Partner Visa Application Fee: How much is too much to lose?


There are all kinds of risks in relationships and love – asking a person on a first date,  telling a person you love them for the first time, relocating to be with your girlfriend.  We all know sometimes romantic relationships last a life time and sometimes they don’t.   The process of going through a partner visa application can place a great deal of  negative pressure on keeping a relationship going.  More times than not I see people who won’t let an immigration process get in their way.  But I’ll often hear a common fear, ‘What if the visa is refused?

What recently struck me when I considered  visa applicants over the last several years  is that since the immigration fees have increased to nearly $7000 another fear is admitted, ‘What if the visa is granted,  but then our relationship doesn’t even last? There goes the visa fee, relocation fees, a job…’

Years ago I would never experience a client admit this fear to me. If the fear is ever revealed I think it usually would be to a close family member or friend.  Since the partner visa fee increase I do sometimes hear a client admit a strong fear of financial loss.   The total cost of relocating countries to live with a loved one can be huge when considering airfares, wrapping up work commitments, insurances, immigration assistance fees, medical costs and so on.   What if things don’t work out?  What if the partner migrating to Australia doesn’t like it here, or misses their family too much?  This is huge emotional and financial pressure.

There are many couples who have a ‘whatever it takes’ commitment to make sure they can be together.   I have to agree that I would take the same approach moving forward in a way where the ultimate decision is not about money.  Beliefs and attitudes around money, abundance mindsets or lack is not something I am confident to give advice about. I do know that, simply put,  if we work we can gain money in addition to borrowing from friends, family or banks.  Generally speaking I think we eventually find the funds to do what we need to do. For that reason money pressure can be taken out of the decision whether or not to apply for the partner visa.

Several months ago I sat down face to face with a client for a lunch hour.  There were legitimate concerns as to why he thought their relationship wouldn’t last long term.  I loved his approach, because although he was clearly worried at the thought of losing a lot of money if the relationship didn’t work out he said, “I love her.  Even if after she gets here she falls out of love or doesn’t like it here she deserves this chance.  I love her and she’s a good person, I’m happy to put the money into it.”

I wish it were easier and cheaper for those embarking on the partner visa process, especially when there are no guarantees.  The faster you commit to a process the faster your partner could be in Australia including earning Australian money.  After that, more experiences and challenges to come!  Read on for tips to help you through (click on images below).


JENNIFER KHAN how to blog image

Jennifer Khan Partenr Visa application refused

Migration Assistance

The Partner Visa Application Package

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You need a Partner Visa. Your biggest problem? A lack of free and reliable information

JENNIFER KHAN your biggest problem

One of the biggest problems I hear from my clients is that by the time they have sought out my assistance they are frustrated with a lack of free and trustworthy information.  The Department of Immigration and Border Protection lists the requirements for visas, provides a booklet and also checklists.  However many times couples find themselves, when trying to align their circumstances with the requirements, feeling like they are a square peg trying to fit into round hole.  They then fear they cannot apply.   The next step taken is usually a call to Immigration. Due to high numbers of calls to Immigration there is usually a very long wait time to be told generic information if any.   If there are  specific questions involved the person who answer the phone will usually suggest you seek the advice of a Registered Migration Agent.

Understandably with the high cost of applying for a Partner Visa most people seriously consider doing the application themselves, often relying on information from friends who have recently been through the process or through online forums.   I think a person becomes very vulnerable in the attempt to seek trustworthy information.  And all too often people end up believing the wrong thing.  A client from several years ago and I were about to  lodge his application when he adamantly told me that his uncle said we could pursue an alternate pathway. Which we couldn’t.  It was an awkward situation and I had to respectfully steer my client away from relying upon  word on the street migration advice.

This year I have decided to share some of my experience and knowledge for free.  This was a challenge for me for I had previously operated in a “my time is money” way.  As an ethical Registered Migration Agent I see what I am sharing on my website is trustworthy.  I am happy that this addresses many people’s concerns that there is not enough good assistance around for free.  The information is also a tool for people to determine whether they will need to use a Registered Migration Agent or not.  But then not all Registered Migration Agents are trustworthy either.  I recently heard a client tell me that their previous Registered Migration Agent (RMA) said it was no problem for them to create all the witness statements. This is not ok at all, it is illegal.  Apparently all aspects of the application would be handled by this RMA “easily”.  Months later we find no application was ever lodged and the RMA was unwilling to send this client their file which they are entitled to.  I suspect no file was ever created.  Not only that a higher fee than I charge was taken and a refund promised,  a promise unlikely to be fulfilled.   You will be familiar with news stories about dodgy Migration Agents, especially regarding work visas where employers take 10s of thousands of dollars for sponsorship (illegal) and the agents will take even more money.

