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Hi everyone,

Long post ahead - thanks in advance for taking the time to read and offer your expertise.

I’ve been trawling these and other forums for some time now and hoping for some guidance.

My partner (a UK citizen currently living in the UK) and I (an Australian citizen currently living in Australia) have been together 2.5 years. We met online in January 2015 (which we call the start of our relationship), and met in person for the first time in June 2015. 

In the past 2.5 years, I've been to visit him in the UK twice - one stint for nine months (though only 6 months in the UK, the rest of the time we were travelling in Europe, I didn’t stay longer than 180 days in the UK) and another three-week holiday last month. He's visited me here in Australia twice - two weeks last May and three weeks over the Christmas just past. We’ve never lived together in an official/registered capacity - just stayed with each other on holidays - so we can’t be classed as ‘defacto’.

We got engaged last month and are now looking for the least complicated and least expensive way for us both have the right to live and work in each others' countries. We are happy to do the registry office thing in the short term to sign the relevant bits of paper if it means getting the relevant visas so we can live and work in the same country.

For the short term, he needs to stay in the UK and keep working, and I need to stay in Australia and keep working. He’ll likely be able to come to Australia in August for a couple of weeks, during which time, we could do the ‘registry thing’, followed by a proper celebration with family and friends next year.

 We still haven’t decided where we will live and work (UK or Australia) once all this is done, though we also want to have a choice of perhaps living in one country for a couple of years, then moving to the other. We are also in the process of researching having a child in one versus the other, which is why we are yet to decide on where we’ll settle.

Basically, we are trying to set up our ability to live and work in both Australia and the UK, so want to get the visa ball rolling in both countries at the same time if possible

I have been looking into the best way for us to acquire the visas we need and I’m hoping someone can confirm if my following summations are correct and then offer some advice or experience on which is the best avenue. I have tried to use the exact visa names and terminology, rather than 'spouse' or 'engagement' visas, as it just gets confusing otherwise.


Marrying in Australia (as I understand it)
  • He can apply for a Prospective Marriage Visa (PMV) from the UK now ($6865).
  • He could come here in August for two weeks and we get married (though he’s entitled to stay 9 months)
  • He goes back to the UK and changes his PMV application to an application for a Partner visa (309)
  • We wait two years until that is reviewed and hopefully approved

Alternatively, we marry, apply for the Partner (820) visa and he stays in Australia and works (and is allowed to travel outside Australia as many times as he wants) until it’s reviewed and approved after two years.

Once the permanent Partner visa is granted (subclass 801) he can stay in Australia indefinitely, work and study in Australia, enrol in Medicare, receive some social security payments and travel outside Australia as many times as he wants for five years from the date the visa is granted (he will apparently then need a Resident Return visa to re-enter Australia)

Questions:
  1. Is the Partner (309) visa exactly the same as the Partner (820) visa - with exactly the same rights, obligations and outcomes, the 309 is just the offshore version?
  2. If they are the same, why is there an extra cost of $1145 associated with applying for the 820?
  3. Do you need to pay $6865 for the PMV and then another $6865 for the 820 or 309?
  4. Can he spend as much time out of Australia during the two years until it's approved? Could we both spend the entire two years out of the country together, say living in the UK?
  5. Would we be better applying for the PMV, getting married and then waiting five more months until out relationship reaches the three year point so we can hopefully go straight to an approved Partner (Migrant) visa (subclass 100)?
  6. Is it ok to wait between getting married and applying for the 820/309?
  7. Just looking at Australian visas, would the cost be the same whether we married in the UK and applied for a Partner visa (309) or went down the PMV + 309 route?
  8. Are then rules as to having to stay in Australia after being granted a permanent Partner visa (subclass 801) to ensure you keep the visa?
  9. Once granted a Permanent Partner visa (subclass 801), and he’s allowed to “travel outside Australia as many times as he wants for five years from the date the visa is granted” - does this also mean we can spend time (such as a couple of years) living outside Australia?
  10. What happens after the five years (“he will then need a Resident Return visa to re-enter Australia”)?


Marrying in the UK (as I understand it)

  • I apply for a family visa (from Australia) now (£1,464).
  • He needs to be earning £18,600 per year and we must be intending to continue living together in the UK after I apply
  • Wait up to 12 weeks for an answer
, then go to the UK and we have six months to get married (during which time I cannot work in the UK)
  • Once married, I can apply to extend my visa (£993 if I am in the UK)
  • Wait around eight weeks (during which time I can work)
  • I can then stay for 2 years and 6 months. I’ll be able to apply to extend again towards the end of that.

Questions:
  1. If we marry in the UK, following the above paths, can my new husband also apply for the Australian Partner Visa (309) offshore? Then we wait two years until that is reviewed and hopefully approved.
  2. If we apply for the PMV, get married in August then change to an application for a 309, can I then also apply for an extended visa in the UK?
  3. Am I able to leave and come back to the UK in those initial 2 years and 6 months? If so, does this mean only for holiday, or could we live in Australia for a year?
  4. Am I entitled to access the PHN during the time I am in the UK on a family/engagement visa, and then on the extended family visa after we are married?
  5. What happens after the 2 years and 6 months?


Looking at the cost of visas only, it seems like the UK is the cheaper option.

However, it also seems like the ‘intention to marry visa’ (family visa/PMV) is more restrictive in the UK, in that you can stay longer in Australia on the PMV and work while you are waiting to get married.

I’d like to hear if I am correct in all my research. I will likely get a consult with an RMA (any recommendations??), but any thoughts on the above would be great. Is the above correct? Have I missed anything? Has anyone found any issues with either of these pathways? Has anyone been in the same situation and looked into both and chosen one over the other? Why? And can anyone give my suggestions as to which pathway would be the least complicated, offer the most freedom and cost the least? Is it worth getting an RMA to help prepare the applications? As I said, all we are trying to do is carve out a pathway for us both to be able to live and work in each other’s country - and other countries (and in the future, potentially also with our children).

Any help with this would be much appreciated - my brain feels a bit fried! :shocked:
 
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