If you and your Thai, Filipina or other girlfriend or partner are discussing Australian visa options for her with your Migration Agent, at some point you will probably consider a Partner visa. Depending on your relationship situation you may have the option to think about whether you go for a Partner visa by marriage or a Partner visa by de facto. In this article I will discuss the key differences between the two.
As you would expect, the Partner visa by marriage requires that you and your partner be married. This marriage needs to be a legal marriage as defined under the Migration Act and Regulations. Therefore it cannot be simply a traditional marriage if that marriage is not registered in the government office that deals with marriages in that country. You and you partner can get married in Australia or in another country so long as the requirements of a legally recognized marriage are met.
There are some exceptions, such as same sex, underage or polygamous marriages, which, while they may be accepted as legally binding marriages in some countries, are not accepted in Australia.
Of course, not all couples want to get married for one reason or another. If this is the case you might want to look at the Partner visa by de facto. In contrast to the Partner visa by marriage, the Partner visa by de facto requires that the couple be in a de facto relationship as recognised by the Migration Act and Regulations. There are strict rules as to what defines a de facto relationship in this context. For example: the couple cannot be in a married relationship, they are not related by family, they both must be aged at least 18 years at the time the application is made, they have a mutual commitment to a shared life to the exclusion of all others, the relationship between them is genuine and continuing, they live together or do not live separately and apart on a permanent basis, etc…
Some relationships may not qualify as de facto under the rules and if this is the case you and your partner might want to consider the Partner visa by Marriage option.
As mentioned above, Australia does not currently recognise same sex marriages, so if you are a same sex couple you will not have the option of going down the marriage route. You must go for the Partner visa by de facto – and obviously you will need to qualify under the de facto rules.
Therefore, in conclusion you and your partner should discuss your relationship situation with your Migration Agent to see whether you qualify for either or both of the Partner visa options. If you do qualify for both you should consider what option best suits you situation and your needs.