To be eligible to apply for a partner visa, you must be in either a married relationship or a ‘de facto relationship’ with an Australian citizen, permanent resident or an Eligible New Zealand citizen.
It’s usually easy to work out whether someone is in a married relationship and whether the marriage is legally recognized under Australian law. ”Defacto” relationships can be more complicated.
For visa purposes, a ‘defacto relationship’ generally means that you have been cohabiting with your partner for at least 12 months. However, there is an exemption to the 12 months requirement if you have registered your relationship in an Australian State or Territory. You will still need to provide evidence of other aspects of your relationship (living together, sharing of finances, nature of your commitment to each other etc.). Registering your relationship simply removes the “12 months living together” requirement.
What is a registered relationship?
Some of the States and Territories of Australia have a Relationship Register which provides legal recognition of a relationship under the law of that State or Territory. Historically, this enabled States and Territories to recognize same-sex relationships before same-sex marriage was legalised in Australia in 2017.
All States and Territories of Australia, except for Western Australia and the Northern Territory, have a Relationships Register.
Each State or Territory has its own requirements, but generally they require both partners to be 18 years or over and not already married or in a registered relationship. There must be a connection with the State or Territory, usually in the form of being domiciled or ordinarily resident in that State or Territory. Interestingly, New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and South Australia only require one partner to reside in the State whereas Tasmania and the ACT require both partners to be living in their State/Territory.
If you are considering registering your relationship, you should check the particular requirements of your State/Territory before applying. The requirements can and do sometimes change.
Some States and Territories have a ‘cooling off period’ where you will need to wait before your relationship can be registered. This means that if you have an impending visa expiry deadline, you should ask about the “cooling off period” with the appropriate State/Territory government institution. We have provided the following useful weblinks:
NSW Births, Deaths and Marriage website: https://www.bdm.nsw.gov.au/Pages/marriages-relationships/relationship-register.aspx
Victoria Births, Deaths and Marriages website: https://www.bdm.vic.gov.au/marriages-and-relationships/register-a-domestic-relationship
Queensland civil partnerships website: https://www.qld.gov.au/law/births-deaths-marriages-and-divorces/marriage-weddings-and-civil-partnerships/civil-partnerships/entering-a-civil-partnership
South Australia Births, Deaths and Marriages website: https://www.sa.gov.au/topics/family-and-community/births-deaths-and-marriages/register-a-relationship
Tasmania Births, Deaths and Marriages website: https://www.justice.tas.gov.au/bdm/certificates
Access Canberra website: https://www.accesscanberra.act.gov.au/app/answers/detail/a_id/1694
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