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Since COVID-19, there has been a bit of a change in approach in the Department with the handling of ONSHORE Tourist Visa (aka Onshore Visitor Visa) applications. Many of you will know this. The rule USED to be that they did not want you to spend more time inside Australia during an 18 month period than you spent outside Australia. We would warn prospective visa applicants who were trying for that third-in-a-row visa that they may face a refusal or maybe a one month grant. A one month grant effectively means “You have a month to book a flight and to say your goodbyes, because you’ve had enough!” 

That was how it was!

Since the pandemic? Airports closed. Airports overseas closed. QANTAS grounded its flights. Almost-empty skies! Refusing visas or granting one-month-bye-bye visas would have led to only one thing! Massive numbers in detention, probably leading to mass coronavirus spread WITHIN these overcrowded detention centres. Human rights catastrophe, which was thankfully averted by sensible handling by the Department.


Onshore Tourist Visas just got harder

Future possibilities?


So? They’ve been generous in allowing extended stays. There are couples who’ve been together on repeat onshore tourist visas since 2019! They’re safely living in homes all over Australia and doing no harm at all.

Let me tell you what happened last week!


What happened last week with an onshore tourist visa


I had a client contact me. They had intended quite a while ago to apply for a partner visa, but it hadn’t happened yet. And they were applying for multiple onshore tourist visas allowing a nice long stay. Then the onshore visitor visa they applied for on 9th of October came back. Yes, granted. Must leave by 9 November 2020!

That’s their delightfully blunt way of saying “Time to go!”, as I explained already. They didn’t expect it. And I wouldn’t have expected it either. First of its kind at least in 2020 for this li’l black duck! 


Change in Onshore Tourist Visa Grants ahead?


Was this a one-off? I really don’t know. It could be. It could have been a Case Officer on a bad day, but it could be a change in practice. Maybe they feel that there are enough returning flights to no longer justify letting tourist visa holders stay so long. Maybe!

I take this opportunity to warn those of you in Australian Filipina relationships that this MIGHT be “the writing on the wall”. It MAY be the end of long-stays on onshore tourist visas. They MAY have had a change of heart and a change of practice, and may be wanting to send long stayers packing and on the first available flights!

Maybe you’re OK about leaving. I’m sure some of you are, and will have enjoyed your time together but don’t mind heading back to the Philippines at all. Maybe! But maybe you don’t want to leave? I’m sure that staying together with your sweetheart for nearly a year or maybe more has made the idea of separating for who-knows-how-long a horrible thought for many Australian Filipina couples! Maybe this is you?


Can’t get another onshore tourist visa – what can you do?


Two options only


Return to the Philippines on the first available flight


Yes, this might well be OK with you. If it is, I wish you a happy flight. I have no idea if you can easily get a return flight. Maybe this is no big deal, but maybe it is? I haven’t been trying to book any flights lately, so I really can’t answer that. But if this IS your intention, strongly suggest you don’t leave flight bookings to Philippines until the last minute!


Look at an onshore partner visa application


The very real threat of being pulled apart and kept apart may be too much for many couples. Maybe you won’t see each other for 9 months or so? Maybe you’ve already been considering a partner visa, and maybe this is just the key to trigger some urgency?


Onshore Partner Visa


You may apply for an onshore partner visa if:

  • The Filipina visa applicant is inside Australia
  • You have a genuine, committed relationship which you intend to be permanent
  • You are either (a) married or (b) in an existing de facto relationship*
  • You lodge the application while you are still lawfully in Australia and hold a substantive visa (eg you still hold a tourist visa which hasn’t expired)
  • Your tourist visa should NOT have a Condition 8503 (No Further Stay) on it

Please do not contact me and say (a) we want a partner visa, and (b) we may marry in the next few years! You need to be already in a permanent relationship. If you’re still holding-back, sorry but this is not the visa for you.

*You may actually BE in a de facto relationship without knowing it, especially if you’ve spent a long time together. If you’re not sure, ask! I can assess your current situation very quickly and simply.


Other issues


  • The fee is high, and needs to be paid in full before we can lodge
  • There is a mountain of work to be done! It’s not like a tourist visa!
  • We will need documents from Philippines, which Down Under Visa can NOT get for you. Ideally you need a helpful relative or two who can help you.
  • If you want to include kids, can’t be done initially if the child is not there in Australia with you
  • The applicant should be in good health
  • The applicant AND the sponsor should have a fairly clean criminal record
  • The sponsor should not have sponsored anyone for a PARTNER visa before (a) in the last 5 years or (b) more than once before


And most importantly, you need to accept that you have a deadline to meet, ie when your current tourist visa runs out! This is NOT the time for arguing or delaying matters. You will need to devote every spare moment to making this happen.


After the Partner Visa application is lodged


After it’s lodged, you may breathe again! After it’s lodged you are safe and stable, and you will remain so!

After you lodge the visa application, THEN after the tourist visa runs out, the visa applicant will be able to remain in Australian on a Bridging Visa A (BVA)! And she will remain on the Bridging Visa A until the visa processing is finished. Partner Visa applications take forever to process. One year…..eighteen months…..two years. All are possible. But you are on a bridging visa, which means you may remain lawfully inside Australia during the processing time. If it takes two years, then you remain happily and securely in Australia for two years! No need to leave.


Fringe Benefits


Australian Onshore Partner Visas are a good deal! They are very good to visa applicants on bridging visa.

  • You may work
  • You may apply for Medicare
  • You may study

The only thing you really CANNOT do on a Bridging Visa A is you cannot travel overseas. If you leave the country, the BVA ceases to be, and you’re stuck outside Australia. You MAY be able to return on a tourist visa….or you may not. Do not let this happen! Please!

In normal times, a Bridging Visa B may be applied-for to allow travel, however I have a sneaking suspicion they may not be granting them at the moment. And honestly, why would you risk leaving? I strongly suggest you stay put for now.


So please consider! And please let us know if this is you and if you wish to make your stay in Australia permanent visa with an Onshore Partner Visa.



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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! Down Under Visa specialises in visas for Australians in relationships with ladies and gents from Philippines, Thailand, China and Vietnam. Read MORE
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