In addition to marriage, both the Immigration Rules and the EEA regulations acknowledge unmarried partner relationships. These types of partners are therefore given the same rights as those enjoyed by the spouses of either settled persons, or of EEA nationals exercising Treaty Rights or of persons with limited leave to remain in the UK.
What is an Unmarried Partner Relationship?
According to the Immigration Rules and the EEA regulations, the term unmarried partner relationship is be defined as:
"Two persons living together in a relationship akin to marriage for at least two years".
This definition does not include casual acquaintances or any unstable relationship in which neither of the parties have any long term intentions to live together. The phrase "akin to marriage or civil marriage" means a relationship that is similar in nature to a marriage or civil partnership to include unmarried and same sex relationships. The partnership would have to be proven by way of household bills and bank statements and anything else that can help prove cohabitation covering the relevant period.
The intention of the rules relating to unmarried and same sex partners is to allow genuine long-term relationships to continue. It is not an open door to couples who are in the early stages of a cohabiting relationship but provides an opportunity for those couples who are already living together in a committed relationship akin to marriage or civil partnership to enter or remain in the UK on this basis.
Who can apply?
Only the following persons can invite their unmarried partners to join them in or accompany them to the UK:
Under Immigration Rules
1.Unmarried Partners of person settled in the UK
If your application for entry clearance is successful, you will be granted permission to live in the UK for a period of 33 months, after which you would need to apply for a further 30 months before being eligible to apply for settlement after five years in the UK. If you are already in the UK and apply successfully for leave to remain in this category you would be granted 30 months’ leave after which you would need to apply for a another 30 months’ leave in order to complete five years in the UK before being eligible for settlement. This five year period is known as the ‘probationary period’ and if you are still in a relationship with your partner and you intend to live permanently in the UK at the end of this five years, you may apply for settlement, also known as indefinite leave to remain (ILR).
It is no longer possible for an applicant to apply for “indefinite leave to enter the UK” prior to entry to the UK where the applicant has been living together in a relationship akin to marriage at least four years ago and has spent those last four years living together with their partner overseas.
If the unmarried partners choose to get married at some stage, the applicant could apply for leave as a spouse and be given a further 2.5 years’ leave to remain as the spouse of a person present and settled in the UK. However, he/she would qualify for permanent residence after spending a total of five years starting from the time when he/she entered the UK on the unmarried partner's visa or when he/she was given leave to remain on that basis.
Parties are both 18 years of age
Both parties in a partnership will now have to reach the age of 18 before they can apply for a visa to enter the UK or sponsor their partner to enter the UK.
The submission of passports with the application will be sufficient to demonstrate the age of the parties involved.
Present and settled in the UK
Applicants are required to demonstrate that the partner they intend to join is present and settled in the UK. This means that the settled person must be physically present in the UK at the time of the application, unless they are accompanying the applicant and wish to make the UK their home.
Present and settled means that the individual in the UK is settled (i.e. holds either indefinite leave to remain, a permanent right of residence, British citizenship or a Right of Abode in the UK) and, at the same time that an application is made, is physically present in the UK or is coming here with the applicant to live.
Please note that a British Citizen who has been resident overseas but who now intends to return to the UK to live can be regarded as present and settled in the UK.
Both parties intend to live together permanently
The applicant and partner must be able to demonstrate that a clear intention to live permanently with each other and that there is a strong commitment from both sides. This is a difficult thing to prove and will usually be accepted if the genuineness of the relationship is accepted.
Evidence to support this intention could be a letter or statement from both parties formally declaring that they are in a partnership and intend to live together at a given address which is owned/occupied by the sponsor in the UK.
Please note that the Entry Clearance Officer may ask questions regarding the address or description of the place of residence in the UK. This is to confirm that the applicant has the intention to live together with the partner.
Maintenance without recourse to public funds
There is a minimum earnings requirement of £18,600 in order to sponsor spouses, fiancées, partners and civil partners for settlement in the UK. If a child is also sponsored the minimum earnings requirement will be £22,400 and £2,400 for each further child. (Please note this will not include British and EEA children, as well as children settled in the UK.)
At each stage, the applicant will be able to meet the financial requirement through one or more of:
Evidence specified in Appendix FM to the Immigration Directorate Instructions (IDIs) must be provided to show the required funds available for the maintenance of the applicant (including dependants) and the sponsor.
These include but are not limited to:
Those in salaried employment will need to provide all the following: P60 (if issued), wage slips, the letter from the employer, bank statements and a copy of the employment contract.
