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Updated : 06/09/2016

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Civil unions and registered partnerships

In several EU countries, you can make your partnership official without getting married with a civil union or registered partnership.

Civil unions allow 2 people who live together as a couple to register their relationship with the relevant public authority in their country of residence.

Differences between EU countries in this field are huge, and include:

  • whether you can enter into a civil union in a specific country
  • what a civil union entitles you to
  • whether a specific country recognises a civil union contracted abroad

Check which rules apply to you

Are two or more EU countries involved – for instance because you move after registering, or register abroad?

Property rights and maintenance rights for people in registered partnerships are not applied the same way in all EU countries. The rights coming from your registered partnership in one country may be substantially different in another.

Find out which country's laws apply to your partnership – they will have important consequences for your rights and obligations as registered partners.

Recognition of civil unions

Civil unions and registered partnerships are considered equivalent or comparable to marriage in some EU countries.

All countries that allow same-sex marriages generally recognise same-sex registered partnerships concluded in other countries.

In countries which do not allow same-sex marriages but which have introduced some form of registered partnership, a same-sex marriage abroad generally gives you the same rights as a registered partnership.

However, the laws of these EU countries do not provide for registered partnerships:

  • Bulgaria
  • Latvia
  • Lithuania
  • Poland
  • Romania
  • Slovakia

Moving abroad with your civil partner

Where civil unions are considered equivalent or comparable to marriage, they give you the same rights for immigration purposes: your registered partner will be entitled to come with you if you settle in these countries.

If you want to move to an EU country which does not recognise registered partnerships at all, your partnership will be considered as a duly attested long-term relationship. Your host country must facilitate the entry and residence of your partner.

Read more on your right to residence abroad.

How this should work

Sample story

Able to stay – thanks to registered partnership

Nina is an entrepreneur from EU country "A" who was exploring a business opportunity in country "B" and wanted her registered partner Hans – unemployed at the time – to join her there.

Although country "B" does not recognise registered partnerships, the existence of the partnership served as proof that the two had a long-term relationship, and Hans was allowed to move there with Nina, even without financial resources of his own.

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