Unmarried partners can use the family immigration route in order to obtain a UK visa on the basis of a relationship. The unmarried partner must be in a relationship with a British citizen or a person with Indefinite Leave to Remain to qualify for a visa under this route. Associate, Ruth Jowett, looks at the process.
The rules applicable to unmarried partner applications are found in Appendix FM of the Immigration Rules. The same rules apply to applicants applying on the basis of a marriage, a civil partnership or as an unmarried partner.
Applicants must be able to demonstrate that:
- they are in a genuine and subsisting relationship;
- they meet the financial requirement; and
- they meet the required level of English language
The cohabitation requirement
Unmarried partners must have lived together in a relationship akin to marriage for at least two years prior to applying for the visa. Crucially, they must be able to demonstrate this with documentary evidence. This cohabitation requirement is not applied to couples who are married or in civil partnerships.
Acceptable evidence of cohabitation will include, for example:
- tenancy agreements;
- mortgage statements;
- bank statements; and
- utility bills.
The two years of cohabitation do not need to directly precede the submission of the visa application and do not have to be continuous. Cohabitation can have taken place in the UK, overseas or a mixture of both.
For example, a couple may have lived together in the US for 18 months and then lived in different countries for one year due to work commitments. After one year of living separately they begin cohabiting again. Following a six month period of living together, they would meet the two year cohabitation requirement.
The financial requirement
The financial requirement does not differ from that applied to applicants who are married or in a civil partnership. The applicant must show that their unmarried partner has an annual income of at least £18,600. Where the unmarried partner is switching into this visa category from within the UK, and has the right to work in the UK, their income may also be counted towards the required £18,600.
Alternatively, cash savings may be relied upon where it can be demonstrated that jointly or separately, the partners have held £62,500 cash savings for at least six months. Couples who are relocating to the UK often rely on cash savings.
Unmarried partners who apply for a visa from outside the UK are granted leave for 33 months. Those switching from within the UK will obtain 30 months leave to remain.
Before the end of the 33 or 30 month period, applicants should apply to extend their leave for a further 30 months. Once an applicant has completed a continuous period of five years with leave to remain in the UK as a partner, they will be eligible for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR).
If the couple were to then marry or enter into a civil partnership once in the UK, the applicant would not need to update their visa. When they came to file an application to extend or for ILR, they would submit their marriage or civil partnership certificate with that application.
How we can help
There are a number of different family immigration routes and it is important to apply for the correct type of visa. If you are in an unmarried partnership but intend to marry in the UK, you may want to consider applying for a fiancé or marriage visitor visa.
We are experienced in preparing visa applications for spouses, civil partners and unmarried partners to ensure a successful outcome and will provide expert guidance and assistance to you throughout the process.
For further advice, please contact us.