De Facto Visas: A Guide for Unmarried Partners

De Facto Partner Visas for Australia

De facto Partner visa tips from me:

I’m an Australian immigration lawyer who advises daily on visa applications for de facto partners.

So what is a partner visa?

A partner visa is a permission for somebody who is not the holder of an Australian passport to be lawfully present in Australia because of their spousal relationship with a sponsor. A sponsor in this sense needs to be an Australian citizen or an Australian permanent residence visa holder or an eligible New Zealand citizen, which is a fancy way of saying that a New Zealand citizen was ordinarily resident in Australia at some time in 2001.

Your partner visa is approved in two stages. The first stage is a provisional visa which allows you to live and work in Australia. The second stage is a permanent residence visa which allows you to remain permanently in Australia.

If you make the application inside Australia then you are usually granted a bridging visa which will keep you lawfully present in Australia until such time as the first-stage visa is granted. 

Other common names for a “partner visa” include “spouse visa”, “spousal visa” or “marriage visa”. 

Are you trying to learn more about visas for unmarried couples? Here you’ll see how immigration for partners works.

I’ll also share the top reasons why your de facto visa application for Australia will be refused. Arghhhh!

What sort of de facto partner relationship are you in? This de facto partner visa guide is particularly useful if your circumstances come within one of these categories.

Firstly you are a sponsor and your de facto partner needs a visa.

Secondly, you need a visa for Australia and your defacto partner can sponsor you.

If you are in a relationship and neither of you can be a sponsor (as I’ve defined in the preceding paragraph) then one de facto partner could be included as a dependent applicant in the other de facto partner’s visa application. This typically happens in relation to student visas and work visas. In such cases, if you as the primary applicant meet the criteria for either a student visa or a work visa and your dependent partner, think de facto partner, is included and combined in the application and receives a grant of similar permission to study or work in Australia based on the fact that they, as the secondary applicant or dependent applicant are in a de facto relationship with you, the primary applicant.

If neither you nor your partner is an Australian citizen or an Australian permanent resident, this guide might not be the right one for you. Instead, you will need to understand how de facto partners are added to or combined with another Australian visa application. This is typically where an international student or overseas worker in Australia on a temporary visa wishes to get a visa for their de facto partner, in circumstances where that de facto partner does not hold any Australian citizenship or Australian permanent residence visa.

Alternatively, you may need to explore how the subclass 461 visa operates. The 461 New Zealand Citizen Family Relationship visa is a visa that assists couples where one partner is a citizen of New Zealand and the other de facto partner is neither an Australian citizen nor an Australian permanent resident but wishes to have permission to be in Australia with their de facto New Zealand citizen partner.

De Facto Partner Visa Terms You Must Know

Partner visa

A “de facto visa” or “spouse visa” might also be called a “Partner visa”.

Similarly, a “marriage visa” is a “spouse visa” and might also be called a “Partner visa”.

Spouse visa

Australia offers spouses of Australians the opportunity to get a permanent partner visa. Spouses can be in a “married relationship” on the one hand or a “de facto relationship” on the other hand.

820 visa

A de facto visa lodged in Australia is a subclass 820.

309 visa

A Partner visa lodged when the applicant is outside of Australia is a subclass 309.

Permanent de facto Partner visa

Both 820 and 309 visas will lead to permanent residence in Australia. In the case of the 820, permanent residency is called the subclass 801 visa. In the case of the 309, permanent residency is called the subclass 100 visa.

What is a de facto partner visa in Australia?

Permission given by Immigration to permit the de facto partner of an Australian citizen, Australian permanent resident, or eligible New Zealand citizen to be lawfully present in Australia either provisionally or permanently.

Requirements for Approval of a De Facto Visa

Basic de facto visa eligibility

  1. You and your partner must have been in a de facto relationship for at least 12 months immediately before making the application, or have registered your de facto relationship before making the application or shortly thereafter.
  2. If you are living apart, you must be living apart only temporarily.
  3. One partner must be an Australian citizen or permanent resident, or an eligible New Zealand citizen. Usually, this person will be over the age of 18.
  4. Both must be able to demonstrate a commitment to a shared life as partners in a genuine relationship.

De facto visa checklist

De facto visa lawyers will each have their own checklists for what documents are necessary to support a de facto visa application.

You will need to provide documents about who you are, what the relationship is all about, previous relationships, immigration history, health, and character. Check out this generic Partner visa checklist published by the Department.

Not enough documents

Most people think not having a pile of documents showing joint names and “couple” photos with friends and family for a 12-month period is why they’ll get refused, right?

Wrong! It’s not the quantity of material! Rather, it’s the compelling and corroborative value of all of the material you provide.

