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Partner Visa Program Updated for Increased Flexibility

Australia's Partner Visa: No more 'onshore' or 'offshore' distinctions, simplifying applications for couples.

Australia’s Partner Visa Program has recently undergone significant changes, aiming to simplify the process for applicants. Effective from 25 November 2023, these updates eliminate the distinction between ‘onshore’ and ‘offshore’ applicants, making it easier for couples to navigate the visa application journey.

The key changes to the Partner Visa Program

In the context of Australia’s Partner visa program, there are two distinct pathways for visa applications:

  • Onshore (subclass 820/801) visa application: this is intended for applicants who are currently in Australia when submitting their application. It is a requirement for these applicants to remain in Australia throughout the processing period until the application is approved.


  • Offshore (subclass 309/100) visa application: this pathway is designed for applicants who are outside of Australia when submitting their visa application. Historically, these applicants were also required to stay outside Australia until the visa was granted.


The main change is that offshore Partner (subclass 309) visa applicants no longer need to be outside Australia when their visa decision is made. This means that regardless of where they are, applicants can be granted the visa without worrying about travel logistics.

Importantly, these changes also grant offshore applicants the right to directly appeal decisions through Australia’s Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT), a right previously limited to sponsors.

Reasons behind the changes

These changes were prompted by the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. During border closures, the government introduced a temporary concession allowing offshore applicants to stay onshore for visa decisions. As the COVID-19 concession period concluded on 25 November 2023, numerous applicants expressed concern that without this temporary measure, they would be unable to fulfil the visa requirements while onshore. However, the recent amendments make this concession permanent, ensuring fairness and flexibility for all partner visa applicants.

Improved protections for vulnerable applicants

These changes offer extra protection, especially for subclass 309 visa applicants, in case of relationship breakdowns. Previously, offshore applicants had limited review rights, relying solely on their Australian sponsors for appeals. With the new rules, subclass 309 visa applicants can now directly access appeal processes, creating a fairer system.


To sum up, the recent changes in Australia’s Partner Visa Program simplify the application process, offer enhanced protections for applicants, and demonstrate the government’s commitment to facilitating family reunification and fostering international partnerships.

By removing onshore/offshore distinctions, the amendments create a more flexible and fair system, marking a positive step forward in creating a more accessible and streamlined process for couples seeking to build their lives together in Australia.

To discuss these changes, please get in touch with our expert team at to arrange an online consultation. To keep current with updates as they happen, please subscribe to our email updates here.

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