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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi guys!

So, I browsed this forum a LOT as a guest when we were making my partner's visa application, and I finally got around to doing a quick write-up of advice I wish we'd had, and a list of the information we ended up submitting. I thought I would give back and post it all here as it may be helpful for someone else.

I have tried to post the whole blog post as THIS post, but it is too long (over 10,000 characters) so I will post it as comments. First of all, I'll explain our situation.

Our situation (slightly abnormal)

I'm an Aussie and I moved to the UK early 2015 to work. I met Aaron (a Brit) in late 2015, we moved in together in the UK mid 2016, and I got a job offer back in Australia mid 2017 to start in early 2018. We ummed and ahhed about whether to move back or not because the job was in Adelaide, and eventually we decided I would move and he would come out with me to spend some time in the area to decide if he wanted to commit to moving out here. If not, he would return to the UK and wait until one or both of us could find work in coastal Queensland, which is where he really wanted to be.

He already had a tourist visa from our previous visit to Australia that hadn't expired, so in late 2017 when we landed in Australia he entered the country using that. While he was here with me he quickly decided he'd like to stay, and we found he could actually apply for the partner visa from in-country while on a tourist visa, instead of having to leave the country and apply externally. It was lucky we had already digitised our records and evidence (knowing we would eventually seek a partner visa down the track) because we were pretty much already ready to apply.

We applied without the help of a company or agency. We applied for the first stage (temporary 820) in mid December 2017 and received it in early April 2018. We are waiting for the 2 year mark from first application to request his permanent 801 in December 2019.

Disclaimer

I want to make clear, I do not recommend deliberately taking the tourist-to-partner visa route! I'm amazed they ever allow it. As I understand, if the Australian government discovers you got a tourist visa with the intention of entering the country and then applying for a partner visa, it considers it grounds to cancel your visa and send you packing. Tourist visas also often have the stipulation no further stay (conditions 8503, 8534, and 8535) added to them, meaning you cannot apply for another visa once you're in the country anyway. If you don't have that stipulation, you can still be caught if they search your bags on arrival and discover a bunch of visa documents and identifying info like birth certificates etc that a tourist would not reasonably bring. They will question you, and may deny you entry entirely. So don't make it your strategy to "visit" as a "tourist" and then apply - it is risky!

Two comments to come with the general advice I wish I had, and the full list of evidence we submitted!
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
On to the advice and time saving tips!

