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My 309 visa was granted yesterday and I am over the moon about it! I wanted to say a big thanks to everyone who helped answer my questions whenever I had a freak out moment and I wanted to share what we did for our application as it was a bit "unusual" in hopes it might help someone. I am by no means an expert and I understand the outcome depends on where the visa is being processed and how the CO will assess the application so what works for us might not work for you, but it might help with some reassurance which is mostly what I looked for in these forums after we applied!

Me- Applicant, Mexican citizen currently living and working in China for the last 7 years
Sponsor- Australian citizen, second time sponsoring

Started reading and researching about the Partner 309 visa in August 2017 and didn't feel ready to apply until 8 months later. Applied ourselves for 309 April 22, 2018, no agent. Medical submitted in May and Police checks in June. Visa was processed in Guangzhou, China and first entry is until September.
Previously held 2 tourist visas, after applying for 309 was granted a 3rd tourist visa.

Applied as de facto when sponsor moved to China starting August 2016 and have been living apart since December 2017.

The evidence we had:
- TONS of photos. We love traveling and do so often even while apart we made it a point to meet up every 2-3 months. We submitted big files of photos and organized them by country we had traveled to or occasion like Christmas 2016, etc. Also had photos of him with my family and me with his family, weddings of friends we attended together, etc,
-Aside from three 888 declarations from the sponsor's side, I had 3 of my friends, non Australian citizens, write and sign statements for us and uploaded alongside a color copy of their passport.
-Lots of screenshots of WeChat, Skype and WhatsApp showing calls and messages during the times we were apart as well as travel plans to see each other and continue the relationship
- The police residence registration form for both under the same address as proof we were living together as well as the food delivery app under my sponsor's name
-My name as beneficiary under my sponsor's super
-Relationship registered in NSW March 2018
-We got engaged 3 months after applying for the 309 and submitted photos as well as congratulatory messages from friends and family and wedding plans we have.

The evidence we didn't have:
-China doesn't allow joint bank accounts and in daily life we pay for everything with our phones so I went through the app, all 1.5 years we lived together and highlighted what we each paid for and color coded it by category, social, financial, etc. In our statements we also talked about how for traveling we share finances by one person paying flights, the other hotels, and we submitted evidence of this highlighted in our separate bank statements.
-Only the apartment contract was under both our names but we had no shared bills (I transfer to the landlord directly on my phone), no mail addressed to both of us, no shared loans, no subscriptions together, no property or cars together.

The little things I think I messed up on that didn't really matter
-We forgot to sign our personal statements before we uploaded them
-I uploaded things more than once on immi as I thought it pertained to more than one category
-6 months into the application I realized we had not done the sponsorship application through immi, we had only done a 40sp and uploaded under my application so went ahead and filled out sponsorship application.

Contact: Only once in January of this year requesting police checks, I emailed to say we had already submitted them and got a response back saying they had double checked and what I had submitted was OK. Visa granted 2 months after.

General personal advice based on my application: do you research, spend time to see what you have, what you don't have, what you can get, how can you balance out what you don't have, etc.
We lacked evidence in a lot of the big areas due to our particular situation but I made sure our application was strong in others and every little thing I could find that would help I presented it as clear, organized information. Everything was labeled and color-coded to show which of the 4 evidence categories it belonged to.

Also every 2-3 months I uploaded new photos, new travel plans, new file of screenshots showing we are still in contact and the relationship continues. I've read they only assess the evidence submitted when you first apply so I'm not sure if it worked or not I just felt we had really new good stuff to upload so I did.

Hope this helps someone as I am now going to take a break from going on the forums everyday until its time to submit new evidence for the 100 visa :)
 
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