UK Entry Clearance Requirements for Marriage and Civil Partnerships after May 9, 2011
The impact of the UK government’s abolishment of the Certificate of Approval scheme is not likely to be particularly far reaching, as essentially the same UK visa requirements remain in force, although some changes are important to note.
Much had been anticipated regarding the UK government’s immigration control regarding foreign nationals wishing to get married or register a civil partnership in the UK as the previous Certificate of Approval, or COA, scheme was officially abolished on 9th May 2011. However, while this does mean that some previous requirements are no longer necessary, in practice there is very little difference, with permission to enter the UK still necessary to obtain from the appropriate British Consulate, Embassy or High Commission.
The change means that non-EEA or Swiss nationals planning to marry or register a civil partnership in the UK no longer have to provide a Certificate of Approval issued by the UK Border Agency (UKBA). While this may seem to simplify the process, the reality is that foreign nationals do still need to obtain the correct visa to enter the UK.
While there is now no legal obligation to have a UK visa in order to give a notice of intended marriage or registration of civil partnership to a register office in the UK, it is still necessary to apply for and gain permission for admission, in the form of either a Visit for Marriage visa (VFM) or a Visit for Civil Partnership visa (VFCP). Both of these are considered ‘special visitor’ visas by the UK Border Agency, and are subject to certain requirements, such as proof that the marriage or civil partnership is planned or in the process of being planned, that the applicant will have no recourse to public funds during their time in the UK, and that the applicant will leave the UK within six months.
It should be noted that the Visit for Marriage and Visit for Civil Partnership visas differ considerably to the UK settlement visas. The VFM and VFCP visas are clearly only intended for foreign nationals with no intention of settling in the UK after registering their marriage or civil partnership. Couples who do intend to settle in the UK will not see any change to the application process or settlement visa requirements due to the end of the COA scheme.
Even though the COA is no longer active, foreign nationals that wish to marry or register a civil partnership in the UK will still need to give notice in a designated register office, with other requirements such as evidence of nationality, date of birth, full name and their freedom to marry. Registrars will need to see this evidence and the UK immigration officer at a port of entry will also require the correct entry clearance documentation relating to your circumstances, although the change does mean that registrars no longer need to see the entry clearance.
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