Serial sponsors and Australian Visa Applications? Do they exist?

What is serial sponsorship, and does it affect me?

There is a Regulation in the Migration Regulations there to stop what is known as “serial sponsorship” in Australian partner visa applications. This is Reg 1.20J, and it affects applications for onshore and offshore partner visas (aka “spouse visas”) as well as prospective marriage visas (aka “fiancée visas”). It’s also known as the “five year rule”.

The Regulation says that if you had successfully sponsored an applicant for a partner visa application, ie. NOT for a tourist visa or any other type of visa, you need to wait for five years before you may lodge a further application for a different applicant.

It also says that you may only sponsor two applicants in a lifetime!


serial sponsorship and the five year rule from regulation 1.20j means you can only sponsor for an australian partner visa after a five year wait


Are there exceptions to this rule? Yes there are.

  1. If you sponsor the same applicant, it doesn’t apply! So if you get back together and try again, you can always do that.
  2. And if there are exceptional circumstances affecting an Australian Citizen (ie. the sponsor) if the sponsorship was to be refused. I won’t elaborate on that right now, but yes if the circumstances are right then yes we can do this. Feel free to do an assessment form on the website and we can discuss this.


Why the concern about serial sponsors?

If you are caught in this scenario, you will be [expletive] upset! And I don’t blame you!

This Regulation came into effect in 1996. Twenty+ years ago. These were easier days to apply for Australian partner visas. The Visa Application Charge was around $1,000.00. Evidence expectations were lighter. An Australian sponsor could go into the Australian Embassy in Manila with a handful of letters, photos, etc and his Filipina wife or fiancée would be interviewed on the spot. The application would be processed within a couple of months, and the lady could migrate from Philippines to Australia.

And in theory, the man could decide he was bored with the lady and could toss her out and go back to Manila to do it all over again. In theory he could do this maybe about twice a year! Now, I have no idea how often this happened in practice. But I guess there were probably some cases of it happening, and if somebody really wanted to I guess they could. Reasonable cost. Fairly easy paperwork. Short waiting-time.

Was the Department and country flooded with serial sponsors 20+ years ago? Honestly, I couldn’t tell you. Perhaps it was happening all-too-frequently, or perhaps it was the urban myth like the Filipinos have the myth of us foreigners insuring the lives of our wives and then tossing them out the window? Mila’s family were worried I might do this! All I know is that I’ve probably only seen one case where I was glad the Regulation was in-place. But have I ever met a genuine serial sponsor? No! I’m generally left fairly puzzled and also overflowing with sympathy for a poor couple caught in this nasty little net that really doesn’t match them and their situation at all!

Reality? These days it will take you 6 months+ to build a serious relationship with a Filipina lady. Lots of time communicating. At least one trip over to meet her in person. 2 – 3 months preparing an application. 9 months processing of the visa application. $10,000.00+ for the application fees, plus costs of travel etc. So say $20,000.00 plus 18 months+ before your Filipina lady arrives in Australia.

And you would then change your mind after two months and go back and try again??? Not [expletive] likely!

Personally, I think this causes more innocent human misery than it prevents the dreaded serial sponsor from exploiting the system and breaking hearts!


The five year rule – Are you caught in it?

Here at Down Under Visa we have our free visa assessment form on the main website. On it, we ask if the Australian sponsor-to-be has ever sponsored anyone for a partner visa before, and it’s for precisely this reason. We need to know if he will be caught by the five-year-rule.

And sadly, yes we do get those who have sponsored less than 5 years ago, and we get those who’ve sponsored twice. And we won’t take on a client if we feel we can’t help them. As with all honest Registered Migration Agents, we don’t take on applications that will be definitely refused.

As I said above, I think the whole thing is outdated and not justified at all. What is the usual scenario that we see? A couple make the wrong choice, which is something that most of us have done even within Australia, otherwise we would all be now married to our high school sweethearts. And most people we meet are not! People make mistakes. Relationships break up. It happens! And most of the time we see clients who had tried their best to make a relationship work, and that relationship fails after putting their heart, soul, plus money and time into making it work.

Then they meet someone else! And they come to Jeff Harvie and say that they want to be together because they are crazy about each other. And I have to tell them it won’t happen until 2019 or so! Fortunately the counting starts on the date you APPLIED and not on the date of the grant, but that’s usually poor consolation. Mostly the couple are devastated. And most of the time we can’t help them. Always a sad moment, I can assure you.


Can Down Under Visa help?

We will if we can, ie. If there is a solid argument for a waiver based on exceptional circumstances, we will tell you. But sadly in most cases we have nothing to work on. Missing each other? This is not a valid argument. In most cases you can only wait it out. Lots of visits back and forth. And we do get a number of clients who have done just this. They’ve toughed it out and they’ve made it! Real love will win out, and you will only be stronger for it.

NB: This is an updated re-posting of a BLOG article from 2015


Free online visa assessment form from Down Under Visa


Jeff Harvie is a Registered Migration Agent from Australia, but resident in Philippines since 2010 with his Filipina wife Mila and large extended family. Experienced with the Philippines culture, cross-cultural relationships and bureaucracy as well as Australian visas and Australian Migration Law, he writes with authority and fortunately with enough informality and humour that the average Aussie gets it!


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