Are You Holding a Partner Visa and Experiencing Family Violence? There is Hope

Dominic Cookman

04 May 2021


  • Family Law
  • Migration

Family violence is one of the most stressful things a person can experience but leaving your relationship shouldn’t (and doesn’t) mean you have to leave Australia.

Domestic violence is a real and ongoing issue in our community but it cannot threaten your visa status. The Department of Home Affairs (DHA) is acting to both prevent domestic violence and to resist granting visas to those who are the cause of such violence.

For someone experiencing domestic or family violence or abuse while holding a temporary partner visa (or a bridging visa), the situation can be even more frightening.

Partner visas

A partner visa to Australia is granted in two stages:

  1. If the initial partner visa application to Australia is approved, the applicant is issued with a temporary two-year visa, and
  2. After two years have elapsed, the applicant must present evidence to the DHA confirming that the relationship is continuing, after which time the permanent partner visa (permanent residency) can be granted.

The granting of both a temporary and a permanent partner visa depends on showing the continued existence of an ongoing relationship. Where a relationship ends before a permanent partner visa has been granted, the sponsoring partner is legally required to approach the DHA and tell them. This means that a partner visa to the applicant will no longer be granted. The good news is that the dissolution of a relationship after permanent residence is granted does not and cannot affect the visa holder’s right to a permanent visa.

It is not hard to imagine that where a marriage or relationship involving a temporary visa holder is under strain, the sponsoring partner has extra power over the visa applicant and their future. The psychological toll of this power imbalance for the applicant can be enormous.

Domestic violence

Where domestic or family violence has occurred, however, it is possible for certain visa holders to continue their application for a partner visa, even if the relationship that forms the basis of their application has broken down. This applies even where the victim has not yet been granted the initial temporary two-year visa and remains the holder of a bridging visa. The applicant nevertheless retains a responsibility to show that the relationship was a genuine relationship before the violence occurred.

The violence must have occurred while the relationship was in existence. It does not necessarily have to have been physical violence. The violence can involve threats, intimidation or other abuse. Various supporting evidence must be provided to substantiate the domestic violence, and can include a police report, a report from a healthcare worker or mental health professional, or a report from a police officer. The applicant should also prepare a statutory declaration including any evidence, such as photographs, text messages and emails, that shows violence has occurred. Deciding which types of evidence to include can be complicated, and we would suggest that help be sought in preparing your submission.

ACT Legal Aid has also produced a great resource on this issue called ‘Stay Here, Stay Safe’; you can read it here.

How can we help?

If you need assistance with a migration issue, please contact our Migration team on 02 6285 8000 or by email.

*The content of this article is provided for information purposes only, and we do not accept any liability for reliance upon the information contained in this article. This information cannot be relied upon as legal advice.