UK Unmarried Partner Visa Rules Relax

A Welcome Change To The UK Unmarried Partner Visa Rules

A well-used visa route to settling in the UK is the ‘partner’ route. Someone may wish to join their partner and live permanently with them in the UK. It’s commonly known as a ‘spouse’ visa or a sort of ‘family’ visa. A partner can be a wife or husband, a civil partner or an ‘unmarried partner’. The definition of an ‘unmarried partner’ has recently changed and, unlike other developments in immigration law, appears to relax the rules and make this route slightly easier for applicants.

UK Unmarried Partner Visa | Immigration Legal Services

Old Definition Of Unmarried Partners

Before the rules were recently changed, an unmarried partner had to live together with their partner for two years in order to be eligible to apply to enter the UK on this basis. The actual definition was that the couple had been ‘living together in a relationship similar to marriage or a civil partnership for at least two years’.

The result was that, even if a couple had been in a long distance relationship for several years and had visited each other many times, they would not qualify on the unmarried partner route. This caused problems, especially for those who were unable to marry for religious or logistical reasons. Even those who had lived together for over two years often found it difficult to find evidence of this. Many countries do not operate like the UK and people do not receive letters and bills regularly at their postal address. There is no tenancy agreement in many cases. In some cases the evidence was non-existent, even if the couple had lived together for many years.

A New, Improved Definition Of Unmarried Partners

On 31 January 2024, the definition changed. The rules now say that an unmarried partner is ‘where the couple have been in a relationship similar to marriage or civil partnership for at least 2 years'. There is no mention of living together. The two years simply relates to the relationship itself. Therefore, a couple who had been in a relationship for two years and had never lived together, should qualify.

Similar To Marriage Or Civil Partnership

It is important to note the details of this change. These are set out in guidance. However, there is no detail on what the phrase ‘similar to marriage or civil partnership’ actually means.

The guidance says this:

The 2-year period for a relationship between a couple who are not married or in a civil partnership must have been completed prior to the date of application. The 2- year period does not require evidence of cohabitation for the period and will take account  of instances where, for example, the couple are currently living apart for work reasons in order to meet the financial requirements of the rules. The essential point is that the relationship has been genuine and subsisting for the duration of the 2-year period and continues to be at the date of application.

We have to assume that proving a ‘genuine and subsisting relationship’ will require the same evidence as that used for spouse or civil partnership applications. For these routes, it is not enough to produce a marriage or civil partnership certificate – there must be evidence that the couple have met, that they communicate regularly and visit each other.

In addition, the relationship must be ongoing at the date of the relationship and the couple must have an intention to live permanently together in the UK.

There is a lack of detail about the new definition. It seems that the couple would simply have to prove they have been in a relationship for two years but this new route has yet to be tested. Other evidence of a genuine relationship will always be useful. For example, if the couple has lived together at any time and there is evidence, this will be very useful. If the couple has a child, this is also useful.

Additional Requirements To Qualify For The UK Unmarried Partner Visa

Let’s not forget also that an applicant under the unmarried partner route must also meet the general requirements of the partner route – they must meet the financial requirements, for example the person in the UK must have income of over £29,000 gross per year or have savings or be on certain benefits. The English language requirement must be met and there must be adequate accommodation for the couple in the UK.  

A Welcome Step

This change is a welcome step. Many couples are simply unable to live together because of the distance between them and economic or logistical problems. This does not mean they are not in a genuine relationship. This new rule recognises this and, if applied fairly and with common sense, should make things easier for unmarried couples.

If you have any further questions or need assistance with an unmarried partner visa, please contact our team.

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