Evidencing Your Relationship – Spouse or De-facto Partner Visa
Applying for an Australian spouse or de-facto visa, through either the onshore 820/801 visa or offshore 309/100 visa? One common question that we receive is in relation to the evidence that you need to provide.
There is quite a bit of information available on the internet in relation to what type of evidence that you should be submitting with your application. The Department’s website and booklet provide good some guidance.
Not all forms of evidence are born equal. Your case officer will place more weight on some forms of evidence relative to others. In this post, we will outline relative strength of different forms of evidence. Now please note that this information doesn’t come from any official source. The below advice is very much my own opinion and is based on my own experience.
Documents that show joint assets, liabilities, undertakings, bequests etc. Examples include:
- Joint bank accounts
- Jointly owned assets such as real estate
- Joint liabilities such as mortgages
- Any joint undertakings such as a joint lease
- Naming each other as beneficiaries under your respective wills or insurance policies
This type of evidence is strong because it can be relevant to multiple factors which your case officer needs to consider. These documents usually state both your name and your sponsoring partner’s name, your address and a date. Consequently, these documents can evidence your co-habitation as well as the duration of your relationship.
More importantly, it also evidences a particular form of commitment that you and your partner have made together, such as jointly incurring a loan or mortgage, or ensuring that your assets are left to each other under your wills.
Your case officer is required to consider the nature of your commitment to each other. And you will see from Regulation 1.09A that to properly address and evidence this consideration, you are expected to provide documents that demonstrate various forms of joint commitments that you have made.
Furthermore, the very definition of a de-facto relationship confirms that you and your partner need to have a ‘mutual commitment to a shared life (to the exclusion of all others)’. This definition clearly implies that de-facto partners are expected to share various aspects of their lives with each other, including finances, liabilities, assets and contractual obligations.
Child or children from the relationship
Demonstrating that you and your partner are jointly responsibility for the care and support of your child or children will likely be seen as strong evidence of your relationship. Ideally, your child or children should be under the legal custody of yourself and your partner. However, even if the child or children is under the legal custody of just your or your partner, joint care and responsibility for the child or children can still used as evidence of your relationship.
Relevant evidence can include (although you may need to submit this evidence as part of the application anyway, particularly if the child or children are actually included as dependent applicants):
- Full unabridged birth certificates
- Evidence of school attendance such as bills, report cards etc.
- Evidence of the child’s or children’s cost of living, such as receipt for clothing, membership with sporting club etc.
Documents generated by third parties that are addressed to you and your partner (these documents can be addressed to one of you only, although documents that are addressed to both you and your partner are stronger in terms of evidencing your relationship). Examples include:
- Bank statements
- Bills, invoices, receipts etc.
- Letters, invitations
- Flight tickets or receipts evidencing your joint holidays or travels
These documents show that you and your partner live together,and also evidence how long you have been living together. In my view, there is a difference between documents that are addressed to you both, and documents that are only addressed to one of you. Again, the relevant consideration is whether your documents demonstrate that you are committed to each other, and that you have a shared life.
I have seen case officers take the view that just providing documents that are addressed to you or your partner only is not sufficient. Their reasoning is that there isn’t enough evidence of your ‘shared life’. So you should really look at everything that you ‘share’ and determine whether you can evidence this (and preferably at the same time, also evidence your co-habitation).
Do you have your membership at the same gym? Do you attend the same church? Do you share any other hobbies, classes or activities? If these bodies or companies send you correspondence, ask whether they can send you documents in your joint names. Of course, some of these bodies and companies will be a lot more accommodating then others, but it never hurts to ask.
I have also included third party evidence of your travel under this category. Showing consistent travel, vacations and activities together is good evidence of your shared life.
Decent (but absolutely necessary) forms of evidence
This category is evidence that you or your partner can directly generate. Examples include:
- Emails/letters to each other
- Social media interaction with each other
- Records of telephone conversations
Yes – this evidence is absolutely necessary. However, most couples will be able to provide ample amounts of this type of evidence. It is critical that you provide this type of evidence as it adds context, colour and life to your application. These documents also demonstrate several factors which your case officer is required to take into consideration such as the ‘social aspect of your relationship’. But since this type of evidence is self generated, if you submit nothing but documents in this category, it is difficult for your case officer to confidently conclude that your relationship satisfies the the legal definition of a de-facto relationship.
The real problem cases are those where only this type of evidence is provided. If you can only provide this type of evidence to demonstrate your relationship, then there is certainly a higher risk that your application may be refused. The risk of refusal is particularly high if you cannot provide any evidence in relation to the shared aspects of your lives, such as the financial commitments and obligations that you have together.
Planning your evidence
Now that you have an idea of what type of evidence that you are expected to provide, and the relative strength of the different types of evidence, I hope that this will assist you and your partner with planning out your application before you prepare and lodge it. It is a lot easier to prepare a properly evidenced application if you start to plan your application from the moment that you decide that you want to apply for a partner or spouse visa (i.e. give yourself as much time as possible to gather relevant and quality evidence).
If you are lacking strong forms of evidence, then you may want to consider the option of opening a joint bank account. You can also contact your household utility providers and see if you can change your accounts to joint accounts. You can apply the same principle to your insurance policy, gym membership etc. Sure, this may be a hassle, but showing this level of commitment and the sharing of various aspects of your life will really make it easier for your case officer to conclude that you are in fact in a de-facto relationship.
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