If you are considering applying for a partner visa and are in a de facto relationship with an Australian partner, there are requirements which you will need to meet which apply specifically to de facto relationships. It is important to be aware of these special rules and ensure that you address them in your application as failing to do so can result in your application being refused.

In this article, we discuss the key requirements that de facto partners must satisfy to be eligible for grant of a partner visa.

What is a de facto relationship?

The definition of a de facto relationship for Australian migration law purposes is not necessarily the same as its ordinary common meaning. To satisfy the definition for partner visa purposes, you must:

  • not be married to one another;
  • have a mutual commitment to a shared life to the exclusion of all others;
  • have a genuine and continuing relationship;
  • live together, or if you do live apart, this must only be temporary (i.e. you must not live ‘separately and apart’ on a permanent basis);
  • not be related by family; and
  • both be at least 18 years of age.

To demonstrate that you meet these requirements, as part of your application you need to address each of the following aspects of your relationship:

  • Financial – to demonstrate the pooling of financial resources, joint asset ownership and/or assuming joint liabilities
  • Social – to demonstrate that your relationship is recognised by others as being genuine (e.g. in the eyes of family and friends) and that you jointly engage in social events and travel/other activities, etc.
  • Household – to demonstrate your living arrangements and how you organise your domestic responsibilities (e.g. cooking, cleaning, etc.) and provide care and support for children
  • Commitment to one another – to demonstrate the length and history of your relationship, your intention for it to be a continuing one and how you maintained contact for any periods when you lived apart.

Immigration will assess your de facto relationship by considering the above factors, taking into account any other relevant information provided in your application as well as the individual circumstances of your relationship. Although these factors do not legally have to be ‘met’ to satisfy the definition, they are the key elements which Immigration considers in establishing whether a de facto relationship exists for migration law purposes.

As such, you should make every effort to address each factor by providing relevant evidence for each one and provide reasons why a certain area may be lacking. For example, it may be the case that you and your partner have not lived together for the entire duration of your de facto relationship due to work commitments. Provided this is only temporary, and that you have lived together since the commencement of your de facto relationship, you may still satisfy the definition. The evidence which you provide with your application will be key in this regard.


Duration of your de facto relationship

A key requirement for visa grant is to demonstrate that you have been in a de facto relationship for at least 12 months as at the date when you apply for the visa unless you can meet one of the following exemptions:

  • you can demonstrate that compelling and compassionate circumstances exist for grant of the visa;
  • your Australia partner (as your sponsor) either is, or was, the holder of a permanent humanitarian visa, and before a grant of that visa, had declared the existence of your de facto relationship to Immigration;
  • your sponsor has applied for a permanent humanitarian visa; or
  • your relationship is registered with an Australian State or Territory Government.

Compelling and compassionate

Meeting the ‘compelling and compassionate’ condition would generally require one of the following circumstances to exist:

  • there is a dependent child of the relationship; or
  • it is illegal for you to live with your partner in a de facto relationship in your home country.

Note there may be other reasons deemed acceptable by Immigration for the purposes of satisfying ‘compelling and compassionate’ and each case will be judged individually.

Relationship registration

Registering your relationship with a State or Territory Government will result in the legal recognition of you and your partner as a couple and will bring with it certain legal rights and responsibilities. Each State and Territory will have its own specific conditions which must be satisfied to register a relationship (contact your relevant State or Territory authority for more information if you are considering registering your relationship).

In conclusion, given the highly complex nature of the migration laws, and the fact that every individual case is different, we strongly recommend that you book a consultation with an experienced migration agent, so that you are fully informed about the requirements that apply to de facto relationships to ensure that you have the best chance of having a successful outcome.