Update 1 April 2020: I got the following response from BDM to my questions:

How can couples with a genuine eligible need apply for a shortening of time if they are unable to access the prescribed authority at the BDM office or Marriage Registry, or even call them on the phone?

Couples can still apply for shortenings via either the Victorian Marriage Registry email address (marriage.registry@justice.vic.gov.au) or by sending their information to the BDMCritical email address (bdmcritical@justice.vic.gov.au). Court Registrars also have the prescribed authority to approve shortened notice periods.I appreciate that this is far from optimal; however, this is unfortunately a necessity due to the current situation with COVID-19.

Are couples who require their marriage certificate for visa purposes classed as having a “critical need”? Many of the couples who are pushing to get married now, under the restricted conditions, are doing so because of visas expiring in the next few months; they need their certificates to progress their visa applications. Are these the type of requests that come under “critical” and can be assessed through this email address at this time?

In the past, couples have been able to apply for priority registration based on their need. As long as BDM has received paperwork from the celebrant, we would consider priority applications to complete the registration within a shortened time frame.

I would currently consider the same situations for prioritised registration, and encourage people with a genuinely short timeframe to email their case via bdmcritical@justice.vic.gov.au.

The intention of the inbox is for those in genuinely “critical” need (ie: a case where a lack of BDM’s services may ruin their life). There may come a point where BDM’s resources cannot keep up with the Visa demand and we may need to re-assess priorities and re-define what is “critical”.

For now, I’d ask any urgent cases to be sent via the inbox, and I’d consider “urgent” to be those that require completion within our turnaround times – see: https://www.bdm.vic.gov.au/certificate-turnaround-times

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28 March 2020: BDM Victoria has shut down their offices and their call centre until further notice. This raises two critical marriage issues that they have not clarified. This evening I’ve sent the following email to my local State member, Michael O’Brien, who is the Leader of the Opposition in Victoria. I’ll keep you posted…

Dear Michael

Your office was very helpful to me earlier this week when I was trying to get further information about the Premier’s statements about weddings and funerals being cancelled (which of course was overturned later that day), and I’m hoping your staff can be just as helpful to me with this issue.

At 4.34pm on Friday 27 March, I received an email from the Victorian Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages stating that effective immediately, all BDM customer service centres, call centres, and the Marriage Registry would be closed until further notice. It said that effective immediately, birth and death registrations and certificate requests would be prioritised, but that marriage notifications would continue to be registered. No further information was provided about timelines for marriage registrations or certificate requests, or about arrangements for any other marriage-related issues.

As far as I can ascertain, Victoria is the only state to have completely shut their Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages.

The VIC BDM website currently has the following statement on its homepage:

“Victoria has declared a State of Emergency due to the risk posed by coronavirus (COVID-19). Our customer service centre and call centre are closed until further notice. You can still apply online. However, we will only assess critical certificate or registration requests until further notice. For critical needs, email bdmcritical@justice.vic.gov.au.”

There is no mention on what is classed as “critical”.

I have emailed the email address asking for clarification on these two issues I will shortly outline, and received an automatic response stating:

“Please be aware that this email address is for critical certificate and registration requests only. This may include:

  • repatriations;
  • urgent death registrations and certificates; and/or
  • urgent certificates required for situations of financial hardship.”

There are two major marriage issues that we as marriage celebrants require urgent clarification and instruction on:

Shortenings of time

It is Australian law that couples must give one month’s notice before they can be married, by lodging a Notice of Intended Marriage with an authorised marriage celebrant. However under certain specific circumstances (for example where one partner is terminally ill and will most likely die in less than one month) the notice period can be shortened, by applying to a prescribed authority for a shortening of time. The only prescribed authorities currently listed in metropolitan Melbourne are the Registrar at the Victorian Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages on Collins Street, and the Victorian Marriage Registry State Officer at the Victorian Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages on Collins Street.

As this office is now closed, how can eligible couples currently apply for a shortening of time? Can applications be sent to the critical email address mentioned on the BDM home page? This is unclear and needs addressing urgently.

Marriage certificates for couples in need

Due to the Federal Government’s restrictions on public gatherings restricting weddings to only the celebrant, couple, and two witnesses, most couples have decided to postpone their weddings until more of their family and friends can be present. However there are some couples who need to forge ahead with getting married because one of the parties is in the country on a visa that will expire in the next few months. They may have decided to marry under advice from a migration agent, to strengthen their application for a partner visa, or they may have had these marriage plans in place for quite some time, in preparation for their partner visa application. There may also be other reasons for couples to marry that I haven’t thought of, but the couples I’m dealing with at the moment are all pushing through for visa reasons.

The email from BDM to celebrants yesterday seems to suggest that marriages will not be registered if enough births and deaths come in that take priority, and the automatic response I received today does not consider that urgent certificates may be required for visa situations.

While it may be unlikely that anyone will have the time to be pursuing people who have overstayed their visas in the coming months, these couples do not want to do the wrong thing and want to be able to access their Registry-issued marriage certificates in a timely fashion ahead of their visas expiring.

Can situations such as this be escalated to this critical email address for action? This is unclear and needs addressing.

Please don’t hesitate to call or email me if you require further information or clarification about either of these matters.

Many thanks

Sarah