Police Checks for your Partner Visa: 13 Burning Questions Answered

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by Rofia Mavaddat - LL.B - Registered Migration Agent [MARN 1467678]

March 13, 2024

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If you’re applying for an Australian Partner Visa, then as part of the assessment process, you need to meet what’s called the ‘character test’. 

In your application forms, you are going to be asked a whole range of questions when it comes to your character and you will also need to provide a police check (possibly a few). 

In this blog I’m going to try to answer everything you need to know when it comes to police checks for your partner visa.

Let’s start with getting some confusion out the way when it comes to police checks and partner visas. Depending on what you have read and who you have spoken with, you may have heard the phrase ‘Police Check’ and ‘Police Clearance’ used. 

There’s no difference between these two phrases. They are used interchangeably. So if you see both these terms while researching ‘Police Checks for Partner Visa’, don’t be thrown off by the word ‘clearance’. Also, in some countries a Police Check is known as a Police Clearance, but at the end of the day you just need to make sure you are providing the right type of Police Check for the country that you need one from. 

Anyone applying for an Australian Partner Visa needs to provide a Police Check. That generally means, the Applicant (the person who is applying), any migrating dependents who are over the age of 16, and of course, the visa sponsor. 

It’s important to stop here and note that it’s a mandatory requirement to provide police checks for your partner visa. They are mandatory for both the visa applicant and visa sponsor so you must provide them as part of your partner visa application.

As of November 2016, Sponsors for partner visas were also required to provide police checks for any country they had lived in for 12 months or more, over the last 10 years.

The rationale behind this requirement was to keep visa applicants and any migrating dependents safe. If your Sponsor has a ‘relevant offence’ and ‘substantial criminal record’ then the Department must refuse the sponsorship. There is a waiver criteria available, however if you think your sponsor might have an offence listed on their police check, it’s best to speak with an immigration lawyer or migration agent and get advice before processing with a partner visa.

If you have spent 12 months or more over the last 10 years in any one country, then you need to provide a police check for that country. 

The most common mistake I see when it comes to understanding the requirement around police checks is oftentimes couples believe it just needs to be for the country they are living in or have spent 12 months consecutively in. The time spent in any one country is calculated consecutively. So say you are the Sponsor and have lived in Australia for your whole life but over the last 10 years have taken multiple trips to the UK (for example, to visit your partner, or family/friends/holiday), and your trips have added up to 12 months, then you need a police check from the UK. 

For the purpose of your Australian Partner Visa, a police check is valid for 12 months. 

If it has been over 12 months and your police check is expired BUT you haven’t travelled back to the country of issue, then technically you don’t need to provide an updated police check. What’s the logic here? Well you can’t commit a crime if you’ve not stepped foot back in the country so asking for an updated police check wouldn’t make sense. 

Let’s give another practical example. You are from the UK and obtained a UK police check in January 2023 (so it’s valid until January 2024). In February 2023 you left to come to Australia and lodged an onshore partner visa. If you have not returned to the UK after January 2024 and you have lodged your partner visa, then you don’t need to provide an updated police check. 

If you do travel back to the UK, then you will need to provide an updated police check. 

One of the most common problems I see with police checks is where either the applicant or sponsor can’t obtain a police check for a country they lived in for reasons outside of their control. For example, if you were living on a visitor visa during that period, you were there as a refugee, maybe you were living unlawfully in that country or perhaps living in a war torn country. 

In these situations immigration will still expect that you have made every effort to obtain the relevant police check but that it’s simply not possible. It’s important that you try to document your efforts of trying to obtain the police check such as sending emails to the relevant authority or body, trying to engage third parties to assist with the process etc. 

Immigration is very savvy when it comes to police checks and they will be aware whether or not it is actually possible for you to obtain a police check from the relevant country. 

So if you just don’t want to make attempts to apply for a police check, then immigration will know and you will just be delaying the processing of your application.  

In situations where a police check can’t be obtained, then immigration may give you an opportunity to sign a character statutory declaration about whether or not you have committed any crimes in that country. 

The process of applying for a police check varies between countries. Immigration needs a very specific type of police check so be sure to check the Department of Home Affairs website for instructions on how to apply for your police check. 

As an example, there are lots of different police checks you can obtain in Australia. Some are for employment purposes, some are police checks issued by the state/territory and others are federal. For your Australian partner visa, you will need to supply an Australian Federal Police Clearance

So again, it’s best to check the Department of Home Affairs website because they will set out the type of police check they want. 

If it’s not in English, then yes!

Luckily not. You simply need to provide a clear coloured scanned copy of your police check. This is uploaded to your Immi Portal with all your other supporting documents. 

I recommend providing all of your police checks at time of application, which generally means that applying for your police checks should be one of the first steps in preparing for your partner visa. 

Remember that some police checks might take weeks or even months to obtain, so it’s best to be prepared and have them all ready to go once you apply for your visa. 

This will also help you lodge a decision ready application. 

Your key takeaway here is that both the Applicant AND Sponsor must provide any relevant police checks as part of the partner visa application process. The most reliable way to find instructions on how to apply for your relevant police check is to check the Department of Home Affairs website.

It’s important to disclose any offences and criminal convictions recorded on your police check. If you think you might have a conviction recorded on your police check, or you know that you do, then depending on the nature of the offence, trying to tackle a partner visa on your own might not be the right route for you. I would recommend you seek immigration advice around your character history and an opinion as to whether your police check is going to impact the outcome of your partner visa.

I have seen all sorts of offences and recorded convictions on police checks. Some of the most common include DUI charges, traffic offences such as speeding, and unpaid fines. In most cases, these offences don’t result in a visa refusal, however, each case is different and the circumstances around each offence is also different. Although these types of offences sound minor, if you’re investing close to $9,000 in the partner visa application fee, then you should invest in immigration advice to determine whether you are putting your application at risk by not being prepared from the outset.

If you’re struggling to determine where you need a police check from or need more information about the requirements around police checks for your partner visa, then get in touch with us today.

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Rofia Mavaddat - LL.B - Registered Migration Agent [MARN 1467678]

Rofia was born in Perth, Australia. She holds a Bachelor of Law and has been a Registered Migration Agent since 2014. Rofia chose to specialise in Partner Visas because of a deep-seated belief in the power of love and family unity. She has seen firsthand the joy and fulfillment that comes from reuniting couples and keeping families together. Her work in this area allows her to witness and be a part of the beautiful stories of love and togetherness - what could be more rewarding? 

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