  • If you are planning to apply for this visa EVER and you have not already started collecting evidence, you are behind the game. I am not joking. The longer ago something was, the harder it is to find and document - and believe me, they want to see everything. If you want to cruise through this process without stressing that you'll get knocked back and lose your $$$, then you need to over-prep. To really believe you're a real deal relationship, they want chat logs from years ago, they want to see evidence of the early development of the relationship, they want facebook posts, they want photos and evidence of joint activities, they want leases, mortgages, they want personal mail delivered to the joint address, they want emails or texts to other people about each other, they want utility bills, they want online grocery receipts, they want to know who cooks what, they want to know who takes the trash out, they want to see shared pets, evidence of gifts given to one another, time spent with each others' family, events jointly attended, the way you split your finances, EVERYTHING!
  • With the above being said, this process is not just about collecting huge amounts of evidence of your lives together, although this mammoth task had so consumed me that I was almost surprised by the rest of it. There's a lot of work in just doing the basic application! Before you upload a single measly love letter, you have to fill in a huge multi-page web-based form that will ask you for detailed information about the applicant, the sponsor, all the countries you've visited and when, the members of your family, what you ate for breakfast…
  • Feel free to ignore the headings and skip some headings when it comes to uploading documents after you've generated and paid for your application. There is basically a huge list of headings for you to upload documents in, and the offered headings don't cover everything you want to submit, and the examples of pieces of evidence that may fit under a heading are not exhaustive either. Do the best you can and don't be afraid to use the 'other' category if you don't think the rest are quite right for a particular piece of evidence, and either annotate the document itself with a small explanation of why it's included, or upload another document at the end with a list of what the extra pieces of evidence are and why you've included them.
  • Don't upload the same document multiple times under different categories. They know a birth certificate shows citizenship as well as age as well as ID, etc. You don't have to upload it multiple times under all the headings for which it might be relevant. Upload it once and leave the other similar headings blank if need be.
  • REMEMBER THE UPLOAD LIMIT IN ADVANCE!! Crucial! No single document you upload can be larger than 5MB, and this is SMALL. You also only get 60 uploads. This was a huge pain in the bum for us, as we had a LOT of evidence, especially in the form of documents we'd scanned in with our phones where you don't have the option of selecting a lower scan quality. If you're scanning with a traditional scanner, try to lower the quality to reduce the end file size. As long as it's still official looking and legible, there is no disadvantage to having it at a lower resolution, especially when it's a large document and will be enormous if you scan it in high resolution (for example, a 10 page lease). The only thing high resolution does for you is give you a headache as you painstakingly split the document up into pieces to get under the 5MB limit!
  • Wherever possible and logical you should combine multiple small pieces of evidence into one document, if it makes sense to do so and stays under 5MB. This is because you only get 60 document slots, and as the months go on you will probably find you want to upload more things and you don't want to be stuck for space. An example combo would be combining all your utility bills into one longer document, instead of uploading them all separately. Drop the quality if you're hitting the 5MB limit, as long as it's still readable.
  • Do NOT bother pre-organising your documents into categories before you start your application! Your document management should be simple - as you collect all the evidence you can think of leading up to the application, name the file clearly so you know what is is, keep all files under 5MB at all costs (split into part1/part2/part3 if need be), and put them all in a big folder. Move pieces of evidence into a folder marked "submitted" once you've used it once, to avoid doubling up and wasting one of your 60 slots. We wasted so much time trying to be super organised in advance, using the information on the gov website about what forms of evidence would be necessary, and the groupings changed completely within the application.
  • Give yourself a LOAD of time, because however long you think this will take, it will take longer. Nobody can pay thousands of dollars (which you do at the very start) without then feeling like they need to quadruple check everything and upload insane amounts of evidence to make very sure they'll get through. All the advice guides in the world cannot prepare you for the volume of admin work you are going to do. For us, it took several straight days (and I mean, all day erryday) to get through the process of uploading it all. Much of that time though was due to not planning for the 5MB limit, so if I can give you one gift, it will be the forewarning about the 5MB limit.
  • CONSTANTLY HIT SAVE DURING THE APPLICATION!!! on more than one occasion I had filled in hundreds of words, or logged a page of entries worth of travel destinations and dates, or added a handful of attachments, only for the next page to fail to load because it had timed out! I cannot tell you how frustrating this is when you're already stressed over the whole affair. do SMALL pieces of work and hit save or confirm as you go! don't do huge chunks at once because odds are you will lose the lot, and then you will angry cry.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
The full list of what we uploaded
In no particular order, which is as I command, because - did I mention - there's no point organising and grouping your evidence in advance

