Work Rights for Partner or Spouse Visa Holders

What is a Partner Visa (or Spouse Visa)?

Partner visas are designed to allow partners of Australian permanent residents or citizens to live with them in Australia.

There are broadly speaking 3 types of partner/spouse visa:

1. Temporary Partner Visa

This is a provisional visa for spouses and de facto partners of Australian Permanent Residents and Citizens. The application for a partner visa is now in most cases a 2-stage process. The first stage involves grant of a temporary partner visa. Most partners only qualify for a permanent partner visa 2 years after lodgement of the partner visa application.

The application for a partner visa can either be lodged in Australia or overseas. If lodged in Australia, the applicant would generally be granted a bridging visa allowing them to stay in Australia during processing. The bridging visa would generally have full work rights, but not in all cases.

Due to the limited number of places available for partners, processing of the temporary partner stage may take 2 years or more.

2. Permanent Partner Visa

Most partners only become eligible for a permanent partner visa once 2 years have elapsed after they lodge their partner visa application.

At this stage, they need to show that they are still in a relationship with their Australian partner and provide updated evidence of character.

3. Prospective Spouse (Fiance) Visa

This is where you intend to marry in Australia. The visa has full work rights, but only allows a stay of 9 months. The intention is that the parties will marry in Australia, then apply for a partner visa.

How Many Partner Visa Holders Are There in Australia?

There are approximately 100,000 partner visa holders in Australia at any time.

How Long Does a Partner Visa Last?

Prospective spouse (fiance) visas are valid for 9 months.

Temporary partner visas are valid until a decision is made on the permanent partner visa. It will usually be 2 years before the temporary partner visa holder is eligible for permanent residence, and processing time for the permanent stage may be 12 months or more.

This means that a temporary partner visa is generally valid for 3 years. However, the temporary partner visa will cease if a decision is made to refuse at the permanent stage. The most common reason for refusal is if the relationship breaks down before grant of the permanent partner visa.

Work Rights on a Partner Visa – Primary (Main) Visa Holder

Partner visa holders have full work rights in Australia – whether temporary, permanent or prospective spouse.

Work Rights on a Partner Visa – Secondary (Dependent) Visa Holder

Any dependent children have full work and study rights in Australia.

Risk of Cancellation on a Partner Visa

Partner visas can be cancelled on character grounds – for example if the holder commits a serious offence.

More commonly, temporary partner visas will cease if a decision is made to refuse at the permanent stage. For instance, if the relationship breaks down, the permanent visa would normally be refused and this will result in the temporary partner visa ceasing. This scenario occurs quite regularly, and employers can easily be caught out if the employee does not inform the employer.

How Often Should I Check Work Rights for Partner Visa Holders

At the very least, all employers should check visa status for staff before employment, and also at the time the visa is due to expire.

Because partner visas can cease due to breakdown of the relationship, it is good practice to check regularly during employment as well.

We would recommend checking visa status for partner visa holders once every 3 months.

Summary – Employing Staff on a Partner Visa

Partner visa holders are a large and skilled workforce which can be attractive for employers.

However, partner visa holders can lose their status if their relationship breaks down..

We would recommend checking visa status for partner visa holders before employment and once every 3 months during employment.

How vSure Can Help

The vSure Work Rights app has been built to Australian employers are compliant with the obligations to take “reasonable steps at reasonable times” to check employee work rights.

Rather than having to manually check individuals, vSure has been built specifically for employers with non-citizen / foreign workers to check and automatically keep checking work rights. The app will email or SMS you each time it checks (generally monthly), ensuring you maintain your compliance, without the manual effort.

If you want the easiest and most effective way to ensure work rights compliance, please click here to request a demonstration today.