Travelling Overseas After Applying for a Partner Visa

If you have applied for a partner visa (subclass 820) while you were in Australia, then it is important to understand that you must actually be inside Australia in order for your visa to be granted.

If you were in Australia and held a working holiday visa, 457 visa, visitor visa or other type of “substantive” visa when you lodged your partner visa application you should have been granted a Bridging Visa A (BVA). If you submitted your partner visa electronically, the BVA is usually granted within a few minutes of your application being lodged. In this situation, the BVA grant notification should be emailed to you and granted with no work restrictions.

THAT SAID … it is important to understand that your BVA does not “kick in” and become your “effective” visa until your substantive visa has expired. So, if you lodged your partner visa application and held a 457 visa at the time, your BVA wouldn’t become your “effective” visa until after your 457 visa actually expires.

It can take about 18 months to get a decision from the Department of Immigration on a partner visa application and if you hold a 457 visa or a student visa during that period it’s really important to make sure you observe the conditions attached to your visa. If you don’t observe the conditions attached to your visa, your substantive visa could be cancelled and if it’s cancelled your BVA will be cancelled too! Ouch! If this happens, get professional advice ASAP.

One of the advantages of holding a “substantive” visa (whilst your partner visa application is being processed by the Department of Immigration) is that you are likely to have unrestricted travel rights. A BVA is much more restrictive.

With a BVA you can live and work in Australia whilst your partner visa application is being processed but the BVA does not come with travel rights. If you need to travel overseas as a BVA holder, you will need to apply for a BVB and make sure that your BVB is granted before you leave Australia. We call the BVB the “come back” visa.

All sorts of problems can and do occur for people who make the mistake of leaving Australia without a BVB. Getting stuck overseas because you forgot to get a BVB and not being allowed back into Australia whilst your partner visa application is being processed can be an unholy nightmare, especially if you have children.

Don’t go there! Get a BVB!!

The Department of Immigration charges $145.00 for a BVB and the BVB applications are usually turned around quickly, sometimes the same day. To be safe, we’d recommend that you apply for the BVB about 3 weeks before your travel date. It’s a super easy application and you can easily apply for it yourself in your ImmiAccount. Family members included in your partner visa application can usually be included in your BVB application.

BVB’s usually have an end date and it’s important to make sure you get safely back to Australia before the BVB ends … otherwise big problems can follow!

Visa applicants with convictions should be extra careful when it comes to getting a BVB. If you hold a BVA and travel overseas without a BVB and yours is one of those partner visa cases that is being referred (or has been referred) to the Visa Applicant Character Consideration Unit because you have convictions, there is a possibility that you could be waiting overseas for a long time or even permanently! Things can get quite squirrelly where convictions are involved. In fact if the convictions are serious, you possibly shouldn’t be travelling at all!

If you’ve been granted a BVC or a BVE to enable you to remain in Australia until a decision is made on your partner visa application, you cannot get a BVB. If you need to travel overseas for any reason, you could be stuck overseas for a while.

If you do find yourself stuck overseas for whatever reason whilst your 820 visa application is being processed and the Department of Immigration decides that you are eligible for grant of the partner visa, the Department will notify you and in most cases will liaise with the relevant visa office to support the grant of a visitor visa permitting you to return to Australia. However this will usually only happen when the Department is ready to grant your 820 visa.

So, if you are planning to leave Australia before your 820 visa is granted, it’s a really good idea to ensure that:

  • If you hold a substantive visa with no travel restrictions, make sure you re-enter Australia before that visa expires
  • If you hold a Bridging Visa A (BVA), then make sure you apply for and are granted a Bridging Visa B (BVB) BEFORE you leave Australia and re-enter Australia before that BVB expires.
  • If you hold a BVC or BVE, only travel if it’s absolutely necessary.

If you don’t fit one of these two scenarios, it’s advisable to get advice from a Registered Migration Agent to ensure you have a clear pathway to return to Australia at the end of your trip. PLEASE do this BEFORE you travel! It’s much more difficult to help you once you’re stuck in Brazil, Bali or Bangkok!

Bridging visas are a very complex area. This Blog attempts to deal with some of the more common issues associated with bridging visas.

Our team at EasiVisa has helped hundreds of couples successfully apply for partner visas and bridging visas, so if you do need assistance with a partner visa, or want some advice before you travel, please CONTACT US.

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