Strict rules apply when marrying a foreign national
The government’s detailed Immigration Rules govern the rights of foreign nationals to enter and remain in the UK. In addition, details are set out regarding the circumstances in which permission to enter and remain will be refused.
Below is a short guide to help couples who need to know more about whether they can legally enter and reside in the UK. This is only intended to be a very brief overview; the Immigration Rules and any amendments are available in their entirety from the Home Office UK Border Agency website (see link below).
Not married or not civil partnered
If a couple is not married and not in a civil partnership, nor are they engaged or plan to enter into a civil partnership, the criteria for them being allowed to enter and remain in the UK is notoriously strict and the rules vary depending on whether one of the partners already resides in the UK.
Firstly, where one of the partners already lives in the UK, the couple must prove that they have been in a relationship akin to marriage or civil partnership for two years or more. In this circumstance, ideally the couples will have lived together for those two years. However, this will not always be possible as the couples may have resided in different countries (although there is case law which states that two years of continual cohabitation is not essential).
If both partners live outside of the UK, but intend to move to the UK to set up home, they must prove that they have been living together outside of the UK in a relationship akin to marriage or civil partnership for four years or more. In these circumstances, the partners must also be able to demonstrate that they have sufficient knowledge of the English language and sufficient knowledge about life in the UK.
Planned marriage or civil partnership
Where a marriage or civil partnership is planned, the requirements are slightly more relaxed; although, in this situation, it can be difficult to convince the immigration authorities of the seriousness of your relationship and there are a number of strict requirements to meet.
Specific guidance is given in the Immigration Rules in relation to circumstances where a person’s fiance(e) or proposed civil partner lives abroad but wants to join their partner in the UK. For example, the two main criteria are that one of the partners is already present and settled in the UK and that, if the couple are to live together in the UK, they must not be a burden on public funds.
Once an individual is given permission to enter the UK, they may be admitted, but often with a six month restriction on their right to work. If all goes to plan, this restriction should be lifted once the marriage or civil partnership takes place.
Married or civil partnered
If a couple is married or in a civil partnership, the immigration authorities are likely to treat an application more sympathetically. Nevertheless, there are again a number of conditions which must be fulfilled before an individual can be granted indefinite permission to remain in the UK. These include the requirement for the couple to live together and for them not to be a burden on public funds.
It is also worth noting that there are also likely to be conditions attached to any visa granted, and individuals could be deported if there is a divorce or dissolution within a period that suggests that the marriage or civil partnership was not genuine.
In all cases you will almost certainly need to obtain specialist advice and guidance.
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The legal information on this page was checked by Langleys Solicitors.