Updated : 03/02/2016
In several EU countries, you can make your partnership official without getting married, in the form of a registered partnership (sometimes called a civil partnership).
Registered partnerships 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, in terms of not only the possibilities they offer, but also the extent to which partnerships contracted abroad are recognised (if at all).
When two or more EU countries are involved – for instance because you move after registering, or register abroad – you should find out which country's laws apply to your partnership – they will have important consequences for your rights and obligations as registered partners.
Registered partnerships are considered equivalent or comparable to marriage in some – but not all – EU countries.
EU countries whose laws do not provide for registered partnerships:
Where they are considered equivalent, 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.
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.
If your partner is an EU national and is economically dependent on you, they will need to claim residence rights (based on their right to follow a registered partner) from the authorities in the country you're moving to.
If your partner is not an EU national, the registered partnership will be key to obtaining the right to live in the EU.
If you want to enter another EU country which does not recognise registered partnerships at all, your partnership will be considered a duly attested long-term relationship. Your new country must facilitate the entry and residence of your partner.
Property rights and maintenance rights for people in registered partnerships are not applied the same way in all EU countries: the rights you derive from your registered partnership in one country may be substantially different in another.
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.