If you are in a long term and committed relationship and co-habiting with an Australian Permanent Resident or Citizen you may be eligible for a temporary or permanent partner visa.
There are three categories of Spouse Visa to consider when migrating to Australia. They are the Spouse Marriage, Spouse De-facto, or Prospective Marriage (Fiancé) Visa.
There is no longer separate visa subclasses for “Interdependent” Spouses (same-sex relationships), as they are now considered under the same requirements as the De Facto Visa.
To be eligible to apply for a Spouse Visa the applicant must be able to prove one of the following:
They are legally married to an Australian citizen or permanent resident or eligible New Zealand Citizen;
They have been in a defacto relationship (residing together as a married couple) with an Australian Citizen or permanent resident, or eligible New Zealand Citizen, for a period of at least 12 months immediately preceding lodgement of the application;
They are formally engaged to be married to an Australian citizen or permanent resident (or eligible NZ Citizen) and be free to marry that person.
Apart from the Fiancé Visa, most spouse applications work in two stages and unless you have been in your relationship or married for 5 years, or 2 years and you have children together, the initial visa granted is a "temporary" or "provisional" visa only.
This means that the initial Spouse Visa will be granted for 2 years (or until such time as a decision is reached on your permanent visa) and once the first two years are up, you will go through second stage processing which is when the permanent visa is granted.
Fiancé Visas go through a three step process – the first part is lodged offshore and once granted the applicant must make an entry to Australia and will have a set period of time (usually 9 months) to marry their sponsor. On the Fiancé visa, the applicant will be entitled to work in Australia and will have multiple travel rights, but will not be entitled to Medicare. Once they are married and before the Fiancé Visa expires, the Spouse Visa must be lodged.
On the Provisional Spouse Visa you are entitled to work in Australia, will have access to Medicare and multiple travel rights. The two step process is the Department's way of safeguarding against people who are not genuine and you should also be aware that if your relationship breaks down before the 2 years is up, the permanent application may not be approved unless certain circumstances apply.
What this means in practical terms is that the Department of Immigration will contact you shortly before the 2 year time frame is up. The 2 years runs from the date of lodgement of the initial visa application. At the time of second stage processing you will be asked to provide some more information and evidence of your genuine and ongoing relationship, similar to the paper work you provided for the initial visa. This may include undergoing police and health clearances a second time.
All spouse applications are judged on the genuineness of the relationship and you will need to show that you are in long term, committed relationship with each other. This is really a relationship of at least 12 months or more. Even if you are married you would ideally still need to show at least 12 months of a committed relationship. (The exception to this would be the Fiancé visa and culturally arranged marriages). You will need to be able to demonstrate that you have a shared life and a commitment to each other including, but not limited to, the financial and emotional support you provide each other as well and joint financial commitments you have and interaction with friends and family.
If you have only known each other for a short time or have not met, then any application you lodge will most likely be rejected.
Spouse Marriage and De-facto can only be lodged onshore if the applicant is the holder of a visa which does not contain a “no further stay” condition. If this condition is on the visa, the application must be lodged offshore and can only be lodged once the applicant is outside of Australia.