A partner visa may be a good option if you want to remain in Australia with your spouse or de facto partner. However, the numerous requirements and restrictions result in high refusal rates for this visa. Therefore, it is important to be aware of issues that may harm your prospects of success. This article will look at two case studies to demonstrate the circumstances where a partner visa application may be refused.

Case Study One (Saentong)

Overview of Case Facts

Ms Saentong was a 27-year-old applicant. Her 49-year-old partner sponsored her for a partner visa. Ms Saentong's application was refused at first as her partner had sponsored someone else around two years earlier. However, the court reconsidered the matter on appeal. The following section will explain why and will outline the concerns raised about their relationship.

You can only sponsor another person a maximum of two times for a partner visa application. However, compelling circumstances affecting the sponsor may allow for an exception. Generally, if you have already successfully sponsored someone for a partner visa once, and you would like to sponsor a second person, you must wait a minimum of five years from the date of the first application.

For example, if Peter applied to sponsor his partner on 15th September 2020, Peter cannot submit an application to sponsor another person on a partner visa until 16th September 2025.

Initial Rejection – Five-year Limitation

Ms Saentong and her partner appealed the outcome based on compelling circumstances affecting the partner. The sponsor requested a reschedule of the appeal hearing. This was due to the travel-heavy nature of his work and scheduled work trips, making it difficult for him to appear in person at the appeal hearing. This was approved as the party's representative argued the sponsor needed to be able to present evidence about the compelling circumstances in person.

At the date of the appeal hearing, Ms Saentong's sponsor was no longer within the five-year limitation period. Therefore, the party's representative claimed that the five-year limitation no longer applied. Additionally, the representative argued that it did not need to be considered whether there were compelling circumstances. The court questioned the necessity and motivations behind delaying the appeal hearing. However, they ultimately accepted that the five-year limitation period no longer applied.

Genuine and Committed Relationship Concerns

The Tribunal did not assess the genuine and committed relationship in this hearing. However, the Tribunal mentioned that there was insufficient evidence to satisfy them that Ms Saentong's relationship was a genuine de facto relationship.

Potential shortfalls the Tribunal mentioned include:

  • financial aspects of the relationship. The parties did not have any pooled resources or shared assets, except for one joint bank account with one recorded transaction in the provided statements;
  • lack of documentation evidencing cohabitation. They could not show documentation to prove that they lived together. Although the sponsor advised this was due to the off the grid nature of the house; and
  • conflicting evidence about Ms Saentong's relationship with sponsor's family. The sponsor claimed Ms Saentong was close with his family and provided invaluable support to her ill husband. Miss Saentong said otherwise.


The Tribunal sent Ms Saentong's matter back to the Department for consideration. However, it is unlikely the Department would approve her application unless she addressed the concerns outlined by the Tribunal. This would require her to provide additional documentation and evidence that the relationship was a genuine de facto relationship.

Case Study Two (Wang)

Overview of Case Facts

Ms Wang lodged a partner visa application based on her relationship with her sponsor Mr Bakarat whom she had met through a mutual friend in July 2013. They were engaged seven months later and had since been living together in a property leased in Mr Bakarat's name. However, the Tribunal was not convinced that the relationship was genuine with a mutual commitment to the exclusion of all others.

Reasons for Rejection

The Tribunal was concerned that Ms Wang was using the partner visa primarily as a way to stay in Australia. Although the couple were able to provide abundant documentation, the Tribunal decided it did not necessarily reflect the relationship. However, they needed more to establish that the relationship was genuine and there was a real commitment to the relationship. Ms Wang's application did not establish this.

The Tribunal questioned the following:

Visa history

Ms Wang had travelled to Australia on a student visa but had not completed or progressed in her studies. The Tribunal was not satisfied that Ms Wang ever intended to study in Australia, noting her family's inability to financially support her studies and the lack of any real progress in her enrolled courses.

Mutual commitment to each other

The Tribunal was of the view that there was not a mutual commitment to the relationship. They found it would be difficult to develop this considering Ms Wang provided evidence that she had limited English ability to communicate with her sponsor about anything other than simple matters.

Social aspects of the relationship

Ms Wang could not answer basic questions about the sponsor's family or children such as their age, despite claiming to have a close relationship. The Tribunal was not convinced that the Applicant had made any effort to establish a meaningful relationship with the sponsor's family.

Financial aspects of the relationship

The Tribunal found there was no evidence of joint ownership of assets or joint liabilities, and there was minimal pooling of finances or sharing of daily expenses. Having a joint bank account was not sufficient enough as the Tribunal formed the view that the parties had little knowledge about the operations of that account or about each other's financial situations.


The Tribunal thought that Ms Wang's motivation in entering the relationship was to enable her to remain in Australia. They were not satisfied that she was the spouse or de facto partner of the sponsor.

Key Takeaways

If you, your spouse or de facto partner are applying for a partner visa and want to prevent it from being refused, it is essential to remember the following:

  • you must wait for a minimum of five years to lapse from the date of the first application before sponsoring a second partner visa application;
  • providing substantive documentation may not be enough to establish a de facto relationship. You must be able to prove that the relationship is genuine with commitment from both people to the exclusion of all others;
  • a lack of pooled resources or shared assets can be harmful to your application in establishing a de facto or spousal relationship.