The de facto couples I’ve helped in the last 20 years have NOT rushed out on the very first day of their new relationship to set up a new bank account.

They have NOT rushed to execute a will (deed) naming each other as a beneficiary.

Realistically, you’d only rush to do these sorts of things if your primary purpose was getting a visa. Chances are that in such a case, your de facto visa application isn’t built on solid foundations, hey?

Is your de facto visa application primarily facilitating an immigration outcome? If your documents suggest this, then you are on the wrong track!

Get on a different track fast!

De Facto Visa Refusal

If your relationship is genuine, the good news is that you’ll likely succeed in obtaining a visa. The immigration gods are in your favour!

You’ll still need to be careful. A silly mistake may result in a visa refusal and an unnecessary appeal. More time, money, and stress for you.

For example, an immigration law technicality …. like not holding the right visa at the time of application, or being in the wrong location when you apply … could be a factor that ends up getting you refused. You see, most de facto Partner visa applicants don’t get their de facto Partner visa refused for not having enough supporting material.

It’s very possible to get a de facto Partner visa granted without excessive material if your relationship is genuine and you explain why you are light-on with supporting material. Most of my clients have scant documentation, yet all of them are in genuine de facto relationships.

I’ve had de facto Partner visa applications with only scant supporting material approved, time and time again.

The real issue in de facto Partner visa cases is credibility

Has your case officer been provided with credible information that your relationship did in fact exist to the required level at the time prescribed by the regulations, and that your relationship continues to exist at the time of their decision?

These are the two most important questions.

I’ve found that immigration case officers want nothing more than to approve an application, whether a de facto Partner visa application or anything else for that matter. Why?

It’s easier to get an approval

Firstly, it’s a lot easier for a case officer to approve a de facto visa application, than to refuse one. Writing out “reasons for decision” in a decision record if a de facto visa is refused can be very time-consuming, especially when compared to how simple it is to grant a de facto visa. Department officers also recognise that an appeal to the AAT (Tribunal) might be lodged by any refused Partner visa applicant and their sponsor.

Immigration officers will try to approve legitimate cases quickly

If you provide plausible evidence supporting your legitimate case, this will save you (and your partner) the anguish of appealing against any adverse decision not to grant your visa.

I’ve also found that immigration case officers are reasonable in their expectations of applicants when it comes to providing documentation. And if you make the right approach from the start, they will work with you to get your de facto Partner visa application approved with the least amount of stress.

I can help you decide what is relevant and what is not needed to provide with your Partner visa application, and how to deal with obvious shortcomings in your support material.

Explain any lack of supporting material

Case officers expect you to furnish the details of the following four aspects of your relationship:

  • Financial
  • Nature of the household
  • Social
  • Mutual commitment

But it is OK if you don’t have everything. Who does! OK, some people do. But most don’t.

Solution: to address missing parts of the puzzle, the visa applicant and sponsor should each make clear, separate personal statements not only about their relationship but explain what’s missing and why. Give reasons.

Statutory declaration evidence

The right format for doing this is via a Commonwealth statutory declaration (there is a prescribed statutory declaration form 888 for this). An ordinary statutory declaration form rather than form 888 is useful when you need to cover one specific issue and make things crystal clear for a decision-maker about that specific issue.

If material is obviously missing, explain why and be truthful and frank with case officers. If you are nervous about this for any reason, make an appointment with me to help you draft the appropriate statement.

They are smarter than you 🙂

Immigration officers tend to be smart, experienced, and methodical. They’ll smell a rat a mile away, and you can count on them checking things thoroughly if things don’t quite stack up for them.

Don’t try to fudge things or skim over gaps! You’ll waste a lot of time and money.

De facto visa application fees now cost around $8000 in filing fees alone

Immigration lawyer fees are similar. You will suffer stress, delay, and immigration consequences if your visa is refused. So address any gaps in your application head-on.

Adverse information

There are legitimate reasons why certain material could be scant or missing altogether. My advice is to explain carefully why stuff is missing. Even the stuff that may be adverse should be considered for careful upfront, frank and candid explanation.

If there’s any adverse information, be the first to raise it

The credibility you will have as a result of bringing something to an immigration case officer’s attention (rather than the other way around) may well be the credibility that ultimately saves your bacon, if you have a borderline application.

Common Questions People Ask Me

Is the visa guaranteed?

Is a visa grant a sure thing? Absolutely not! But your chances of approval are greatly improved by following the approach above.

The credibility theme is one aspect of a Partner visa preparation and submission system that I’ve successfully used for over 20 years.

