Update:

Please be aware that as of 16 November 2019, the Subclass 489 Skilled Regional (Provisional) visa has been replaced by a new Subclass 491 Skilled Work Regional (Provisional) visa. This new visa has a five-year term and provides a pathway to permanent residence with a new Subclass 191 Permanent Residence (Skilled Regional) visa, which will be introduced from 16 November 2022.

Applications under the Second Provisional Visa stream of the Subclass 489 visa continue to be accepted. To qualify under this stream, you must hold a subclass 475, 487, 495 or 496 visa at time of lodgement of your application. Be aware that these visa subclasses are no longer being granted by the Department of Home Affairs.

The changes also do affect the Subclass 887 Skilled (Regional) visa permanent residence visa pathway, which continues to be available to eligible subclass 489 visa holders.

For further information about these changes, please see the following articles:

New Skilled Regional Visas to be introduced

Skilled Regional Sponsored Visa

Further Regulations released for the new regional sponsored visas to commence from 16 November 2019


Sponsoring a family member might be easier than you think

A family sponsored visa enables you to sponsor an eligible family member for either a temporary or permanent visa to Australia. As a sponsor, you are required to take on certain obligations in relation to your family member, which will vary depending on the visa subclass granted. But the general over-arching requirement for all sponsors is to ensure that their family member is supported during their initial settlement in Australia, such that they do not become a charge on the Australian community. For temporary sponsored family visas, the sponsor must ensure that their family member will comply with their visa conditions and depart Australia at the end of their visit.

There are several family sponsored visa options that your family member may like to consider applying for, depending on their circumstances, goals and needs. To qualify for a visa, your family member would be required to meet the prescribed valid visa lodgement and grant requirements. Part of this assessment process also involve confirming that you too satisfy the requirements which apply to the sponsor for the visa being applied for.

Sponsorship requirements vary across the various family sponsored visa subclasses, but the most common aspects include:

  • The prescribed degree of your relationship with your family member (e.g. partner, parent or child);
  • Your Australian immigration status (e.g. whether you are an Australian citizen or permanent resident, or an eligible New Zealand citizen);
  • The circumstances relating to your residence in Australia (e.g. whether you are settled and/or usually resident in Australia);
  • Sponsorship bars and limitations may apply (e.g. restrictions are imposed on the number of times you can act as a sponsor for a partner or prospective marriage visa);
  • Your age (generally you are required to be at least aged 18); and
  • You may also be required to satisfy a character requirement.

The main types of sponsored family visas are listed below:

  • Partner and prospective marriage visas;
  • Parent visas;
  • Child visas;
  • Aged Dependant Relative, Remaining Relative, Carer and Orphan Relative visas;
  • Visitor visa; and
  • Skilled regional visa.

In this article, we provide an overview of the various types of sponsored family visa options available and the key aspects that apply to each type of application. 

Partner and prospective marriage visa

A partner visa is designed for applicants who are either in a married or de facto relationship with an Australian citizen or permanent resident, or an eligible New Zealand citizen, and who are seeking to settle in Australia permanently with their partner. It comprises the following visa subclasses:

A partner visa provides a pathway to permanent residence via a two-stage process. It involves first lodging a combined application for a temporary and permanent visa. If approved, the visa applicant will be able to live in Australia temporarily whilst the Department processes their permanent residence visa application. Two years following lodgement, the applicant must submit further evidence to confirm that they remain in a married or de-facto relationship with their Australian partner and are therefore eligible for grant of the permanent residence visa (in addition to other requirements including health and character criteria). Also be aware that de facto relationships are subject to additional de-facto eligibility requirements.

For this type of application, as the Australian partner of the visa applicant, you will be required to sponsor the applicant for the visa. This means you will need to lodge a separate sponsorship application and submit specified documents to the Department as part of the visa application process.

For applicants who are engaged to be married to an Australian citizen or permanent resident, or an eligible New Zealand citizen, they may consider applying for a prospective marriage subclass 300 visa. This provides a pathway to permanent residence and involves a 3-stage process.

The first step is to apply for a temporary subclass 300 visa offshore. If this application is successful, the applicant will be able to travel to Australia to marry their partner within a 9-month period. Once married, they may then apply for a partner visa onshore (subclass 820/801 noted above).

Significant changes affecting the partner visa application process for partner and prospective marriage visa applications are imminent. Once implemented, sponsorships will need to be approved before the visa application can be lodged (currently, the visa and sponsorship applications can be lodged at the same time and approved simultaneously). This will have a major impact on the timing of lodgement of these applications and will thus require careful planning by the visa applicant and sponsor. Due to the complexity of this process, we highly recommend that you seek professional immigration advice if you are considering applying for a partner or prospective marriage visa.

Parent visa

A parent visa enables you to sponsor your parent/s to live in Australia, with both temporary and permanent residence visa options available. As a sponsor, you generally need to be aged 18 years or over and have resided in Australia for a minimum period of two years before application lodgement.

The visa applicant must meet a Balance of Family test, which requires that at least half of their children are Australian citizens or permanent residents, or eligible New Zealand citizens (the child must be usually resident in Australia in some cases). Your parent must also meet health and character requirements to qualify for visa grant.