Please note that this is not an exhaustive list and the supporting evidence required will depend on the applicant’s/sponsor’s individual circumstances.
Adequate accommodation without recourse to public funds
Evidence of arranged adequate accommodation will be very important for the application. It will also need to shown that this accommodation will be legally and exclusively occupied.
Appropriate evidence can include:
It is useful to have a letter from the local council confirming the number of rooms and the facilities/amenities available in the accommodation to confirm that there will be no statutory overcrowding in the accommodation. As mentioned above, this can be a room or rooms in a shared house as long as those rooms are for the exclusive use of the couple.
English language requirements
If you are not a national of a majority English-speaking country or do not have a degree taught in English, you must pass an acceptable English language test with one of our approved test providers (please refer to the list of acceptable tests). In the test, you will need to demonstrate a basic command of English (speaking and listening) to at least level A1 of the Common European Framework of Reference.
In order to be able to demonstrate that you satisfy the above requirements, you will need to provide supporting documentation.
Please note it is often the case the application is refused simply owing to a lack of supporting evidence so it is important to be thorough in preparing this type of application. Although the refusal of an unmarried partner visa triggers a right of appeal, the appeal process can take many months to be considered by the Immigration and Asylum Chamber (IAC) and therefore it is crucial that the application is well-prepared from the outset.
It is important to note that applicants entering the UK for the first time on the basis of their partnership to a settled person must apply for Entry Clearance.
However those already in the UK on a valid visa of more than six months validity (this will normally exclude short-term category visas such as visitor or short- term students) may qualify to apply to extend or vary their leave in the UK on the basis of partnership with a settled person in the UK.
It is again advisable to seek legal advice should you require clarification of your own visa status and whether you are permitted to extend or vary your leave in the UK.
Indefinite leave to remain
If your application is successful under this category, you will be granted permission to live and work in the UK for a period of 33 months (for entry clearance applications) or 30 months (for leave to remain applications). This is known as the ‘probationary period’ and under the current immigration rules, towards the end of this period, providing you are still in a partnership or married and you plan to live with your spouse partner permanently in the UK, you may apply for settlement (Indefinite Leave to Remain).
In order to be eligible for indefinite leave to remain the applicant will need to show sufficient knowledge of the English language and sufficient knowledge about life in the United Kingdom, unless he/she is aged 65 or over at the time he/she makes his application. From October 2013 they will also need to show an English language speaking and listening qualification to at least level B1 CEFR. There must also be a continued intention to live permanently with each other and the minimum income and adequate accommodation requirements will also need to be satisfied.
If applicant is not a national of a majority English-speaking country or do not have a degree taught in English, he/she must pass an acceptable English language test with one of our approved test providers (please refer to the list of acceptable tests). In the test, he/she will need to demonstrate a basic command of English (speaking and listening) to at least level A1 of the Common European Framework of Reference.
Under EEA Regulations
2. Unmarried Partners of EEA nationals exercising Treaty Rights in the UK
EEA nationals can be divided into two categories:
Entry clearance cases
In the former case, unmarried partners can make an application for a Family Permit and then make an application for a Residence Card in line with the Registration Certificate of the sponsor. With A2 nationals, unmarried partners can make an application for a Family Permit and then make an application for a Family Member Residence Stamp if their partner is subject to work authorisation (and a Residence Card if not).
Leave to remain cases
Unmarried partners of EEA nationals with full rights can make an application for a Residence Card (proving a limited right to remain for five years subject to the EEA national exercising Treaty Rights) in line with the Registration Certificate of the sponsor. Unmarried partners of A2 nationals can make an application for a Family Member Residence Stamp (limited right to remain for 1 year) in line with their partner's registration with UKBA. They should then make an application for a Residence Card (limited leave to remain for 5 years) in line with their partner's Registration Certificate before the expiry of their Family Member Residence Stamp.
In addition to the above, the following factors must also be noted:
3. Unmarried Partners of persons having limited leave to remain in the UK
Many categories of persons residing in the UK with limited leave to remain can invite their unmarried partners to accompany or join them in the UK. Being a dependant of a person with limited leave to remain, the unmarried partner would be permitted to seek employment or be self-employed during the currency of his or her leave. The applicants are normally granted the visa valid in line with the sponsor's visa and it is expected that they leave the country together with the sponsor, if the sponsor does not intend to settle in the UK. However, if the sponsor qualifies for settlement the dependant, in general, also qualifies for settlement in line with his or her sponsor.