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What are the difference between onshore and offshore partner visa?

Are you currently in the process of applying for an Australian partner visa as a spouse or de facto partner of an Australian permanent resident, citizen, or eligible New Zealand citizen with the intention to reside in Australia? If so, it is essential to acquaint yourself with the subcategories of partner visas, specifically the offshore and onshore options, as you familiarise yourself with key things before migrating to Australia.

To simplify, an offshore visa application involves applying for an Australian visa while you are located outside of Australia. Conversely, if you are within Australia when submitting your visa application, it is referred to as an onshore visa application.

But do not get confused. While both are partner visa applications, the location of your application holds significant implications, and understanding these differences is essential for a successful visa application. Referencing the infographic below will furnish you with a fundamental understanding of the subcategories within partner visas.

difference between on shore and offshore partner visa


Now that you have absorbed the basic distinctions between onshore and offshore partner visas from the infographic, let’s delve deeper into these distinctions. But before we dive in, it’s crucial to note that there are three primary types of partner visas:

  1. Partner Visa Onshore – Comprising Subclass 820 and Subclass 801 partner visa.
  2. Partner Visa Offshore – Encompassing Partner Visa Subclass 309 and Subclass 100.
  3. Prospective Marriage Visa Subclass 300Visa subclass 300 is also known as a fiancé(e) visa, designed for applicants planning to visit Australia for the purpose of marrying their future partner, with the possibility of subsequently applying for their respective partner visa.

Onshore and Offshore Partner Visa in Australia

Onshore Partner Visa Application

The onshore partner or spouse, visa application process, involves several steps to unite couples who are already in the country and want to remain together. Here’s an overview of the visa process:

  1. Eligibility Criteria: To qualify for an onshore partner visa, you must be legally married or in a de facto relationship with an Australian citizen or permanent resident.
  2. Temporary Visa (Subclass 820): The initial stage of the onshore spouse or partner visa is a temporary partner visa (Subclass 820 visa), which allows you to live and work in Australia while your application is being processed.
  3. Permanent Visa (Subclass 801): After a waiting period, the temporary visa transitions into a permanent visa (Subclass 801 visa), granting you long-term residency in Australia.
  4. Timeline: The onshore visa processing time can vary, but it’s typically shorter than offshore applications due to the applicant’s proximity.
  5. Travel: As an onshore partner visa holder, you can generally travel in and out of Australia. But you must be in Australia at the time of application. To re-enter, ensure you hold a valid visa, potentially a Resident Return Visa (Subclass 155 or 157), as needed by your travel duration or visa conditions.

Also read: What is the average processing time for a partner visa in Australia?

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Benefits of Applying Onshore Partner Visa

  1. Cohabitation Requirement: One of the primary advantages of applying for a Partner Visa onshore is the opportunity to fulfil the cohabitation requirement while living together in Australia. This requirement necessitates living together for a significant period. Applying onshore allows you to meet this requirement easily.
  2. Access to Work and Study: After submitting your onshore application, you will be granted a Bridging Visa before your substantive visa expires, which usually allows you to work, study in Australia, and even apply for a partner visa while you’re on the Bridging Visa. While international travel is typically limited, there is an option to request a Bridging Visa B in specific situations.
  3. Closer to Loved Ones: Applying onshore means being in proximity to your Australian partner, which can be emotionally comforting and make the application process smoother.

Offshore Partner Visa Application

If you and your de facto partner or spouse are currently outside of Australia, the offshore partner or spouse visa application is the suitable choice:

  1. Eligibility Criteria: Similar to the onshore application, you must be legally married or in a de facto relationship with an Australian citizen or permanent resident.
  2. Prospective Marriage Visa (Subclass 300): If you’re engaged to an Australian citizen, you can apply for the Prospective Marriage Visa (Subclass 300), which allows you to enter Australia, marry your spouse or partner, and then apply for your partner visa.
  3. Partner Visa (Subclass 309/100): Following marriage, the Prospective Marriage Visa evolves into the Partner Visa (Subclass 309), and subsequently, the permanent Partner Visa (Subclass 100) is granted, enabling you to live in Australia with your partner.
  4. Timeline: Offshore spouse visa applications typically have a longer processing time, primarily due to the need for offshore applicants to undergo health and character checks.
  5. Travel: While your visa application is being processed, travel to Australia may have limitations, and you must be outside Australia when your visa is granted. However, you can visit Australia on a temporary visa, such as a visitor visa, for a specified period.

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Benefits of Applying Offshore Partner Visa

  1. Reduced Processing Times: Offshore Spouse Visa applications often have shorter processing times compared to onshore applications, allowing you to be reunited with your partner more quickly.
  2. Fewer Preliminary Requirements: In some cases, offshore applications may have fewer preliminary requirements, simplifying the application process.
  3. Fewer Evidence Challenges: Offshore applicants typically face fewer challenges in providing evidence of their relationship, as the separation may be the result of other circumstances, such as work or family commitments.

You may also like: What are Partner Visa application checklist?

Which Partner Visa Is Right for You?

Choosing between onshore or offshore Australian partner visas

Deciding between onshore and offshore visas for Australia is a pivotal choice, as it dictates when and how you can be together with your partner in the country. Each option has its unique benefits and factors to weigh. Let’s take a look at the key considerations:

  1. Location: Are you and your partner currently living in Australia, or are you in separate countries? If you’re in Australia, the onshore visa may be suitable, while if you’re in different countries, you might want to apply for an offshore spouse visa.
  2. Timeline: What is your willingness to wait for the visa to transition from temporary to permanent? Choose an onshore spouse visa if you want to be with your partner in Australia sooner, as they often have shorter application processing durations.
  3. Legal Requirements: Ensure you meet all the eligibility criteria for the chosen visa.
  4. Commitment: Consider the strength of your relationship and your commitment to endure the waiting period. Ensure that your relationship can withstand the challenges of the application procedure and waiting times.
  5. Long-Term Goals: Think about your long-term goals in Australia. If you plan to make Australia your permanent home, carefully consider the pathway that aligns with your goals.

Seek Professional Guidance for the Right Choice

Whether you opt for the onshore or offshore partner visa, the intersection of love and immigration presents a labyrinth of complexities. Yet, it’s a journey worth embarking on for those dedicated to forging a life together. With far-reaching consequences for couples striving to bridge international distances, onshore partner visas enable applicants to apply while residing within the same country as their sponsoring partner, while offshore partner visas require applicants to apply from outside the sponsoring partner’s country.

Given the intricacies of partner visas, it is imperative to seek guidance from specialised consulting firms. These experts will help you navigate the complexities, ensuring you choose the most appropriate visa option for your unique circumstances. At 4Nations, our immigration specialists, backed by extensive experience, are poised to provide comprehensive guidance, equipping you with a thorough understanding of both visa pathways and facilitating your decision-making process.

Don’t leave the narrative of your love story to chance—take the proactive step of scheduling a consultation with 4Nations. Contact us today to gain invaluable guidance and ensure the smoothest possible journey towards your shared future.

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