If your parent is applying for a permanent residence parent visa, they must also have an Assurance of Support (AOS) for the visa to be granted. The AOS is a legal commitment from a person or organisation to provide financial support to the visa applicant, to ensure that they do not need to rely on social security payments. As a sponsor, you may provide an AOS for your parent’s application.

The visa options available within the parent visa class are listed below:

  • Parent subclass 103 visa (offshore permanent residence visa application);
  • Contributory Parent (Temporary) subclass 173 visa (offshore 2-year temporary visa application);
  • Contributory Parent subclass 143 visa (permanent residence visa which can be applied for either onshore or from outside Australia);
  • Aged Parent subclass 804 visa (onshore permanent residence visa application);
  • Contributory Aged Parent (Temporary) subclass 884 visa (onshore temporary residence visa application); and
  • Contributory Aged Parent subclass 864 visa (onshore permanent residence visa application).

Temporary parent visa options

  • Contributory Parent (Temporary) subclass 173 visa (2-year temporary visa);
  • Contributory Aged Parent (Temporary) subclass 884 visa (2-year temporary visa); and
  • Sponsored Parent (Temporary) Subclass 870 visa (a recently introduced long-term temporary visa with a maximum cumulative stay period of 10 years).

Permanent parent visa options

  • Parent subclass 103 visa;
  • Contributory Parent subclass 143 visa;
  • Aged Parent subclass 804 visa; and
  • Contributory Aged Parent subclass 864 visa.

The parent visa class can involve significant wait times for processing of the application, in some cases up to 30 years (such as the subclass 103 and 804 visas). For faster processing times, your parent may consider applying for a Contributory visa (i.e. subclass 173, 143, 884 or 864 visa). But be aware that these applications require payment of a higher visa application lodgement fee.

A new long-term Subclass 870 Sponsored Parent (Temporary) visa has also recently been introduced, which enables a child to sponsor their parent for either a 3- or 5-year stay in Australia, with the option to later re-apply (for a maximum 10-year cumulative stay period). You can read more about this new visa programme in our articles on the announcement and commencement of the subclass 870 visa.

Child visa

The child visa class comprises both permanent and temporary visa options. Permanent child visas are designed to allow eligible children to live permanently in Australia with their parents. A temporary Dependent Child visa enables a child to temporarily reside in Australia whilst the Department processes the parent’s permanent Partner visa application.

The following visas are available under this category:

  • Child subclass 101 visa (offshore permanent residence visa application);
  • Child subclass 802 visa (onshore permanent residence visa application); and
  • Dependent Child subclass 445 visa (temporary residence visa application which can lodged either onshore or from outside Australia).

To be eligible for a Child (subclass 101 or 802) visa, the child must generally be under 18 years of age (there are exceptions for dependent full-time students and disabled children). The child must also not be engaged to marry or have a current, or previous, a spouse or de-facto partner.

A child visa requires sponsorship by either the parent/step-parent of the child, or by the parent/step-parent’s cohabiting spouse or de facto partner. In both cases, the sponsor must be an Australian citizen or permanent resident, or an eligible New Zealand citizen. The sponsor must also be aged at least 18 years of age. For the onshore subclass 802 child visa, the application can alternatively by supported by a State or Territory government welfare authority (in which case, sponsorship by a parent is not required. Special provisions apply to such cases).

The Department may also request that an AOS be provided for the applicant before grant of the visa.

The purpose of the Dependent Child (subclass 445) visa is to enable an eligible child to reside in Australia as their parent awaits processing of their permanent Partner visa application. Once the subclass 445 visa has been granted, the child is to be added to their parent’s permanent Partner visa application.

The be eligible, the child must be a dependent child of the visa holder, which is defined to mean a child or step-child, who is not married/engaged to be married or in a de facto relationship, who is aged under 18. If the child has turned 18, they must be wholly or substantially financially reliant on the parent or have a disability and therefore be unable to work.

The child must be sponsored by the same person who sponsored their parent for their Partner visa application.

Aged Dependant Relative, Remaining Relative, Carer and Orphan Relative visa

Visa subclasses contained within this category are as follows:

  • Aged Dependent Relative subclass 114 visa;
  • Remaining Relative subclass 115 visa;
  • Carer subclass 116 visa; and
  • Orphan Relative subclass 117 visa.

All visa subclasses noted above are permanent residence visas and each application must be lodged from offshore.

The Aged Dependent Relative subclass 114 visa enables an Australian citizen or permanent resident, or eligible New Zealand resident, to sponsor an eligible relative to permanently reside in Australia. An aged dependent relative is a person who does not have a spouse or de facto partner; has been dependent on the sponsor for a reasonable period and remains dependent; and is old enough to be granted an age pension in Australia. A relative for this purpose is a child, sibling, grandparent/grandchild; aunt/uncle; niece/nephew (including step equivalents).

