What you can do

Immigration

British, EEA nationals or those who hold Indefinite Leave to Remain/Permanent Residence have the right to reside in the UK, and can register a marriage or civil partnership here. (The EEA - European Economic Area -  includes the European Union plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway).

Non-EEA overseas nationals already in the UK, with temporary UK immigration permission (such as students), can register a marriage or civil partnership in the UK. Forming a marriage or civil partnership does not alter an individual’s immigration status. The couple will need to look into their options under UK immigration rules, and in some circumstances under European regulations.

All of the options given below are not affected by sexual orientation or gender identity.

Apply for residency when one partner is an EEA national

Under European regulations, the husband/wife or civil partner of EEA nationals have the right to reside in the UK, provided the EEA national partner is in employment, self-employment, in study or is self-sufficient in the UK.

EEA Family Permit

The husband/wife or civil partner may apply for an EEA Family Permit at any British Diplomatic Post overseas. Evidence of the registration of their marriage or civil partnership and the EEA partner's nationality must be submitted with the application. An EEA Family Permit will be issued for six months. Once the non-EEA partner is in the UK, they may then apply for a Residence Card to confirm their right of residence in the UK as an EEA Family Member.

Residence Cards

Residence Cards are issued for five years. At the end of five years’ residency in the UK, provided that the EEA national partner continues to exercise treaty rights throughout the period, their partner may acquire permanent residence.

Apply to bring a spouse or civil partner to the UK when the partnership has been registered overseas

A couple may wish to enter (or have entered) into a marriage or civil partnership in another country, before coming to the UK. If the ceremony takes place overseas and one of the partners is not ‘settled’ in the UK, the overseas national partner may apply for a Spouse/Civil Partner visa to come to the UK. A ‘settled’ partner is a UK resident with no immigration restriction on the length of their stay. To be free of immigration restrictions you must have the right of abode, or indefinite leave, to enter or remain in the UK.

Evidence for the registration of the marriage or civil partnership must be provided to the UK Visas and Immigration for the visa to be issued. The UK must also recognise the overseas marriage or civil partnership.

Schedule 20 of the Civil Partnership Act 2004 lists most of the overseas partnerships which are automatically recognised in the UK. If you’ve held a marriage ceremony in another country, and this country is listed on schedule 20, you’ll be recognised as married in England and Wales. If you entered into a legal partnership overseas - that isn’t a marriage - you will be treated as civil partners.

British Diplomatic Posts

If the marriage or civil partnership is not recognised by the UK then in some circumstances applicants may apply to a British Diplomatic Post overseas to request recognition. It is also possible to register a marriage or civil partnership at a British Diplomatic Post for couples who are not married or in a civil partnership. Please note that the option to register a marriage or civil partnership is only available at certain British Diplomatic Posts.

Income requirements

From July 2012, all applicants who apply to enter the UK on the basis of a marriage or civil partnership must demonstrate that they meet an income requirement which is currently £18,600 (2016). This amount will increase for any children.

All applicants must also demonstrate they can speak and understand English. If an applicant is not a national of a majority English speaking country (e.g. Australia or the USA) and does not have a degree taught in English, then they must pass an English language test with one of the UK Border Agency's approved test providers.

The applicant will be issued with a visa for six months, during which time they should register the marriage or civil partnership. They can then apply for an extended period of temporary leave for a further two years. At the end of this initial two and a half year period, applicants will need to reapply further two and a half years. At the end of five years' residence in the UK, the overseas national partner may be eligible to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain, provided they meet further criteria. Applicants will need to meet the income requirement at each stage of the application. Once they are in the UK, and in work, they can include their own earnings for this.

If the marriage or civil partnership has been registered for more than five years, and the couple have been living outside the UK together for at least five years, the overseas national partner may apply directly for Indefinite Leave to Enter. Evidence of the registration must be submitted, as well as evidence that the couple meet the income requirement.

