further information and usually refuses the visa if the applicant does not take the initiative to send this type of information with the original application.  In preparing an application I go above and beyond,  ‘overkill’ if you like, in obtaining every possible shred of evidence I can from your family to establish sufficient financial, personal and community ties,  so that the case officer can only conclude that you or your family member to will be  a genuine visitor.  We do not want the case officer concluding that they are a potential overstayer, or a person who is ‘attempting to maintain ongoing residence’ by manipulating the visa system amongst other possible adverse findings.

Aspects of you or your family member’s life that the case officer must assess are listed in subheadings under ‘The genuine temporary stay requirement’.  These are (exactly as written) :

  • Previous visa compliance
  • Intention to comply
  • The ‘any other matter’ factor – (good grief!)
  • Credibility
  • Purpose and period of stay
  • Previous immigration/travel history
  • Intel reports and profiles

These are all assessed with regard to the Department’s ‘Risk tiering overview’. The higher the level of ‘risk’ the country of origin and applicant is determined to be the more scrutiny an application will face.  “As risk tiering has no legislative basis, a decision to grant or refuse a visa based on the existence of risk tiering would be an error of law,” despite this you can be sure an application is facing a refusal if I cannot convince your case officer that you or your family member will be visa compliant/genuine.

Here is an extract from a submission I prepared for an applicant from a ‘high risk’ county.  I use this information often and have also included it in submissions for  the Migration Review Tribunal/Administrative Appeals Tribunal where I proudly claim a  100% success rate.

When taking into account  the Applicant’s age, ties to family members and [high risk country], along with consideration of the following case law extract, a finding in the Applicant’s favour can be established.  I refer to Migration Review Tribunal (MRT ) case number 1301924 [2013] MRTA 1549 (19 July 2013).   This review of a refusal decision included reference to the grant of a Sponsored Family Visitor visa for the review applicant’s mother with [other high risk country] citizenship.  I add that the MNRR report shows a similar higher rate for [other high risk country] and [high risk country] citizens. At paragraph 42 the Tribunal reasoned that the grant of the visa was based on the mother being “an older person with stronger family ties.” In view of the Tribunal’s reasoning I submit that, in the Applicants’  favour, much weight should be placed on the Applicant’s age, strong family ties  and [high risk country]  

What had happened in this case is a person came to me with a visa refusal. This person had prepared a Sponsored Family Visitor visa application on their own for their elderly mother.  One of the many reasons for refusal was that the case officer saw that the mother would prefer to stay in Australia long term  to be with her Australian Permanent Resident son and would therefore not be a genuine visitor.  This wasn’t the case at all – she much prefeThe onus is reallyrred to live in her country of origin where she enjoyed an active social life and was a respected member of the community.  My job is to show this to the case officer in every way possible.

I just love references to case law.  I love them.  I love searching for cases that have gone on to reach success at Tribunal and align with your personal situation. For example in the extract above I refer to case number 1301924 etc to show the case officer that an applicant,  being elderly,  can be more likely a genuine visitor because of their age.   Another example, I saw a refusal decision with part of the reasoning based on the fact (essentially) that the applicant had not travelled to Australia before and therefore the case officer couldn’t assess if the applicant would comply with Australian visa conditions.   Well I came right out with my weapon case number 1309955!  That the Tribunal gave much weight to the fact the family member had complied with visa conditions for countries other than Australia.

The onus is really on you and me to show the case officer that you or your family member will be a genuine visitor.  My tag line is ‘Where your story matters‘. I truly need to know your full story so I can present this to a Department case officer in the best possible light with regard to all the visa requirements.  The case officers handle too many applications – I get that – I see that it is a hard job. Which is why I try to make it easy for them. In a covering letter I tell the full story as far as it is relevant to the types of assessment the case officer will make. I see that if I don’t tell the case officer explicitly (with evidence) that your mother is very happy and settled in her country that the case officer has every reason to think she may prefer to live with you here, for example.

I had intended to include in this blog  more ways to prove financial, personal and community ties in the visa application but will save that for a future blog.  Thank you for reading.

Chime, chime…

Chime chime jennifer Khan
I like to treat staff at the Department of Immigration and Border Protection(DIBP) with a lot of respect. I have spoken with many case officers over the phone and most of them are incredibly diligent, excellent problem solvers with an impressive knowledge of immigration law and policy. There is a lot of negativity in the media about the DIBP and/or the associated Minister. However at the end of the day I am primarily concerned with my client and how the case officer perceives them.

Nevertheless it can be a battle to try and do the best thing for my client while up against never-ending legislative changes including regular fee hikes. Once upon a time on a Christmas day I was absolutely determined to work through the public holidays to make sure my client’s application landed at DIBP in the Queensland office before New Years’ day. I felt like Cinderella rushing out before the clock chimes midnight. For should the application land on the door after midnight of the 31st of December the visa application fee would rise a shocking additional $2000 +. It would be just wrong to delay that application causing my client to pay more. I had to squeeze in an entire month worth of work into about two weeks. But, I succeeded!

To make the almost-fairy story work I had to call DIBP. There I was on Christmas Eve, charged up, on fire, ready to make this work and be a hero! I made it through to DIBP over the phone. I discussed the case then went on to empathise how the fee hike must be placing a lot of pressure on the staff as there would be many trying to lodge their applications before the 31st December.

