Although the UK does not legally recognise common-law partners in equal measure to some countries, such as Sweden (with their Sambo visa), the law does make provisions for serious long-term relationships. This allows Unmarried Partners to apply for a type of family visa that will enable them to enter or remain in the UK based on their relationship with either a British citizen, a person with Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR), pre-settled status, settled status, or refugee status; this visa is called the “Unmarried Partner Visa.”
Requirements for a UK Unmarried Partner Visa
To be eligible for a UK Unmarried Partner Visa, the following criteria must be met by you and your partner:
- Age: Both you and your partner should be 18 years or older.
- Relationship: You should have lived together for at least two years at the time of application. The partners must not be so closely related they would be prohibited from marriage or a civil partnership in the UK. The relationship must be genuine and subsisting and any previous relationships or marriages must have broken down.
- Intention: Both of you should plan to reside permanently in the UK post-application.
- English Proficiency: You should have a good command of the English language.
- Financial Stability: You should be capable of supporting yourself and any dependants financially by meeting the set Income Threshold for family visas.
- Partner’s Status: Your partner should either:
- Be a citizen of Britain or Ireland
- Have settled status in the UK (for instance, they have indefinite leave to remain, Settled Status, or proof of permanent residence)
- Be from the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, or Liechtenstein and have Pre-settled Status (they should have started residing in the UK before the 1st of January 2021)
- Possess a Turkish Businessperson visa or Turkish Worker visa
- Have protection status (leave to remain as a refugee, permission to stay as a refugee, or a person with humanitarian protection)
As you can see, most of the requirements are similar to a UK Spouse Visa other than the relationship aspect.
Key Requirement – Cohabitation:
Although most of the requirements for an Unmarried Partner Visa closely mirror those of a UK Spouse Visa, the main difference is that, unlike for a married couple where a marriage certificate would suffice to prove their relationship, the applicant must prove that they have been co-habiting / living together in a relationship similar to marriage or civil partnership – the Immigration Rules Appendix Relationship with Partner states:
Requirement for a durable relationship where a person is not married or in a civil partnership
RWP 5.1. Where the applicant and their partner are not married or in a civil partnership, they must have been in a relationship similar to a marriage or civil partnership for at least 2 years before the date of application.
Thus, as per the rule, the relationship ought to be more than merely dating and comes with a strict requirement to show that the couple has not only been living together but also have been doing so “in a relationship similar to marriage or civil partnership” Immigration Rules (paragraph 6.2)
Normally, applicants for a UK Unmarried Partner Visa would need to provide evidence of their cohabitation and relationship, as would be expected of any married couple living together, with the Home Office guidance noting that
“ the couple must usually have lived together as a couple (not just as friends) and shown an ongoing commitment to one another” Home Office Guidance.
This means that UK Unmarried Partner Visa applicants should demonstrate cohabitation through proof of shared living circumstances. This could include mortgage contracts, rental agreements, or utility bills that indicate both partners residing at the same location concurrently. The evidence doesn’t have to be jointly named if it pertains to the same address and time frame. It’s not necessary to present multiple documents for the same duration.
The Home Office does not view all evidence as equal, with a preference given to independent documents like tenancy agreements or mortgage statements. Applicants are generally discouraged from submitting photographic proof or evidence of communication via email, WhatsApp, or other social media platforms, as these can be easily manipulated and are challenging to authenticate. However, this doesn’t imply that such evidence is entirely disregarded. When evaluated holistically, a collection of less substantial evidence could potentially convince the Home Office that the relationship requirements have been fulfilled.
Terms and Durations of Unmarried Partner Visa
An Unmarried Partner Visa generally has the same requirements and rights as a UK Spouse Visa for a married couple, i.e. it allows such a visa holder to come and live in the UK with their partner for a period of five years, broken into two and half year periods, with the visa holder eligible to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) at the end of the five years.
What if you do not meet these requirements for Unmarried Partner Visa?
In the context of immigration applications, presenting evidence of cohabitation similar to marriage or civil partnership is ideal. However, exceptions exist where a relationship can still be recognised as durable and genuine even if partners live apart for valid reasons such as education, work, or immigration processes in another country.
Evidence of past cohabitation and future intentions to live together can also validate the relationship’s durability and genuineness. In cases where couples haven’t lived together due to legal or cultural restrictions in some countries, the relationship must still resemble a marriage or civil partnership and have existed for over two years.
Tom, a British national, and Lucy, a Filipino national, have lived together in Singapore for the past four years. They met at work six years ago and have a three-year-old child. They recently decided to move to the UK so their daughter could attend a British school. Tom resigned from his job in Singapore and came to the UK seven months in advance to secure a job. He needed to work for at least six months to meet the income requirement to sponsor Lucy for a UK family visa.
Despite this short separation, their relationship is still considered stable and ongoing as an unmarried partnership because there is a legitimate reason for them temporarily living apart, and they plan on reuniting.
Alternatives to a UK Unmarried Partner Visa
If you don’t meet the standard requirements for a UK Unmarried Partner Visa, alternative conditions under which you may be eligible to apply for a visa or extend your permission to stay in the UK do exist.
These conditions include having a child in the UK who is a British or Irish citizen or has lived in the UK for seven years, and that it would be unreasonable for them to leave the UK (UK Parent Route Visa), facing significant obstacles to living abroad with a partner (UK 10-year Partner Route visa) or having human rights that would be breached by leaving or being barred from entering the UK (UK Private Life Visa).
Additionally, If you plan to marry in the UK within six months, you can apply for a UK fiancé(e) visa from abroad. After marriage, you can then apply for a Spouse Visa.
If you’ve been impacted by this issue or any other matter related to UK immigration, please get in touch with Tito, a solicitor specialising in UK immigration and human rights, for a complimentary initial consultation about your legal alternatives.
For professional assistance or any inquiries, please get in touch with us by completing our Quick Enquiry form at any time. Alternatively, you can call us on 07544 669131 / 01163 800744 during business hours.
Cross Border Legal Solicitors Ltd is a UK law firm of solicitors regulated by the Solicitor Regulations Authority. The firm is led by Mr Tito Mbariti, a practising lawyer and a member of the Law Society of England and Wales, specialising in UK Immigration and Human Rights.