This application requires sponsorship by the Australian relative who is aged 18 year or over, and who is a settled Australian citizen or permanent resident, or eligible New Zealand citizen. The applicant may also be sponsored by the cohabitating spouse or de facto partner of the Australian relative, provided they too are aged at least 18 and are a settled citizen or permanent resident of Australia, or eligible New Zealand citizen.

The Remaining Relative subclass 115 visa is designed for eligible applicants to live in Australia where these family members are their only remaining close family members. It requires sponsorship of the visa applicant by an eligible parent or step-parent, sibling or step-sibling, or an eligible partner of their relative. The visa applicant or their partner must also not have a near relative who usually resides outside Australia. The sponsoring Australian relative must be aged at least 18 and they must be a settled Australian citizen or permanent resident, or eligible New Zealand citizen and must also be usually resident in Australia.

The Carer subclass 116 visa enables eligible applicants to live in Australia for the purpose of caring for an eligible Australian relative with a medical condition for which they require, for at least 2 years, direct assistance in their daily life. The applicant must be sponsored by an Australian relative or by their cohabitating spouse or dependent partner, must be aged at least 18 and be an Australian citizen or permanent resident, or eligible New Zealand citizen.

The Orphan Relative subclass 117 visa enables an eligible child to reside in Australia with their relative in circumstances where the child’s parents have passed away, cannot care for the child as they are permanently incapacitated, or cannot be located. It requires sponsorship by the Australian relative or their cohabitating spouse or de facto partner, who has turned 18 and who is a settled Australia citizen or permanent resident, or eligible New Zealand citizen. The applicant must be aged under 18 and not be married or in a de facto relationship.

Visitor Visa

For a shorter-term visit to Australia, you may consider sponsoring your family member for a Visitor subclass 600 visa under the Sponsored Family stream. This visa is designed for applicants who are seeking to visit Australia as a tourist or for other recreation-type activities such as for a holiday/sightseeing, social/recreational activities, to visit relatives/friends, or to study for less than 3 months. Acceptable reasons for visiting Australia when applying for this visa stream does not include business or medical treatment purposes.

To qualify, the applicant must intend to stay temporarily in Australia for the purpose for which the visa is granted and they must have (or have access to) adequate means to financially support themselves for the period of their stay in Australia.

The applicant must be sponsored by a settled Australian citizen, or a settled Australian permanent resident, who is at least 18. Settled generally means residing lawfully in Australia for a minimum period of 2 years. The sponsor must also be an eligible relative.

The Department may request a security bond for the visa to be granted. Also be aware that a visitor visa granted under the family sponsored stream will include a condition stipulating that the applicant cannot be granted a substantive visa, other than a protection visa, while they remain in Australia.

As a sponsor under the Sponsored Family stream, if the visa applicant fails to comply with all visa conditions to which their visitor visa is subject, you will be subject to a bar for sponsoring another visitor to Australia for 5 years (this bar can only be removed in very limited circumstances).

A visitor visa under the Sponsored Family stream will generally be granted for a period of 3 months. If the visa applicant is seeking a longer stay period, this must be requested in the application, with appropriate supporting documentation provided confirming that they seek a genuine temporary stay in Australia. A 12-month visa term will only be granted in exceptional circumstances.

Skilled regional visa

You may be able to sponsor an eligible family member for a Skilled Regional (Provisional) subclass 489 visa If you are live in a designated area of Australia. This is a provisional temporary points-based visa which would enable your eligible family member to live, work and study in a specified region of Australia for up to 4 years. It also provides a pathway to permanent residence after 2 years if specified requirements are met.

Eligible relatives include a parent, child, sibling, aunt/uncle, grandparent and first cousin.

As a sponsor, you must be aged at least 18 years of age and be an Australian citizen or permanent residence visa holder, or an eligible New Zealand citizen.

To qualify, requirements to be met by your family member include an age-based limit, a positive skills assessment for a nominated skilled occupation and an English language requirement. They must also achieve a minimum score of 65 points in a points test.

To apply for a skilled regional visa, the applicant must first submit an Expression of Interest (EOI) to the Department. Subject to receiving an invitation, they can then proceed to apply for the visa itself. Be aware that a very small number of invitations are issued for this visa stream, with 10 being issued each month since November 2017.

In conclusion, we note that the above discussion provides an overview of the various types of sponsored family visa options available and the key aspects that apply to each type of application. Australia’s migrations laws are complex, and each case is different. We have also referred to several terms which are defined in the migration provisions (and whose meanings may differ from their ordinary usage).

As noted earlier in this article, significant changes affecting sponsorship applications are imminent. The effect of these changes will be to increase the complexity involved in applications requiring sponsorship approval and will require very careful planning to formulate an effective visa pathway which meets the goals and needs of the visa applicant and sponsor.

We recommend that you seek professional advice before you proceed with applying for any visa class, as being fully informed about the process and requirements that apply will give you the best chance of achieving a successful outcome on your application, and thus lessen the chance that it will be refused. A migration professional can help you to do this.

For up to date advice on family sponsored visas, book your confidential consultation with a migration agent in Adelaide. PAX Migration Australia is a leading immigration advice service based in Adelaide.