Settlement Guide

Migrating to Australia through family-sponsored visas

Source: Getty Images/FotografiaBasica

Family migration makes for almost half of Australia’s annual permanent migration intake this year, allowing families to reunite in Australia. While some visas in the family stream are processed in a couple of years, some others, like the parent visas and the remaining relative visas, can take several decades.

The 2021-22 Migration Program planning level is set at 160,000 places, with approximately half of the total number reserved for the Family Stream.

Out of the 77,300 visas available under the Family Stream, 72,300 are allocated for partner visas, 4,500 for parent visas, and 500 for other family members.


Key Points:

  • In 2021-22, Family Stream is predominately made of partner visas
  • Parents have seven visa options, with only one for those unable to pass the balance of family test
  • Carer visa has processing time up to four and half years while 50 years may pass before a relative visa is granted

Partner visas

A partner visa applicant will apply for a subclass 820/801 visa if they are in Australia or subclass 309/100 if they are overseas at the time of lodging their visa application. 

Principal Solicitor at Visa Plan James Bae says that an applicant may qualify for a partner visa if they are married to or in a de facto relationship with an Australian citizen or Australian permanent resident.

Generally speaking, from application to permanent residency, we see roughly around three to four years. 

A Prospective Marriage subclass 300 visa lets an Australian citizen or permanent resident sponsor their prospective spouse to travel to Australia. The visa holder then has nine months to marry the sponsor and then apply for a subclass 820/801 onshore partner visa.

couple holding hands sunset
A partner visa can lead directly to permanent residency if a couple has lived together for 3 years or lived together for 2 years and has a child.
Getty Images/Tim Robberts

Mr Bae says that the Department of Home Affairs applies thorough scrutiny while assessing partner visa applications to ensure the relationship between the visa applicant and the sponsor is genuine.

A successful application requires more than just photos and joint bank statements.

Typically, a partner visa application is a two-step process. The first step is the provisional partner visa (subclass 820 or 309), granted until a decision on the permanent visa application (subclass 801 or 100) is made. 

The application for both the provisional and the permanent visas is made on the same form and at the same time. 

Normally the provisional application is assessed first and the permanent application is looked at only after 24 months have passed since the application was lodged. 

Immigration Lawyer at VisaEnvoy Ben Watt says in some cases, applicants can be granted the permanent visa directly, without first granting the provisional visa. Those circumstances include when an applicant is in a long-term relationship with the sponsor.

You have to live together for three years or live together for two years and have a child together.

Parent visa

male family members airport
Sponsored Parent (Temporary) Visa Subclass 870 is for families who have difficulties passing the balance of family test.
Getty Images/Jose Luis Pelaez Inc

If you wish to bring your parents to Australia, Mr Bae says an applicant's journey starts with a test that determines parent’s family links to Australia, known as the balance of family test.

At least half of the applicant's children or stepchildren need Australian citizenship or permanent residency to satisfy this test.

There are officially seven types of parent visas, with only one for those who don’t meet the balance of family test.

Sponsored Parent (Temporary) Visa Subclass 870 was introduced in 2019 for families who don't pass the balance of family test.

This visa can be granted for three or five years, and applicants can pay the cost of $5,000 and $10,000, respectively, in two instalments.

If your parents pass the balance of the family test, they have six visa options depending on whether they are applying inside or outside Australia, parent’s age and financial circumstances.

The contributory visa options have a lower processing time, at around five years. However, the cost is steep at about $48,000. Applicants can choose a two-step visa process that helps stagger the cost.

The cheaper options, Parent Visa Subclass 103 and Aged Parent Visa Subclass 804, cost $6,415, but they are likely to take approximately 30 years for final processing.

Only those parent visa applicants can lodge a visa application onshore who are over pension age. 

VisaEnvoy’s Ben Watt says that for parents who come to Australia on a visitor visa from countries with reciprocal health care agreements with Australia, Subclasses 804 (Aged parent visa) might be a good option if they don’t mind having a long-term indefinite status.

But the vast majority of countries don't have an agreement with Australia, like, for example, India or China. 

Australia has a reciprocal health care agreement covering medical costs when Australians visit 11 countries, and visitors from those countries come to Australia.

Those countries are Belgium, Finland, Italy, Malta, the Netherland, New Zealand, Norway, the Republic of Ireland, Slovenia, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

Child Visa

asian young family on the bed
There are 3 permanent options for children: child visa, orphan relative visa and adoption visa
Getty Images/seksan Mongkhonkhamsao

In most cases, dependent children can be included in their parent’s visa application. But if a partner visa applicant is in Australia when applying for a visa and their child is overseas, the child can temporarily move to Australia on a subclass 445 Dependent Child visa after the parent has been granted a temporary partner visa.

Mr Watt says that applicants have three permanent options depending on the relationship between the child and the sponsor: child visa, orphan relative visa, and adoption visa.

Relative Visa

Depending on your circumstances, it is also possible to sponsor relatives to come and live in Australia.

You may be able to sponsor a relative for a carer visa if you have a medical condition, but no one in your family in Australia can care for you, and you cannot get the necessary care from Australia's health services. In that case, you may sponsor a relative aged over 18 to stay in Australia with Carer visas Subclass 116 and 836.

Processing time for carer visa applications is approximately four and half years.

old woman embracing younger woman
Processing time for carer visa applications is approximately 4 ½ years
Getty Images/Jasmin Merdan

The Remaining Relative and Aged Dependent Relative visas are for those whose only relatives reside in Australia.

Application for these visas can be submitted offshore and onshore.

If you are considering applying while staying in Australia, be mindful that a bridging visa associated with the remaining relative application may not allow you to work if a 'no work' condition is attached to the visa you hold at the time when you lodge your Remaining Relative Visa application. 

It can be particularly challenging as the processing time for a remaining relative visa is over 50 years.


To find out which visa option best suits your family circumstances, visit the Department of Home Affairs website.

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