Schedule 3 Criteria – Don’t hold a substantive visa at the time of making your application

If you are in Australia and you do not hold a substantive visa at the time you apply for a partner visa (for example you hold a bridging visa) you must be able to meet what are called Schedule 3 criteria or satisfy your case officer that there are compelling reasons for not applying those criteria.

The relevant departmental policy guidance on this issue is as follows:

Clause 820.211(2)(d)(ii), the ‘compelling reasons’ provision, allows certain persons who are unlawful in Australia to regularise their status if compelling reasons exist.

The Migration Regulations do not prescribe the circumstances that need to be considered when assessing whether or not ‘compelling reasons’ exist to not apply Schedule 3 criteria 3001, 3003 and 3004. As such, officers should consider circumstances on a case by case basis.

In doing so, however, officers should be mindful that the intent of the waiver provisions is to allow persons whose circumstances are genuinely compelling to regularise their status. The provisions are not intended to give, or be perceived to give, an unfair advantage to persons who:

• fail to comply with their visa conditions or
• deliberately manipulate their circumstances to give rise to compelling reasons or
• an leave Australia and apply for aan leave Australia and apply for a Partner visa outside Australia.

An example of where the circumstances may not be compelling to waive the Schedule 3 requirements may be where an applicant has remained unlawful for a number of years, made little or no effort to regularise their status and claims compelling circumstances on the basis of a long term relationship with their sponsoring partner and/or hardship caused by separation if they were to apply outside Australia for the visa.

With the intent of the waiver provisions in mind, it is generally reasonable to expect that compelling reasons to exercise the waiver provision exist where an applicant’s circumstances happened beyond their control. That is, circumstances beyond the applicant’s control had led them to become unlawful and/or prevented them from regularising their status through means other than the Partner visa application for which they seek the waiver.

For example, in the scenario given earlier, it is reasonable to accept that compelling circumstances exist to waive the Schedule 3 criteria if, for reasons beyond the applicant’s control – such as severe illness or incapacity – the applicant was prevented from regularising their status in the years they had been unlawful.

As a general rule, the existence of a genuine spouse or de facto relationship between the applicant and sponsoring partner, and/or the hardship suffered from the separation if the applicant were to leave, and apply for the visa, outside Australia are not, in themselves, compelling reasons not to apply the Schedule 3 criteria. This is because a genuine relationship forms the basis of all Partner visa applications, and hardship caused by separation, whilst it differs in degree from one case to another, is common in the Partner visa caseload, particularly in the offshore context where partners may be separated for extended periods during visa processing.

Policy intends that the waiver provision should not be applied where it is reasonable to expect the applicant to leave Australia and apply outside Australia for a Partner visa. This not only ensures fairness and equity to other applicants and discourages deliberate non-compliance, but also preserves the integrity of the Partner visa program in general and the waiver provisions in specific.

Matters that officers should take into consideration when assessing whether the applicant’s circumstances may be considered compelling include but are not limited to:
• any history of non-compliance by the applicant
• the length of time the applicant has been unlawful
• the reasons why the applicant became unlawful
• the reasons why the applicant did not seek to regularise their status sooner
• what steps, if any, the applicant has taken to regularise their status (other than applying for a Partner visa).