In any profession there are people who operate unethically so it is fortunate that Migration Agents Registration Authority are good at weeding out dodgy agents. An example of a cancelled registration:

The Agent’s registration as a migration agent has been cancelled under section 303 of the Migration Act 1958 and he cannot provide immigration assistance. The Authority considered several complaints and found that the Agent had breached clauses 2.1, 2.4, 2.6, 2.8, 2.9, 2.9A, 2.15, 2.18, 2.23, 3.4, 5.2, 5.5, 7.1B, 7.2, 7.4, 9.1 and 9.3 of the Code of Conduct for registered migration agents. The Authority also found that the Agent is not a person of integrity or otherwise not a fit and proper person to give immigration assistance. The Agent repeatedly mislead his clients; did not lodge applications and perform services which he was contracted to provide; retained client funds; knowingly presented false information to the Department in connection with 2 visa applications and failed to respond to complaints and attempted to mislead the Authority

The number one source of reliable information would have to be from the Department of Immigration and Border Protection website.   The checklist there does provide a concise list of requirements.  There is often accurate information on forums also, the only problem there is the conflicting information which leaves a person confused.  My best advice then is that you rely on the Immigration website advice only. If you feel you need further information go straight to a Registered Migration Agent.  We RMA’s have been trained to always, for each and every client, go to the Migration Act 1958 and  Migration Regulations 1994  first and foremost, checking that all we do is up-to-date with the latest changes. I rely on the Act and the Regulations more than the Immigration website.

I have also been visited by clients who have sought the advice of an ethical Migration Agent, I know that this agent does good work, but were turned away being told that it was impossible to apply for a visa.  It was good that they decided to obtain a second opinion as I was able to tell them otherwise by thoroughly checking the regulations and recent policy. The couple went on to have a visa granted several months later.  Point is, if the Immigration website makes you feel you may be ineligible, check with a Registered Migration Agent,  if you are unsatisfied with that opinion you can go on to receive a second opinion.  In my experience word on the street advice has left clients very fearful of the worse unncessarily and often wastes a lot of time.

Useful information about selecting a representative can be found here

Where to find a checklist from Immigration see below: Checklist location

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Do you have the right representative for your Partner Visa application?


JENNIFER KHAN asre you choosing the right representative

The Administrative Appeals Tribunal is where your partner visa application can be looked at again in the event of a refusal. I frequently study the decisions and reasons made during a hearing as it greatly helps me to prevent visa refusals for my clients. As migration law frequently changes it is one of a few ways I keep myself up to date with the changes.  Another benefit of studying these decisions is they not only show recent legislative changes, but they also show how we can or can’t apply these changes. It can also show who did the right thing and who did not.

Today I  will share with you a recent decision made regarding a Partner Visa that was applied for outside of Australia.  A refusal decision was made in late 2014 with the tribunal hearing taking place mid 2016.  I should add that the case is not my own however any person can access decision records using, this is mostly how I research hearing decisions.  The refusal was not the couple’s fault but the fault of their representative.

The reason for refusal in this case is a common reason for refusal:

(the applicant) did not satisfy cl.100.221(2)(b) because the delegate[person allocated to assess the partner visa application] was not satisfied that the applicant is the spouse or de facto partner of her sponsor.

The first thing that comes to mind here is the word ‘genuine’ .  I have written a blog previously about this word.  Establishing that a visa applicant is genuine is pivotal to the success of a visa application. For specifics about how to achieve this in the context of a Partner Visa Application click  HERE in the context of a Sponsored Spouse Visa application click HERE’

The couple were ‘found to be validly married’ which meets a specific requirement in the Migration Act at s.5F(2)(a). Moving through the hearing I am taken aback by this statement,

“The delegate made, in essence, a “no evidence” decision, documenting in the decision his various contacts with the parties’ previous migration agent in an ultimately futile attempt to elicit supporting evidence of the parties’ relationship.”

