Failure to demonstrate that a relationship is genuine and subsisting is one of the main reasons for refusing spouse visa applications. Unfortunately the information offered to applicants by the Home Office is frustratingly limited. We have therefore explored this requirement below and provided some practical tips on meeting the requirement.
Appendix FM-SE of the Immigration Rules sets out the documentary evidence required when applying for a spouse visa. Whilst this explains that where a couple are married the marriage certificate is a mandatory document, no further guidance is provided regarding the type of documentation that is acceptable to the Home Office as evidence of a genuine and subsisting relationship.
The Home Office Guidance on this point states only that “an applicant and their partner must provide evidence that they are in a genuine and subsisting relationship”. With a lack of clear guidance, it is easy to see why applicants may fail to realise quite how much evidence they are expected to present.
In our experience, demonstrating that a relationship is genuine and subsisting in a spouse visa application often requires innovative thinking. This is especially so in situations where, for cultural or religious reasons for example, a couple have not previously lived together or spent a significant amount of time together prior to the marriage.
Because Entry Clearance Officers and caseworkers do not have comprehensive Home Office guidance to follow, the decision making in this area is often fairly subjective. We therefore recommend that, where possible, an abundance of evidence is presented in support of spouse visa applications to demonstrate that the relationship is genuine and subsisting.
Suitable evidence to show a genuine and subsisting relationship
If the couple has been living apart for a lengthy period of time, or have never lived together, prior to submitting a spouse visa application, suitable evidence of a genuine and subsisting relationship could include, for example:
- records of holidays taken together;
- evidence that the couple have kept in touch whilst apart;
- photographs of the couple;
- letters of support from friends and family;
- evidence of any joint financial commitments;
- any other formal documents linking the couple (invoices, memberships etc.).
If the couple has been living together prior to making an application, then in addition to the above, the Home Office would expect to see evidence of the cohabitation such as tenancy agreements, mortgage statements, utility bills etc.
The Home Office does make allowances for arranged marriages in certain scenarios where evidence of cohabitation, holidays and communication may not be available.
Demonstrating that a relationship is genuine and subsisting for the purposes of a spouse visa application can be one of the most challenging aspects of the process.
We are often approached by couples who have received a refusal on such grounds and we have assisted numerous couples to strengthen their evidence in order to go on to submit a subsequent successful application.
If you require legal advice about a spouse visa application, or have received a spouse visa refusal notice, our immigration specialists are available for an initial discussion and can be contacted here.