I’ve lodged well over a thousand successful de facto Partner visa applications with the Australian Department of Immigration. Do you need help lodging yours?

What does a de facto visa cost?

Fees payable to the Department when filing a de facto visa application are approximately $7850. Fees payable to your immigration lawyer are additional.

What are my chances?

If the visa forms, personal documents, and supporting explanation you and your immigration lawyer provide are credible, your application for a de facto Partner visa will most likely be granted, even though there might be relatively little by way of evidence compared to what might be provided by others.

Processing times

There is a waiting period of approximately 2 years from the date of application for this visa before a decision is made to grant the provisional visa.

The permanent Partner visa (subclass 801) application is made at the same time as the subclass 820 visa application but the subclass 801 is only assessed 2 years after the date of application lodgment.

You’ll need to show a case officer that from the time of lodgment up to the time of decision you were in a genuine and continuing relationship with your partner.

Work rights while waiting

The bridging visa granted in association with an on-shore partner visa lodgment typically includes unlimited work rights and the ability to study in Australia.

You might not get work rights attached to your bridging visa in the first instance. If this happens, then there may be an opportunity to get work rights if you can demonstrate a compelling need to work.

The 12-month rule?

The de facto period of the relationship must be at least 12 months prior to the date of visa application …


Reg 2.03A(5) has these exceptions:

1) compelling and compassionate circumstances

2) humanitarian visa holder

3) relationship is registered.

Unlike regulation 2.03((A)(3) which explicitly requires the 12-month relationship to be met at the time of visa application, regulation 2.03A(5) is silent on when the relationship must be registered.

As such, if you register your de facto relationship after the application is made but before it is decided, you are taken to have met reg 2.03A(5). Woohoo! ♥️

Is divorce necessary?


You can most certainly be in a de facto relationship but still be married to somebody but to get married again, you must first get divorced.

If you are married and separated, you could be in a de facto relationship with a new partner and this could mean you may qualify for lodging a Partner visa, without your divorce being finalised.

One issue is that you aren’t able to get a defacto relationship certificate until you are married. But see my comments above.

How many times can I do it?

As a general rule, you can only sponsor a partner for a permanent Partner visa on two occasions in your lifetime, and these must be five years apart.

If you have been sponsored on a Partner visa, you can’t usually sponsor and get a visa grant for a new partner within 5 years.

However, there are limited opportunities to sponsor more than two partners and to do so within a five (5) year period.

Health waiver for de facto Partner visas

If the applicant has a medical condition, there may be an opportunity of seeking a health waiver for your de facto Partner visa. Not all visas allow for the waiver.

Appeals if a de facto visa is refused

An application for a review of a negative decision by a case officer is usually available to be made at the AAT (previously called MRT). A strict period applies for making any appeal application.

Costs payable to the AAT when filing a de facto visa refusal appeal are around $1800. Professional fees payable to your immigration lawyer are additional. They are in the range of $3500-$9500 depending on the complexity of the appeal and the skills and experience level of your immigration lawyer.

Bridging Visa Held or No Visa Held At All

Bridging Visa Holders

The provisional Partner visa (subclass 820) provides for a bridging visa which allows the visa holder to stay in Australia until a decision is made on their application.

The bridging visa granted in association with an onshore Partner visa lodgment typically includes unlimited work rights and the ability to study in Australia.

If the applicant holds a bridging visa for more than 28 days and wishes to apply for the de facto Partner visa, then there are additional criteria that need to be addressed. Check out my guide to schedule 3 to understand how schedule 3 affects bridging visa holders in Australia seeking to lodge de facto Partner visas in Australia.

Applicants in Australia with no visa

If there is no visa held, this is problematic but not necessarily fatal to a de facto application.

Applicants in Australia with a prior visa refusal

De facto Partner visa applicants can often lodge onshore, even if they are onshore and have been refused a visa of another type and are awaiting the outcome of an appeal.

Past Police Problems

Applicants with a criminal record

If you have a criminal record, this may exclude you from a de facto visa grant. Your character is an important criterion for the grant of any visa.

Past police problems will always be problematic to some extent. However, in most cases, it is not necessarily fatal to the outcome unless very serious crimes have been committed.

Talk to me about the particular circumstances in your case.

Sponsors with a criminal record

Watch this space. This process is changing soon. Sponsorship applications are likely to get much more difficult (and delayed) where the sponsor is of poor character, previously involved in family violence, or both.

Registering Your Relationship

If you can do this in your state or territory, do it now! Not all states and territories allow registration.

You can make a de facto visa application based on a registered relationship.
In most states and territories, you’ll get a certificate issued to you in about a month.