“It’s awful,” said the lethargic sounding staff member, “It’s just awful how the Department raise these fees, prevent people from coming into the country. And the refugees being sent to detention is criminal in my opinion. I have no respect for any of it.”

She sounded forlorn. I become worried to the point that if I didn’t attempt to make this poor soul feel a little better then her Christmas would be miserable. There I was on Christmas Eve cheering up a DIBP staff member over the phone. It was surreal. Just part of the ‘do it before the clock strikes midnight’ atmosphere perhaps. Typically I spend a good deal of time positively encouraging my clients. It is necessary sometimes because of  some harsh restrictions immigration law has placed on them and their loved ones – many times the stories are nothing short of tragic. But the coin had flipped and I was encouraging someone from DIBP.

This misery is caused by red tape, ‘excessive bureaucracy or adherence to official rules and formalities’ that no one can point their finger at just one individual for blame. Those who need to obtain visas have to deal with it as best we can. There are countless ‘do it before the clock strikes midnight’ moments when dealing with immigration law. Sometimes this means shuffling around clients to make sure no client suffers adverse consequences. I’ll list 12 bad consequences for you – one for every chime of the clock at midnight!

  1. visa application charge increases
  2. missing out on a chance to appeal a refusal decision to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal
  3. fail a deadline and subsequently having the dreaded section 48 ban on applying for visas! (most of them)
  4. respond to an adverse claim from an anonymous party out to destroy our chance for visa grant
  5. sometimes you will have until the clock strikes midnight on the 28th day, sometimes the 28th day + 7 days depending on certain factors
  6. get the application in before midnight when a new legislation will come into effect suddenly making your application a whole lot more difficult to have granted
  7. lodge your application before midnight lest the visa subclass you are hoping for is ‘capped and queued’ and you are left for years wondering if you may ever be able to apply for it again
  8. submit your IELTS result certificates now, you can’t use them after midnight of their third year of existence
  9. Police checks? They only survive one year.
  10. Standard Business Sponsorships? 3 years but sometimes only 18 months.
  11. Lodge you visa application before your current one expires – you have until midnight of the last day
  12. You have your visa, but make sure you enter Australia before midnight of the initial entry date..

Persuasion. The most effortful labor there is.

I often send for entire Department of Immigration and Border Protection files where a person has, after attempting a visa application themselves, had their application refused.  I also need to do this even when a person was represented by a Registered Migration Agent/Immigration lawyer so that I can see what went wrong with the original application.  Having the entire file in front of you means you can see how your case officer has structured their reasoning about your case  in their decision making process.  If you ever had a visa refused, in every instance you would want to know exactly why because a visa application is always about something of primary importance.

One day I saw in a Departmental file the work of a highly paid Immigration Lawyer.  I was dumbstruck. I simply couldn’t believe what I was seeing.  A page and a half cover letter representing the client.  And more than half of this was just ‘copy and paste’ relevant legislation.  The submission wasn’t wrong – it addressed all the mandatory criteria for grant if visa. But that was it. Where was the persuasive argument?? Where was compelling  the case officer to understand that they were dealing with honest applicants?? The visa was refused and all the clients money down the drain.

You have to be persuasive in a visa application. Absolutely. Here is a quote I like, I’ll then link it to the visa application process.

“One might even say that moving minds [persuading others] – our own as well as others- is among the most effortful labor there is” (Popova n.d.)

ABSOLUTELY!! How on earth can we expect a case officer, delegated to process thousands upon thousands of visa applications, to be convinced to grant a visa based on a cover letter that merely ticks off a basic checklist of standard visa criteria? No effortful labor could I find in this letter. No persuasive argument. None.  In many cases a case officer will grant a visa with their decision based upon such an application.  However more often the visa will be refused.  Now, having seen the type of policy case officers must give regard to when making a decision, I think that is fair enough.

In my opinion, any chance of any visa application being granted hinges upon whether or not a case officer finds the applicant to be genuine. In my further opinion it is dishonest for a representive attempt to  show your case officer that you are genuine by writing a brief cover letter – especially if you come from a country where the Department’s ‘risk-tiering’ system places you in a position where your application must face a much higher level of scrutiny.

I couldn’t look in the mirror if I ever were to send off such an application.   I see that I need to present to your case officer your full story. To construct a letter that carefully convinces and persuades your case officer to say, ‘yes’, to  approve your visa.  I need to work my way through your life story and future plans picking out even the teeniest, tinyest detail (as far as you are comfortable) and match it up with the appropriate visa criteria. Then I’ll wring out as tightly as possible everything from your life story and future plans that could add to persuading  your case officer that you are in fact genuine.

Each application I do requires the most effortful labor I know in my working life. I make no apologies, I won’t be completing your visa application in a hurry. It’s not possible, in my opinion, to perfect the type of persuasion necessary for your particular story in a short amount of time.  For me, having honesty and maintaining integrety as your representative is more important than a fast result. Underpinning this is my commitment to ensure I do all I can, whatever it takes, however long it takes, relentlessly advocating, to get your visa granted.