Couples may have to wait up to two months before they can register their relationship under new laws passed by the NSW Government.

Legislation to enact a relationships register passed both houses of Parliament last week. NSW now joins the Australian Capital Territory, Victoria and Tasmania on the list of jurisdictions offering formal recognition for same-sex couples.

The Labor Party-endorsed bill was passed 62-9 in the Lower House and 32-5 in the Upper House after two days of debate.

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Introducing the bill into the Upper House, NSW Attorney General John Hatzistergos said the reforms would create a formal mechanism to recognise all de facto relationships and ensure couples were able to access the full suite of their rights and entitlements under state and Commonwealth law.

“This reform respects the dignity of unmarried couples,” Hatzistergos said.

“It does this by creating a mechanism by which couples who register their relationship will, for the purposes of most NSW legislation, have access to rights and entitlements as de facto partners without having to establish each time that they are in a genuinely committed relationship.

“This will make the process of seeking access to entitlements and assert rights easier, and will provide a greater certainty of outcome.”

Although it does not create any new rights or offer any option to take part in a ceremony, the register may assist couples to qualify for tax and welfare benefits; will make it easier for same-sex couples applying for immigration visas; and will provide a proof of relationship to non-married couples.

The register will also recognise relationships registered in other jurisdictions.

When established, the register will be available to couples in which: both parties are over 18, at least one member resides in NSW, and neither is already registered or married elsewhere.

It will not be a requirement that couples live together, nor will they have to prove financial interdependence.

But couples eager to register must wait for the scheme to be set up by the Office of Births, Deaths and Marriages.

A spokeswoman for Hatzistergos said the scheme was expected to be up and running within months.

When established, couples will need to sign a statutory declaration declaring they fulfil all the criteria to register and provide proof of their identity.

After paying an as yet undetermined fee, there will be a 28-day cooling off period.

In the event that the relationship fails, either one or both parties can apply for the registration to be revoked.

A fact sheet outlining all requirements and processes for interested couples is being drafted by the Attorney General’s office, in conjunction with the Office of Births, Deaths and Marriages, and is expected to be released in days.

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