What is upsetting here for me is that even though the couple did appoint a Registered Migration Agent to represent them this Migration Agent  appears to have made a ‘futile attempt’ to gather sufficient supporting evidence to show that they were a genuine couple.  Perhaps the Migration Agent only submitted the bare minimum requirements or not even that.  The decision included that the sponsoring Australian partner, “expressed his frustration at the previous migration agent’s conduct of this matter.”   While preparing for this Tribunal hearing thankfully the couple managed to find a competent Registered Migration agent who “provided the Tribunal with a great deal of documentary evidence”.

If the case officer who made a decision on the original Partner Visa application had had this evidence at the time of decision in late 2014 I think there would have been very few problems in obtaining a visa grant. Even with the great deal of documentary evidence, after looking at weaknesses in the documents shown at Tribunal, one issue that I believe a case officer possibly could have refused the visa for was in the area of the couple proving ‘pooling of finances’ unless this was dealt with carefully in the application. The result of the hearing was,

“On the evidence overall, the Tribunal finds that the parties have a mutual commitment to a shared life as husband and wife to the exclusion of all others; the relationship between them is genuine and continuing; and they live together and do not live separately and apart on a permanent basis, thereby satisfying the requirements of s.5F(2) for being in a married relationship”.

The visa was subsequently granted.  Read HERE  to consider the full consequences of a visa refusal.

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Partner Visa Application Refused- Why?

Jennifer Khan Partenr Visa application refused


A couple lodged a partner visa application, prepared by themselves on 12th December 2013.  Fortunately they were both in Australia at the time. If Mr X had been outside Australia at the time then he would most likely need to stay outside Australia throughout the processing of the visa.  Almost one year of waiting later, on 17th November 2014 the couple had their outcome: refused.   Today this means the $6865 application fee is lost for this fee is not refundable in the event of refusal.  The application fee to appeal the refusal decision is currently $1,673 in addition to likely migration assistance fees and further processing times.  Mr and Mrs X waited until 25 February, 2016 before their case was heard before Tribunal totalling more than two years of living in uncertainty, their life together on hold not knowing whether or not Mr X would receive a visa to stay in Australia.  This is one of the most turbulent and stress-creating times a person can go through.    Why did this happen?

I will run through the case and what the Administrative Appeals Tribunal reasoned at the hearing last February in the hope it will prevent mistakes being repeated by someone else going through the process.   If people ever traipse through the minefield of Australian immigration law  they are often only going to need to do it one time.  As a result of the newness of it all, understandably  mistakes are probably going to happen. Unfortunately some mistakes can mean the difference between a visa grant or refusal. Here are the mistakes.


Mr and Mrs X had separate addresses at the time they applied.  This does not in and of itself mean a visa will be refused but weighs in favour of refusal. During the hearing they were found to have good reasons for having separate addresses at the time they applied.  These reasons should have been written, evidence given and included with the visa aScreen Shot 2016-05-31 at 3.02.53 PMpplication.  This is probably not a thing most people would know to include.   During the processing of a visa application a case officer will expertly look for weaknesses in any claims made so we always need to give reasons convincingly.

The couple did not provide with their partner visa application sufficient evidence of ‘pooling of financial resources or sharing of day-to-day household expenses’.  In my opinion this would be the main reason for visa refusal which is why it is the area I focus on the most when preparing a partner visa application.  The less evidence, the more I work on this aspect.   While Mr and Mrs X waited for their case to be heard at Tribunal they would have been provided opportunity to provide evidence of ‘financial pooling’.   By February, 2016 they were able to show the Tribunal enough evidence to show that “they have in the past integrated their finances and currently share ongoing financial responsibilities”.   But had they been guided enough at the time they applied in December, 2013 they would have unlikely needed to go through the excruciatingly worrisome refusal and appeals process.

The  Tribunal went through all the factors related to partner visa application assessment but the only factor explicitly stated that the case officer was not satisfied with was the ‘pooling of financial resources’.  The good news is Mr X ended up with a partner visa after the required processes were fulfilled.  For further information about relationship ‘factors’ that are assessed after you lodge
a partner visa application click on the image below: JENNIFER KHAN how to blog image

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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.

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