UK immigration: settlement de facto (unmarried) partner visa

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Unmarried partners of British citizens and legal permanent residents may qualify for a UK de facto partner visa. ‘De facto’ is a Latin term familiar to solicitors but perhaps not to the general public, which literally means ‘concerning fact’ but is more commonly used to mean ‘in practice, but not ordained by law’. In the case of heterosexual partners, this means that the man and woman have been living together for at least two years immediately preceding the date of filing the application for a UK settlement visa, and are in a stable ‘durable relationship’ – the term used by the UK Border Agency. The phrase that many people are more familiar with is ‘common law husband and wife’.

UK unmarried partner visa – validity:

The duration of the unmarried partner visa will depend on whether you are applying from within the UK (in which case the visa will be valid for 30 months) or outside the UK (33 months). The initial partner visa can be extended for an additional 30-month period which would take you to five years required to qualify for settlement in the UK. After living in the UK for a period of five years on a probationary partner visa, you can apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) in the UK providing you are still cohabiting with your partner, and also that you continue to meet the below mentioned financial requirements.

If you are currently overseas, you must apply for a visa or entry clearance through the British Consulate or High Commission which has jurisdiction over the place of your normal and legal residence. If you are in the UK on a visa granted for a duration of six months or more it may be possible to switch to an unmarried partner visa by applying for further leave to remain (FLR) from within the UK. However, if you were admitted to the country on a visa valid for less than six months (e.g. short-term student visa or visitor visa) it will not be possible to make an application from inside the UK.

Basic eligibility requirements:

To qualify for the unmarried partner visa under the settlement category, both the applicant and their sponsor must be able to meet the following eligibility requirements:

  • The sponsoring partner must be present and settled in the UK. ‘Present and settled’ means that the sponsor is either a British citizen, whether by birth or naturalisation, or permanent resident of the UK, i.e. right of abode or indefinite leave to remain (ILR) holder.
  • Both you and your partner must be over 18 on the date the application is made.
  • You cannot be related to your partner in any way that would prevent you from marrying under UK law.
  • You and your partner must have been living together in a relationship akin to marriage for at least two years. De facto partners are treated the same as all other partners and, like married couples, will be required to demonstrate to the satisfaction of the examining UK Border Agency (UKBA) entry clearance officer (ECO) that they have a “bona fide” long-standing relationship.
  • Your relationship must be recognised as genuine and subsisting.
  • Any previous relationships must have completely and permanently broken down (except for certain polygamous relationships).
  • You and your partner must intend to cohabit in the UK permanently.
  • You and your partner must meet the new financial requirements.
  • You must have suitable accommodation in the UK.
  • The foreign partner may be required to meet the English language requirement.
  • In some countries visa applicants are tested for active tuberculosis (TB).

English language requirement:

There have been changes over the last few years which have quite serious implications for anyone wishing to join their partner in the UK. Effective 29th November 2010, most applicants are required to take the mandatory English language test before applying for a UK settlement visa, whether as a fiancée, proposed civil partner, husband, wife, civil partner, or unmarried (de facto) partner of a British citizen or permanent resident. The only exemption applies to citizens of predominantly English-speaking countries, and foreign partners that were primarily taught in English as long as their academic qualification is recognised by UK NARIC as being at least the standard of a Bachelor’s Degree in the UK.

New financial requirement:

Effective 9th July 2012, the minimum threshold requirement to sponsor a foreign partner for a UK settlement visa is £18,600. This increases to £22,400 if there is one dependent child, £24,800 for two children, £27,200 for three (£2,400 for each additional child). Some sponsors are exempt from the financial requirement under the new rules (i.e. those receiving disability benefits) but if not, proof has to be submitted that the sponsoring partner meets the minimum requirements either through their earnings, savings, non-employment sources of income, permitted benefits or combination of these categories.

Free consultation:

As the UK immigration process can be difficult to understand, our experienced and highly-trained immigration consultants are available to help you and your partner to present your UK unmarried partner visa application to the UK Border Agency in the best possible way. Contact us today to schedule a free no-obligation consultation.

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