You could also get a de facto visa on the basis of having been in a 12-month de facto relationship (without a certificate). However, if you are applying on the basis of the relationship certificate, you won’t need to meet the 12-month rule. Really useful!!

The good states

If you are in a de facto relationship and wish to avoid the 12-month requirement, a relationship certificate is usually a great solution.

Unfortunately for migration purposes, not every state and territory has a relationships register that is recognised.

Here is a list of the states and territories that I call the “good” states.

The best places for de facto couples to live are Victoria, Tasmania, New South Wales, Queensland, and the Australian Capital Territory. It will be frustrating if you are a resident of Western Australia, South Australia, or the Northern Territory. Damn!

Addresses for de facto partnership registration

Register Partner Relationship - Birth Death and Marriage Office Address And Contact For Australia - MyVisa Immigration Lawyers
De facto registration in NSW

You can apply online or download an Application to register a relationship form (PDF, 909.82 KB).

  • Print and complete the form
  • Post your completed certificate application (see form for address) and proof of identity to the Registry of Births Deaths & Marriages

Post to:

GPO Box 30


Registration fee: ​$223

Processing time: (includes 28-day cooling-off period) up to 8 weeks.

For more information please visit the official website by clicking here.

De facto registration in Queensland

Complete, download, and print the register a civil partnership application form.

Visit a Justice of the Peace or another authorised person with your partner (if you are posting your application). Take your proof of ID and supporting documents to have them certified and to complete the statutory declaration section of the application form.

Attach your certified proof of ID, eligibility documents, and evidence of home address.

Submit your application form and supporting documents by post.

            Post to:

Registry of Births Deaths & Marriages

PO Box 15188


  • Register a civil partnership: Free
  • Commemorative civil partnership certificate package (1 standard civil partnership certificate and standard postage included):  $66.70
  • Standard civil partnership certificate (standard postage included): $51.30

For more information please visit the official website by clicking here.

De facto registration in the ACT

Persons wanting to register a civil partnership may apply by completing an Application to register a civil partnership (DOC 182KB) or (PDF 185KB) and paying the prescribed fee for a certificate.

Standard certificate only: $66.00


Post: Access Canberra Births Deaths & Marriages GPO Box 158 Canberra, ACT 2601

In-Person: Please visit here

Or call 132281 to find an Access Canberra Shopfront.

Each person must provide identification and at least one partner must provide evidence of residency within the ACT. Original forms of identification must be presented if applying at the shopfront. 

Applications made by mail must be accompanied by copies of identification certified as true and correct copies by a person authorised under the Statutory Declarations Act 1959 (C’wlth) such as a Justice of the Peace, solicitor, or Police Officer.

If you applied by mail your certificate will be sent to you by registered person-to-person post at which time you will need to present identification at the post office.

For more information please visit the official website by clicking here.

De facto registration in Victoria

Both parties need to take part in registering the relationship:

Step 1: Partner 1 completes their part of the application

Step 2: Department will email Partner 2

Step 3: Partner 2 completes their part.

Both parties must prove their identity which you can do with your driver’s licence (if it confirms your residential address) and your passport. Do not send original copies by mail. When sending copies of the documents they must be certified copies, otherwise they will not be accepted.

Partner 1 must show proof of living in Victoria when filling in the application.

If either of you has previously been married or in a registered relationship, you must provide evidence of its termination. For example

  • Divorce certificate
  • Certificate of revocation of a registered relationship
  • Death certificate of your former partner

Refer to Uploading hard copy documents online for how to attach evidence to your application.

Registration fee: $231.50 Certificate fee: $51.40

For more information please visit the official website by clicking here.

De facto registration in Tasmania

To register your relationship, both parties need to:

It takes at least 28 days from the date a complete and valid application is received to register the relationship.

Standard certificate: $56.55

Priority service standard certificate – approved and completed application will be processed and issued within 24 hours: $56.55 +  $36.30

Once registered, you can apply for a relationship certificate. You can also choose to order a decorative certificate.

For more information please visit the official website by clicking here.

De facto registration in South Australia

If you are a resident of SA you can register your de facto relationship, however it is not recognised for migration purposes.

De facto registration in Western Australia

If you are a resident of WA you can register your de facto relationship, however it is not recognised for migration purposes.

De facto registration in the Northern Territory

Civil relationship registration is not available. If you would like to get married, you can apply online for a marriage certificate. Alternatively, you can contact Births Deaths & Marriages by emailing

Ask Me De Facto Visa Questions!

Please share your questions and comments with me below. This forum helps others access more answers to more real-life visa questions.

I’d love to know more about your de facto partner visa experiences. What would you like to share with me?

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