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What Is an Onshore (Subclasses 820/801) And Offshore (309/ 100) Partner Visa In Australia?

As a destination for prospective migrants from around the world, Australia has an enormous amount to offer those seeking a new life. As a safe, cosmopolitan, economically prosperous country, offering excellent career prospects and high pay, it has all of the ingredients needed for migrants and their families. And if you make the move to Australia, you will be in good company, with nearly 30% (7.5 million people) of the country’s population being born overseas. The largest sources of migrants to Australia are England, China, India, New Zealand, Philippines, Vietnam, South Africa, Italy, Malaysia, and Sri Lanka.

It is also important to be realistic about the time and effort you will need to put into securing a visa to allow you to enter and live in Australia. The Australian immigration process requires applicants to provide a great deal of paperwork to support their applications, and as such, the process can take many months to complete. If you are considering making the move to Australia, you will first need to assess which visa route will best suit your needs. If you are applying on the basis of having a partner already living in Australia, you have two broad options – an onshore partner visa or an offshore partner visa. In this article, we will explain the differences between the Australian onshore partner visa (subclasses 820 and 801) and the offshore partner visa (subclasses 309 and 100).

What Is Meant By An Onshore And offshore Partner Visa?

There are two ways of applying for an Australian Partner visa, as follows:

  • Applying while you are already in Australia – this is the onshore Partner visa (subclasses 820/801)
  • Applying from a country outside of Australia – this is the offshore Partner visa (subclasses 309/100).

If you are already in Australia on a valid visa and you wish to apply for a partner visa, you will be able to do so as long as there are no conditions preventing you from doing so. Beyond where you make the application, the onshore and offshore schemes are broadly the same. They both have two stages; a provisional visa and a permanent visa, and they are both available to spouses or de facto partners of:

  • An Australian citizen
  • permanent residents in Australia
  • Am eligible New Zealand citizen

It is important to note that if you choose the onshore application route, you will need to be present in Australia when you apply and while the decision is being made by the Australian Department of Internal Affairs.

Australian Offshore Partner Visa (Subclasses 309 and 100)

If you are applying for a partner visa outside of Australia, you will apply for both the provisional (subclass 309) and permanent visa (subclass 100) at the same time. The application fee of AUD$7,715 covers both applications. If you are granted a provisional visa, you will then be able to move to Australia to be with your partner, and you will be able to work-study, and access healthcare (Medicare).

After two years on the provisional partner visa, you will then be further assessed by the Australian immigration authorities, and if successful, you will be granted permanent residence. What they will be looking for at this second stage is that your relationship is ongoing, and hence that you are still eligible as a partner of an Australian citizen, New Zealand citizen, or a person with PR in Australia.

The first stage of the application process is typically completed faster for an offshore application than an onshore application; provisional onshore partner applications are currently taking around 22 months, versus 17 months for an offshore application. Clearly, this is still a very long time to be separated from your partner. If you do choose the offshore route, you will still be able to travel to Australia to be with your partner, however, you will not have the right to work and access healthcare.

Another consideration to bear in mind is that the offshore partner visa can be used by those who are planning to get married (as long as they get married before a decision is made on the application), whereas the onshore route does not allow this.

Australian Onshore Partner Visa (Subclasses 820 And 801)

Like the offshore partner visa, onshore applicants also submit a combined application for a temporary and permanent visa at the same time and pay the fee of AUD$7,715 for both. And likewise, after two years on a temporary partner visa, you will need to submit some final evidence that your relationship is ongoing before being issued a permanent residence visa.

Once you have submitted an application for an onshore partner visa, if your current visa expires, you will automatically be given a bridging visa to ensure you can remain legally. This will most likely be bridging visa A (BVA), which will allow you to work and study if you wish. If you need to travel outside of Australia and return during this period, you will need to request a bridging visa B (BVB), which is intended for this purpose.

As an onshore partner visa applicant, you will also be eligible to receive healthcare in Australia (known as Medicare) if needed.

Final Words

The main differences between the Australian subclasses 309/100 and 820/801 are where you are permitted to apply from. Given the processing times involved in partner visa applications, it is important to make the right decision as to which visa you choose, in the interests of your relationship and your family.

Regardless of which route you pick, by submitting an application which includes all of the evidence needed by the Australian Department of Internal Affairs, you can reduce the processing time of your visa. If you need assistance with choosing which visa to apply for based on your circumstances, and how to reduce the processing time of your application, speak to an experienced immigration lawyer who will be able to assist you through the process.

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