What Are Your Visa Options, After A Tourist Visa?
If you have brought your girlfriend to Australia on a Tourist visa, to visit you, and things have gone well, you may be wondering “what now?” Do you try to bring her out on another Tourist visa of the same length (or longer or shorter duration) or do you opt for some other sort of visa – 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 visa applications ultimately being refused.
Visa 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 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 Citizenship (DIAC) 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’s 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
Tourist visas have a very limited scope in terms of who can apply for them and the purposes of the visit.
You may need to think about whether your will apply for a Prospective Marriage (Fiancé) visa or will you get married first and then apply for a Partner (Marriage) 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?”
DIAC has very strict rules about who can apply for Tourist, Fiancé and Partner visas. In many situations they will say “this is the wrong visa for you – you need to apply for a different visa.”
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. DIAC recognizes de facto relationships but it does have very strict rules about what defines a de facto relationship. Evidencing a de facto relationship can also be complicated and is also something that must be undertaken carefully.
Timing is obviously very important in your preparations as well, because while a Tourist visa takes only about a week to process, a Fiance or Partner visa can take up 6-12 months to process. This means that if you and your girlfriend go for the Fiance or Partner visa option you will have to think very carefully about your contact arrangements while the visa is processing.
Children from a Previous Relationship
Sometimes there are also children to consider. Your girlfriend may have a child from a previous relationship. While the child may have remained in the home country during the period of your girlfriends 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 the most important thing you need to look at is the custody arrangements. If she does not have full custody of the child or children then the father will have to give permission.
In summary, there are a lot of options open to you and your girlfriend to choose another visa after her initial Tourist visa. The best piece of advice I can give is to think carefully about what the different options encompass – the obligations and requirements, and always plan ahead.