Tales of international romance sadly don’t tend to end with the happy couple riding into the sunset to enjoy a life of loving, bureaucracy-free bliss. If Cinderella had happened to be a foreign citizen when she fell for her Prince, she would have needed a visa advisor rather than a fairy godmother to reach her happy ending.At present, EU and EEA citizens can settle and work in the UK with little bother. Happily, the rights of established expats have been promised protection in the Brexit process. However, for anyone outside these neighbouring nations, the system isn’t anywhere near as helpful.
There is a wide array of visas that will apply depending on you and your partner’s circumstances. If your partner is a Brit, you can apply for a ‘Family of a Settled Person’ visa. If they are from outside the UK or the EEA, you will need to apply as a dependent on a ‘Family’ visa. There are also a myriad of conditions that apply depending on your country of origin and the agreements it has with the UK.
Ultimately, there is only one hard and fast rule when applying; you have to prove you have been in a relationship for more than two years.
Proving this involves the thoroughly un-romantic process of auditing the relationship to gather evidence of shared holidays, mutual friends, joint bank accounts and messages sent between you. Some visas, such as the ‘Unmarried Partner’ visa, only grant permission to stay for 33 months, meaning you have to reapply after that period. In these circumstances, it is worth keeping a running file of wedding invites, bank statements and any other clutter that happens to have both your names on it.
The good news is that after five years on any of these visas, most people will qualify for ‘Indefinite Leave to Remain’. This grants holders the same rights as a UK citizen, totally free of a partner or spouse.
The only hiccup for Indefinite Leave is that this usually requires five years on one type of visa. For example, let’s say you were in the UK on a student visa when you met your significant other, and that after two years together, you successfully applied for a partner visa. You may have been in the UK for a total of seven years, but because that time was split between two different visa types, this would not qualify you for Leave to Remain.
Another question entirely is what happens if the relationship turns sour? If you have been living in the UK as somebody’s plus-one, you may find you have very few rights if that partnership breaks down.
Citizens Advice, a network of UK charities that gives advice for free, acknowledges that your status on any sort of relationship visa is entirely dependent on that relationship. According to the Citizens Advice website: “if you’re in the UK as a dependent on your partner’s visa, you’ll lose your visa status once you separate or divorce.”
Anyone looking to stay on in the UK after a break up needs to have a clear idea of whether they can stay in their own right. The simplest situation is that you have had five years on whatever partnership visa you were on, and thus qualify for Indefinite Leave to Remain. Be aware though, this process can take time and may require you leaving the UK in order to apply.
A similar route to staying is the ‘Private Life in the UK’ route. This is essentially a way of proving that you have been in the country for a set amount of time and have more connection to the UK than you do any other country. However, this test is applied inconsistently, and there are reports of some people being refused despite having been in the UK for decades.
As with many other parts of immigration law, there are various adjustments made for different circumstances. To prove ‘Private Life’, some people will need to show evidence of 10 years of residence, while for others it could be as long as 20 years.
If you have been working in the UK, there is a chance that your employer may be able to help you stay in the country. According to Citizens Advice, the visa required is ‘Tier 2 (General)’. However, this does mean that you begin a complex process of having to prove that your job is on the ‘shortage occupation list’.
This work visa requires your employer to support you through the process and stipulate that your job is skilled and can’t be filled by anyone else. Bear in mind that this will mean you are tied to that job throughout the process, and that the visa only lasts for five years, so you may have to repeat the process.
Costs are also incurred for this kind of visa, with payments depending on circumstances. Expect to pay between GBP£464 and GBP£2,000 for yourself, plus additional payments for any dependents.
If you are the parent of a child who has the right to stay in the UK, you may qualify for settlement as a parent. This means that you automatically get the right to remain, but again, the process is not at all easy to navigate. Firstly, you must be a biological or adoptive parent, or a step-parent where the biological parent has died.
You must then prove that you have been living in the UK for either five or 10 years on a family visa. The child involved must either live with you, or you must have shared responsibility for caring for them. The child concerned must be under 18 at the time of application, or be incapable of independent living.
Even when you’ve ticked all these boxes, you will still need to pass the Life in the UK test and meet the English language requirements. If you have only been on a family visa for five years, you must also prove that you have the means to support yourself without resorting to public funds.
Any of these processes are unpleasant to have to navigate and it is absolutely worth seeking advice from a professional visa advisor who can understand and support you in your specific circumstances.
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