Assessing Relationships in Partner Visas
There are 4 main aspects of the relationship that the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) will consider when assessing any partner visa application:
- Financial aspects of the relationship
- Nature of the household
- Social aspects of the relationship
- Nature of the commitment
Every relationship is different and will handle these aspects of their relationship on their own terms, however it is helpful to know what the department looks at within these 4 aspects. For a young couple who is working toward their second stage permanent visa, knowing what the DIBP will be looking for will help them in making decisions over the 2 years in collecting documental evidence.
Financial aspects of the relationship
- joint loan agreements for real estate, cars, major household appliances or any other agreements relating to finances or purchases (for example, property purchased by the parties as tenants in common)
- operation of joint bank accounts – evidence that the accounts have been operated with reasonable frequency and for a reasonable period of time would be given more weight than just opening such accounts
- pooling of financial resources, especially in relation to major financial commitments
- legally binding financial obligations that one party owes to the other, for example, as guarantor for a loan, existing power of attorney (these can be specified to cover various things, such as financial and medical)
- the basis of sharing day to day household expenses (for example, if each party is responsible financially for their own expenses only and expenses are not pooled)
Whilst it is possible for a couple to have their own system in who pays for what as opposed to joint accounts, a complete lack of documental evidence of the sharing of expenses may raise questions. If perhaps one partner was completely financially dependent on the other, there should be evidence of that partner having access to the financial provider’s funds.
The nature of the household
- joint ownership of residential property
- joint residential leases
- joint rental receipts
- joint utilities accounts (electricity, gas, telephone)
- correspondence addressed to either or both parties at the same address
- shared responsibility for care and support of children
- shared responsibility for housework
Hard evidence of shared responsibility for the care and support of children as well as housework may be hard to provide, but can be brought up in the statutory declaration about the relationship that both applicant and sponsor needs to produce.
Social aspects of the relationship
- Evidence that the relationship has been declared to other government bodies and commercial/public institutions or authorities and acceptance of these declarations by these bodies
- Statements of parents, family members, relatives, friends and other interested parties. Statements in the form of statutory declarations should be encouraged on the basis that, as a legal document, they carry more weight
- Joint membership of organisations or groups, documentary evidence of joint participation in sporting, cultural, social or other activities
- Joint travel and plans for the future
- Whether the parties present themselves as a couple socially
Photos at different points of the relationship showing the couple socialising with different groups of people would be good evidence to provide. If however, the couple, or one of the partners originates from a culture or religion that is greatly averse to the partnership, then the lack of social photos would not be judged overly harshly.
Travel documents such as flight tickets (especially showing side by side seating) and hotel bookings would be good evidence.
Certain states, such as New South Wales and Victoria, allow de facto partners to obtain relationship certificates which registers the relationship legally. This is of particular help in applications where the de facto relationships has existed for less than the prescribed 12 month commitment in DIBP regulations.
Nature of the commitment
- The duration of the relationship
The length of time the parties have lived together
The degree of companionship and emotional support that the parties draw from each other
Whether the parties refer to the relationship as for the long term
The partners’ knowledge of each other’s personal circumstances
The evidence of intentions that the relationship be long term (from example, by the extent to which the partners have combined their affairs, and the extent to which they have provided for each other, such as being beneficiary to each other’s will and superannuation)
Again, the statutory declaration comes into play here, so it is important to provide a complete picture of the relationship in both the micro and macro, in the short term and long term. Other supporting evidence would include evidence of communications, such as phone calls and messages to each other over a span of time.
This aspect is looked at with regards to all the other evidence provided as well, as opposed to a standalone ‘requirement’.
These four aspects seek to establish that the relationship is:
Partners have a mutual commitment to a shared life to the exclusion of all others
Partners are living together (or not living apart permanently)
In understanding what the DIBP is trying to establish, it will be easier to provide the right kind of evidence. Evidence should consistently span over a period of time and in a variety of situations.
Documenting a relationship isn’t always straightforward, especially if your partner does not have a visa to stay in Australia with their sponsor. If you are unsure about how to fulfil these 4 aspects for your relationship, speak to a qualified migration agent who will be able to set you in the right direction.
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On 19/04/2017, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection removed 216 occupations from the eligible list of occupations; and replaced the Consolidated Sponsored Occupation List (CSOL) with the Combined Occupation List. A new ‘ACT Occupation List’, based on the Combined Occupation List, will be announced in July.
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Managing Director & Migration Agent, Australian Immigration Law Services