If you have brought your girlfriend an Australian Tourist visa to visit and spend time with you, and things have gone well, you may be wondering “what now?” Do you try to apply for another Visitor/Tourist visa for her of the same length (or longer or shorter duration), or do you opt for some other one – something that might lead to permanent residency?
These are important questions to ask because taking the wrong approach can lead to delays, irreversible positions, and applications ultimately being refused.
This Planning for your girlfriend is just as necessary as family and financial planning, and early planning and preparation is vital for both short and long-term success.
Clearly, what step you take next will depend on your individual situation.
* At what stage of your relationship are you and your girlfriend at?
* How long have you known each other?
* How much actual face-to-face time have you spent together?
* Do you want to take the next step in the relationship or are you happy where you are?
If you are both happy where you are you might not want to enter into a more serious de facto relationship or get engaged or married… In that case, you might want to think about applying for another Visitor/Tourist visa. But you will still have to think carefully about your situation and the timing of applying for a Tourist visa!
The Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) will not grant Tourist visas indefinitely and they limit the amount of time they will allow on any visa or a series of visas. They also look at the amount of time spent in the home country and abroad, so it is strongly recommended that you speak to an experienced migration agent who can clearly explain the Department’s policies and help you to work out the best option for your situation.
If you decide that it is time to take the next step in your relationship, you may decide that you and your girlfriend want to get engaged. This decision may certainly affect the next visa that she applies for.
Taking the Next Step
You may need to think about whether you will apply for a Prospective Marriage visa, or will you get married first and then apply for a Partner/Marriage/Spouse/De Facto visa? Will you apply in Australia or your girlfriend’s home country? You also have to ask yourself “will my girlfriend qualify for this visa?”, and “will I qualify as a sponsor?”.
DIBP has very strict rules about who can apply for a Partner/Spouse/Marriage/De Facto/Fiancé visa. If you do not check carefully your partner may end up applying for a visa in which either or both of you are not eligible. If this happens, her visa is likely to be refused and this will not only jeopardise your future in Australia together, but you would also almost certainly lose the very large application fee paid.
If you and your girlfriend want to take the next step in your relationship but do not want to get married or engaged, you may want to think about a de facto relationship. DIBP recognises de facto relationships but has very strict rules about what defines a de facto relationship. Evidencing a de facto relationship can also be complicated – it is something that must be undertaken very carefully.
Timing is obviously very important in your preparations as well because while a Visitor/Tourist visa usually takes only about a week or two to prepare and maybe 1 to 4 weeks to process, a Fiance or Partner visa can take up 6-12+ months to process. This means that if you and your girlfriend/partner go for the Fiancé or Partner visa option you will have to think very carefully about planning ahead for your relationship and your travel and contact arrangements while the visa is processing.
Children from a Previous Relationship
Sometimes there are also children to consider. Your girlfriend or partner may have a child from a previous relationship. While the child may have remained in the home country during the period of your girlfriend’s Visitor/Tourist visa, if you two are considering a permanent visa she may want the child to migrate with her to Australia. If this is the case, one of the most important thing you need to look at is the custody arrangements. Does she does not have full custody of the child? if not you may want to look at that or look at other available avenues.
In conclusion, there may be a number of options open to you and your girlfriend or partner to choose another visa after her initial Visitor/Tourist visa. It is very important to think carefully about what the different options encompass – the obligations and requirements, and always plan ahead. If you need any advice or assistance with this process, you can contact us at Australian Visa Advice.