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I’m thinking this will be our last posting before the year ends. And I think this is a good time to give some of our Down Under Visa clients a few things to think about when it comes to partner visas and your best options for getting from Philippines to Australia as 2022 looms close. 


Australian partner visas and best options end of 2021 


Australian Travel Ban Exemptions and Partner Visas


I think most of you know my opinion on how Travel Ban Exemptions have been handled/mishandled.

At first, ie in 2020, they were generally fair. Prime Minister Morrison said very clearly that of course spouses of Australian Citizens and Permanent Residents would be let in. And this is what they generally did… first.

Then later on they took it upon themselves to decide whose marital or de facto partner relationship was genuine and which was not! We would submit the same level of relationship evidence as we would with partner visa applications! Yet they would still knock them back, often time and time again for the same clients.

And you all know who you are. You know also that we’ve battled for you, yet in far too many cases to no avail. (And we DO appreciate the fact that basically none of you have blamed us for these outcomes.)


Travel Ban Exemptions – The Problem


  • The task of assessing applications for Travel Ban Exemptions was given to Border Force (the uniformed-guard section of the Department of Home Affairs), and not to regular Immigration staff. Border Force are there to guard the borders. They are NOT trained to assess relationships, as are those Immigration Case Officers from the partner visa sections.
  • I have it on informed authority that they spend about 5 minutes only on each application!
  • There is no review or appeal process, as there is when a visa is refused. No one to complain to when a decision is unjust.
  • Border Force do not need to refer to the legislation ie the Migration Act and the Migration Regulations, or even the Procedures Advice Manual (PAM) which contains a wealth of information for Case Officers advising them how to interpret the legislation. 

Bluntly? Lately we’re not having a lot of success with these. Not for lack of trying or lack of dedication. In some cases we’ve submitted 12 or 13 times, and we’ve never charged any extra for this.


Visa Options for Tourist Visas and/or Onshore Partner Visas


Prior to COVID, we would have had 2 – 3 times as many onshore partner visa applicants as we had onshore partner visa applicants.



Pre-COVID Onshore Partner Visas (with tourist visas)


  • Previously, whilst no application is ever a certainty we almost never had a tourist visa refused for a Filipina who was in a relationship with an Australian. We prepared and lodged very sound applications with mountains of evidence. Of course we did! These were couples preparing for partner visa applications, and we had all of their partner visa evidence on-hand!  So we would invariably get our Filipina visa applicants into Australia fairly quickly and smoothly.
  • The application for the onshore partner visa would be lodged inside Australia before the tourist visa ran out. The applicant went onto a bridging visa, and could remain in Australia during the partner visa processing time.


Offshore Partner Visas pre-COVID


  • They were then… now…..much easier to process. And they’ve never had that ticking clock (ie pending tourist visa expiry date) to worry about. 
  • Took forever to be processed. Not like 10 years ago when they would all take approx. 4 months! They dragged these visa applications out for 18 – 24 months sometimes!
  • If the applicant visited Australia on a tourist visa, they most certainly could NOT remain for 18 months or more! And if they were ready to finalize the offshore partner visa the applicant (in Australia on a tourist visa) had to leave Australia before they would give the OK!


What has changed for Australian partner visas in 2021?


  • As explained, it’s NOT so easy to get travel ban exemptions as it was…..and as it SHOULD be! That means the certainly of arriving in Australia on a tourist visa is diminished and not getting any easier. 
  • They changed the rules about offshore partner visas in regard to where the applicant had to be at the “time of decision”. They may now be OFFSHORE (ie outside Australia) or ONSHORE (ie inside Australia). 
  • Offshore Partner Visas are being processed much faster now. 8 – 12 months is fairly average, although we’ve had some processed even faster than that this year.


My advice to anyone waiting on a tourist visa?


  • I’m now telling everyone that yes we can and will start preparing tourist visa applications, but be aware that they won’t grant them until the Australian borders open to tourists from the Philippines. 
  • I’m not encouraging people to try for Travel Ban Exemptions, except in very specific circumstances, ie.
      • Tourist visas for PARENTS? They are now allowing Travel Ban Exemptions, and these are going through readily. Political pressure, I suspect!
      • Tourist visas for rock-solid lived-together for a substantial time, raised kids together, bought houses together couples! They’re tending to grant travel ban exemptions when the case is really clear!

I’m basically warning everyone that they may have to just wait for the Australian borders to open to tourists. 


My advice re choice of partner visa?


  • Firstly, please consider an OFFSHORE Partner Visa!
  • At least you know that the application may be able to be lodged sooner rather than later! The sooner the application is lodged, the sooner it’s granted! 
  • And remember that you CAN still apply for a tourist visa when you have an offshore partner visa in the system! We’ve done that with clients for 10+ years, and it’s taken enormous pressure off clients knowing they can be together sooner. 
  • My GUESS is just a few more months for tourist entry into Australia. 
  • It’s NOT overly expensive to apply for a tourist visa
  • And they’ve changed the rules about where an applicant has to be at grant-time, as I said above. Unless they change the rules back (highly unlikely, I would think!), if they’re ready to grant the visa and the Offshore Partner Visa applicant is inside Australia? They will grant it, and she won’t need to leave at all! Not bad at all, eh?


So please use your time over the Christmas break to think about your options. We’re quite happy to change a pending Subclass 820 onshore partner visa application to a Subclass 309 offshore partner visa if you meet all the requirements.

And again, have a really nice holiday season together with your family, and may the New Year and 2022 bring you all that you so desperately want. 



Free online visa assessment form from Down Under Visa



COVID CONCERNS? From 21 Feb 2022 the Australian border will be open. You just need a visa and to be double-vaxed! Click above and get a free assessment!


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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1 Comment

  1. Jarrad Townley

    It is a sad time for the world since covid-19 as of about March 2020.. But you wrote it & explained it so well thank you..


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