If you are considering applying for a partner visa, your partner must sponsor you. To be approved as a sponsor, your partner must satisfy a number of requirements, which are discussed below. Failure to do so can have serious implications for your application, as your visa cannot be approved unless your sponsor is also approved. It is therefore vital that you address this as part of your application.

Take note that sponsorship requirements and related procedures have been subject to greater attention in recent years. The Australian Government has enacted additional criteria applicable to sponsors, which came into effect from 18 November 2016. It has also announced its intention to introduce further changes which could have significant implications for the visa applicant.

Requirements for sponsorship approval

Your partner must be:

  • Your spouse or de-facto partner (note these each have their own specific requirements under the migration provisions, which may differ to their common usage meaning)
  • an Australian citizen, Australian permanent resident, or eligible New Zealand citizen
  • aged 18 years of age or older (there are exceptions to this minimum age requirement in some instances)

Sponsorship limitations:

  • a person can sponsor a maximum of 2 partners over their lifetime
  • if your partner has previously sponsored another partner, they must wait at least 5 years since the date they lodged the previous sponsorship before they can sponsor you
  • if your partner was granted a partner visa themselves, they can sponsor you only after 5 years have passed since they lodged their own visa application

Note that these limitations can be waived in certain instances arising from compelling circumstances.

Registrable Offence

If your partner has been charged with or convicted of a ‘registrable offence,’ the sponsorship will be refused unless no conviction is recorded or set aside, or the application does not include a child under 18 years of age.

Registrable offences are aimed at the protection of children, by applying added scrutiny to sponsors who have convictions for child sex offences or other serious offences.

Immigration does have the discretion to approve the sponsorship if the sponsor completed a sentence imposed as a result of the conviction for more than 5 years before you lodge your visa application, and there are compelling circumstances. Note that any offences committed within that 5 year period will also be considered.

Changes which came into effect on 18 November 2016

As a result of these changes, your partner is now required to provide:

  • police clearances for Australia and/or other countries when requested by Immigration
  • consent to disclose to you, as the visa applicant, convictions for certain offences, referred to as ‘relevant offences,’ which they have committed. If your sponsor fails to provide their consent, your application will be refused.

Failing to provide police clearances within a reasonable time can also lead to a refusal.

What is a relevant offence?

Offences which are committed either in Australia or overseas and include:

  • breaching an apprehended violence order
  • human trafficking and slavery offences
  • firearms and other dangerous weapons offences
  • violent offences, including murder and assault
  • harassment, stalking and intimidation offences
  • people smuggling offences

if your partner has been convicted of a ‘relevant offence,’ and they have a ‘significant criminal record,’ your application will be refused, unless Immigration assesses that it would be reasonable not to refuse.

If your partner has been convicted of a relevant offence, but they do not have a significant criminal record, your application will not automatically be refused, however, Immigration will notify you of these convictions.

What is a significant criminal record?

If your partner has been sentenced to one of the following, they will have a significant criminal record:

  • life imprisonment
  • death
  • imprisonment for 12 months or greater
  • where they have been sentenced to more than 1 term of imprisonment, and the total term is 12 months or greater

The aim of these reforms is to protect the visa applicant, to ensure that you are armed with all relevant information for making your decision in whether you wish to continue with your application.

Proposed changes

The Australian Government has announced its intention to introduce a new requirement applicable to sponsors, whereby the sponsorship will need to be approved before you can lodge your visa application. Contrast this with the current system, whereby the visa and sponsorship applications are lodged at the same time.

A change of this nature may give rise to significant implications for you, as a result of the delay in awaiting the sponsorship approval. If in that intervening period, your current visa is due to expire, you will need to either apply for another visa while you wait for the sponsorship approval, or you will be required to depart Australia in order to comply with your visa conditions. If you were to overstay your visa and become unlawful, you may still be able to apply for the partner visa in Australia, but you will be subject to additional criteria for visa approval.


To avoid these changes to the sponsorship approval process, you may wish to consider lodging your application as soon as possible (subject to meeting the requirements to do so).

Given the significant implications that can result from the above sponsorship limitations and character requirements, it is critical that you are fully informed of these, and that you address them as they apply to your situation. Failure to do so can result in a refusal of your application.

It is also important to note that the above is not an exhaustive list. Migration laws are complex and it is essential that you are fully informed before proceeding with an application. Contact us today to ensure you have the most up to date information about your partner visa application.