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I've seen several threads about this exact issue and all have different answers, so I'm sorry for posting a repeat question!

I'm from the United States and my partner is an Australian citizen in the military. We began dating on May 18, 2015 online. We met each other for the first time in December 2016 - He came to visit me for Christmas in the States. From late March 2017 to early May 2017, I visited him in Australia. October 16, 2017, I moved to Australia with him and we began living together. I was on an ETA at the time, so in February 2018 I briefly went back to the US for 2 weeks because my 3 months for the ETA was up and so I could apply for the WHV and I came back. Our relationship was declared de facto by the military in April 2018. We still live in the same home and are still happily together, for almost 4 years now. :)

From my understanding from what I've read about this, a de facto relationship is
• you are not legally married to each other ✓
• you are committed to a shared life to the exclusion of all others ✓
• your relationship is genuine and continuing ✓
• you live together or do not live separately and apart on a permanent basis ✓
• you are not related by family ✓

We fall under all of those categories! :)
So, I would think that my de facto relationship technically would have started from the date we began living with each other on October 16, 2017, which is now well over a 1 year long de facto relationship. Am I correct about this?
BUT, I have seen one forum post where someone said:
You don't have to live together. You have to be in a defacto relationship. My partner and I only lived together for 14 months before applying and even that was just on weekends as he was working in a different town than I was.
Our long-distance relationship of 2 years previously (AUS-Germany, later AUS-UK) counted towards our 3 years defacto and I received the PR visa straight away.
As long as you can prove that you are in an exclusive, serious, ongoing relationship and have been in one in the past 3 years, you could be granted PR.

Living together just makes it easier to prove that you are in a defacto relationship.
Which confused me a little bit, so maybe I misunderstand what a de facto relationship actually IS or maybe this person was referring to the 3 year requirement for a long term relationship and stating how you don't HAVE to be in a de facto relationship for 3 years for the relationship to count as a long term relationship?

Leading me to my next question, which is the one that confuses me the most...
What classifies as a long term relationship and when is the exact start date of a long term relationship?
I would think that my relationship IS a long term relationship from the day we started dating online, which would make our relationship nearly 4 years long. No where online that I have looked has been explicitly clear on this subject.

In short:
What classifies as a de facto relationship? Is it the date we moved in together?
What classifies as a long term relationship? Did our long term relationship start on the date we began dating online, the date we first met in real life, the same date as de facto, or possibly some other date?

Thank you in advance for any help, links or answers!
 

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Time dating online prior to meeting in person doesn't count. You are correct that the de facto date may not necessarily be the date that you began living together, thought they do expect de facto couples to have commenced living together at some point, according to their old de facto fact sheet that is no longer accessible since the new website roll out.
 
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