  • all the identity documents for us both: passports, birth certificates, passport type photo for Aaron, and recent police checks we already happened to have (don't do new ones until they ask for them, because they may expire before being assessed. Same for health assessment)
  • airbnb confirmation and host's review of us as guests, from our first week in Australia
  • bank letters to my dad's address in Aus (our new base until we got established)
  • 3x Form 888, done by my cousin (who we'd visited together and had invited us to her wedding), my dad (who obviously knew us both and we'd visited multiple times), and an Australian friend of (who we had stayed with on previous visits from the UK together)
  • Form 80 for Aaron and Form 40SP for Emily (the core information forms about applicant and sponsor individually). You may have seen online that some people say you can avoid the Form 80 by finding some other sections of your application to complete on the online portal, but I have a feeling the system has changed since these people did their applications, because I couldn't find anything that looked fully the same to fill in. Some also say you don't need to do the 40SP anymore because questions relating to the sponsor are included in the 27 pages of interrogation you fill out during the actual online visa application - I actually agree with these people, but I was on a plane and bored so I just filled it in anyway to make sure.
  • 2x statements, one about household responsibilities and one about living arrangements (these were both done jointly covering the points given on the gov website)
  • 2x statements about our relationship (these must be done individually)
  • our lease for the flat we shared in the UK, in both our names, from 1.5 years prior
  • deposit protection letters to us both, from the above lease
  • a large selection of bills and online shopping receipts over the course of the 1.5 years we lived there
  • closing accounts of utilities sent to Aaron's parents' address, addressed to us both, when we moved there as a base for some late 2017 travelling
  • emails between us and the rental agency giving our notice and giving the same forwarding address for any personal mail (aaron's parents' place)
  • private Whatsapp chat logs from our two periods of separation (each 1 week long) from over a year prior, to help show we have been a genuine couple for well over a year and kept in contact
  • documents and letters relating to our attempts to secure a mortgage and buy a property in the UK (this ended up falling through due to most UK banks either being intolerant of foreigners on visas that depend on employers sponsoring you, and/or being intolerant of Aaron being a contractor and not a permanent employee. we couldn't catch a break!)
  • facebook message history from nearly 2 years prior when Aaron was my point of contact with the police when my phone got stolen
  • loads of travel bookings, flight bookings, and rental car bookings dating back nearly 2 years, with both our names on
  • Christmas cards that had been sent to us both together by various friends and family (undated, so possibly unhelpful, but we had spare slots and felt like it added a bit of authenticity)
  • a joint invitation to a family wedding over a year prior
  • music festival tickets and the bus transfer tickets from over a year prior
  • the entirety of our shared facebook timeline which had photos of us and our travels and cute posts to each other etc, which dated back nearly 2 years at that point
  • a few examples of personal letters sent to our joint address
  • a review an airbnb host left for us after we stayed at her place nearly 2 years ago, which referred to us as a couple
  • chat logs from when we very first started seeing each other (over 2 years ago)
  • bank statements from our joint bank account, dating back to when we opened it together (1.5 years ago)
  • evidence of Aaron booking a tandem skydive for me at his skydiving club, and the certificate and screenshot of the video, from over a year prior
  • documents relating to our joint contents insurance and a claim we made on it over a year prior
  • photos of Aaron doing household things cleaning our oven and building our Christmas tree (often in his underwear, which hopefully gave the immigration officer a laugh)
  • document containing links to two videos Aaron has made about us, one of a trip we took to Iceland and one a compilation of all our adventures over our relationship, which was a cute anniversary video
 

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I thought they have increased the total files from 60 to 100? but if that is the case and a couple need even 60 uploads - they have not done their home work.

I hope some day someone takes screen shots of the blank application pages and upload categories.

Tip - 888's take long to get and get them to leave the date and sign blank until you are ready.
 

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It is now 100 per applicant, 100 per sponsor, etc.

Wish I would have thought to do a screenshot! LOL
 

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I did the same for the 5MB limit. Compressed the pdfs. Most I didn't have to do, as I was aware of the limit. However, my leases and linked facebook pages were huge, so had to compress them to get them under that 5MB limit.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
so getting married on an ETA that has multiple entry is frowned upon? where is this stated?
It's for the purposes of tourism or certain limited business. You're supposed to enter on a prospective marriage visa if you're intending to marry when you're here. If you're already together you should apply from offshore. Entering as a "tourist" intending to apply for partner visas is a no-no and they can turn you away if they find documents and so on in your bags, or have other reason to believe you're not entering as a tourist.

"The purpose of a visitor visa is to holiday and visit family. It is not intended to enable the lodging of an application for a permanent visa whilst in Australia. Consequently, visitor and other temporary visas may be granted with a 'no further stay' condition."
 

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Entering as a "tourist" intending to apply for partner visas is a no-no and they can turn you away if they find documents and so on in your bags, or have other reason to believe you're not entering as a tourist.
Everybody's circumstances are different.