Life in the UK tests

The overseas national partner will also have to undertake a Life in the UK test to be granted Indefinite Leave to Enter the UK. The test is only available in the UK, so an overseas national partner will either need to take the test while in the UK as a visitor, and return overseas to apply for Indefinite Leave to Enter the UK, or enter the UK on a Spouse/ Civil Partner visa, and apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain once the test is successfully completed.

Please note that, if both partners are overseas nationals and one holds temporary UK immigration permission (e.g. as a student), the other may apply for permission to enter the UK as their dependant.

Apply for UK residency after a marriage or civil partnership

An overseas national partner of a ‘settled’ person may apply for immigration permission to remain in the UK on the basis of a marriage or civil partnership, if they either entered the UK with a Fiancé(e)/ Proposed Civil Partner visa, or a valid visa was issued for more than six months.

This application may be made from within the UK, and evidence of the registration of the marriage or civil partnership must be provided, as well as evidence that the couple has sufficient funds to meet the current income requirement.

Indefinite Leave to Remain

On 8th July 2012, changes were made to immigration rules which will affect those who applied for a visa under UKBA partnership rules, on or before this date. The changes include an extension on the period before applicants can request Indefinite Leave to Remain (also known as settlement), from two to five years. It also placed an income requirement of £18,600 (2014) which must be evidenced at all three stages of an application - the initial marriage/ civil partnership visa request; when the applicant applies for further leave to remain after two and a half years in the UK; and when they apply for indefinite leave to remain.

All applicants who apply for rights to remain in the UK on the basis of a marriage or civil partnership must also demonstrate that they can speak and understand English. If an applicant is not a national of a majority English speaking country (e.g. Australia or the US) and does not have a degree taught in English, then they must pass an English language test with one of the UK Border Agency's approved test providers.

Temporary immigration

Those who are the civil partners of persons with temporary immigration permission, such as students and who are not ‘settled’ in the UK, may not apply for further rights to remain in the UK. They must apply from overseas for a Dependant visa.

Apply for a Fiancé(e) or proposed civil partner visa

The Fiancé(e)/ Proposed Civil Partner visa permits non EEA overseas nationals to come to the UK to enter into a marriage or civil partnership with a ‘settled’ partner (a British citizen, an EEA national or someone who holds Indefinite Leave to Remain/ Permanent Residence in the UK). After the ceremony the non-EEA Overseas National will be able to apply to remain in the UK without having to return home to submit a fresh application. See the section on ‘Application to remain’ for more details.

There is no requirement for couples to have lived together. However, the UK Border Agency must be satisfied that the relationship is ‘genuine and subsisting’, and that the couple meet the income requirement.

If the ‘settled’ partner is an EEA national (e.g. a national of any EEA member state such as Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, etc) who does not already have an EEA registration certificate (a certificate issued by the UK Border Agency which confirms the EEA national’s right of residence in the UK), then they must obtain such a document before the Fiancé(e)/ Proposed Civil Partner application can be made.

The Fiancé(e)/ Proposed Civil Partner visa will only be extended in exceptional circumstances, if there is a good reason why the marriage or civil partnership has not been registered within six months, and that it will be registered soon. The ceremony for either should therefore take place within the six month visa validity period.

Apply for a Marriage or Civil Partnership Visit Visa

The Marriage or Civil Partnership Visit visa is for overseas nationals who wish to come to the UK specifically for the purpose of entering into a marriage or civil partnership. They will not have permission to remain in the UK after the ceremony has taken place and the visa expires.

If both partners are overseas nationals and are not ‘settled’ in the UK then they each must apply for Civil Partnership Visit visas to register their marriage or civil partnership.

The visa will usually be issued for six months. Evidence must be submitted showing that the couple intend to enter into a marriage or civil partnership within six months, and that they intend to leave the UK afterwards.

Under this option no application can be made for further rights to remain in the UK after the marriage or civil partnership. Any husband/wife or civil partner who is not ‘settled’ will need to apply from overseas if they wish to re-enter the UK in a more permanent category.

For further information please contact Stonewall's Information Service on 08000 502020, tweet to @StonewallUKInfo or email info@stonewall.org.uk