In reality many people use this pathway and it is perfectly legal to apply for an onshore partner visa while holding an ETA or a tourist visa without "no further stay condition".

There is a great deal of information (not publicly available) in the Procedures Advice Manuals (used by case officers), which specifically mentions people applying for tourist visas, who are in a relationship with an Australian citizen or permanent resident and how to deal with such applications.
 
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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Sure, sometimes that’s what happens, maybe you’re visiting with your long term partner and you both decide to stay, whatever - but they’re clear on the home affairs website that that’s not the intention of a tourist visa. They’re supposed to be for visiting and you’re not supposed to deliberately get one as your way in to apply for a partner visa. That’s why sometimes they’ll only grant the visitor visas with a ‘no further stay’ condition, depending. You can’t necessarily rely on it as your method.
 

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so getting married on an ETA that has multiple entry is frowned upon? where is this stated?
It's for the purposes of tourism or certain limited business. You're supposed to enter on a prospective marriage visa if you're intending to marry when you're here. If you're already together you should apply from offshore. Entering as a "tourist" intending to apply for partner visas is a no-no and they can turn you away if they find documents and so on in your bags, or have other reason to believe you're not entering as a tourist.

"The purpose of a visitor visa is to holiday and visit family. It is not intended to enable the lodging of an application for a permanent visa whilst in Australia. Consequently, visitor and other temporary visas may be granted with a 'no further stay' condition."
There's a common misconception that marrying an Australian permanent resident or citizen is a guaranteed way to obtain residency here.
 

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I hope some day someone takes screen shots of the blank application pages and upload categories.
If only someone had done that prior to uploading their documents, eh?
 

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Sure, sometimes that's what happens, maybe you're visiting with your long term partner and you both decide to stay, whatever - but they're clear on the home affairs website that that's not the intention of a tourist visa. They're supposed to be for visiting and you're not supposed to deliberately get one as your way in to apply for a partner visa. That's why sometimes they'll only grant the visitor visas with a 'no further stay' condition, depending. You can't necessarily rely on it as your method.
I get my information from the migration regulations, not from the DHA website.There are some very clear instructions , which I will not copy here, but which basically state that intending to make a further visa application in Australia is not a reason in itself to refuse a visitor visa.

The reality is that many people use this pathway and while you can't rely on it, I have never had any issues with it in 12 years of practice.
 

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I get my information from the migration regulations, not from the DHA website.There are some very clear instructions , which I will not copy here, but which basically state that intending to make a further visa application in Australia is not a reason in itself to refuse a visitor visa.

The reality is that many people use this pathway and while you can't rely on it, I have never had any issues with it in 12 years of practice.
My agent said the same.... not to even think twice about it! I wondered where the poster was getting the wording saying you shouldn't! I read the same information you did and it clearly states an ETA is an expectable visa to use to establish a relationship. I think someone told her that it can be a problem or she misunderstood the exact details of what you really can do on an ETA in regards to applying for onshore!
 

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My agent said the same.... not to even think twice about it! I wondered where the poster was getting the wording saying you shouldn't! I read the same information you did and it clearly states an ETA is an expectable visa to use to establish a relationship. I think someone told her that it can be a problem or she misunderstood the exact details of what you really can do on an ETA in regards to applying for onshore!
Will also depend on the agent at the border at the airport and his/her personal feelings on the said day.

Unless it is a Pair and they have a AFL influential person with the Immigration Ministers phone number that is happy to sort things on a Sunday.

Things can get bad!
 

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Will also depend on the agent at the border at the airport and his/her personal feelings on the said day.

Unless it is a Pair and they have a AFL influential person with the Immigration Ministers phone number that is happy to sort things on a Sunday.

Things can get bad!
I don't disagree with you! Obviously it can be bad! In the states its the same but with a bit more prejudice depending on country of origin. In the end I guess it all comes down to if you give them a reason to stop you and question you, what you have with you that is suspicious or if you abused the system and used an ETA improperly. Case by case kinda thing!
 
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