If you are a British national or have UK settled status and are planning to marry an EU citizen in the UK, it will be important to understand the immigration status of your new spouse.
The following guide provides an overview of the position for UK and EU nationals getting married in the UK, including the rules relating to UK residence for your new spouse post-Brexit.
Does my EU fiancé(e) need a UK visa?
Non-UK residents need a visa to get married in the UK if they:
- Are from outside the EU, European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland
- Are not a British citizen
- Do not have indefinite leave to remain in the UK (such as EU settled status).
Following the end of EU free movement, from 1 January 2021, all EU citizens (and non-EU nationals) coming the UK will need to apply for a visa, such as a:
- Marriage visit visa: for the sole purpose of getting married, the marriage visit visa is a short-stay route only to allow for the marriage ceremony to take place here.
- Spouse visa: also known as a ‘family visa’, where the applicant’s partner (eg spouse, civil partner, unmarried cohabiting) is a British citizen, settled in the UK, has refugee status or humanitarian protection in the UK
- Family permit: if an EU citizen’s partner is not a British citizen but from an EU, EEA country or Switzerland.
Will my EU spouse need settled status?
If your EU fiancé(e) was already in the UK by 31 December 2020, and they wish to remain with you in the UK, they will need to register under the EU Settlement Scheme to continue to live in the UK with lawful status. The deadline to apply for settled status is 30 June 2021.
The net effect of this is that there will be no change to the rights and status of EU citizens living in the UK until 30 June 2021. However, to legalise their residence after this date, EU citizens will need to hold settled (or pre settled) status.
Further, they will need to have been living in the UK prior to the end of the transitional period on 31 December 2020 to be eligible to apply.
EU citizens already resident in the UK by 31 December 2020 will not need to be married to a British citizen or someone with UK settled status to be eligible under the EU settlement scheme. Your EU fiancé(e) will be eligible to apply in their own right, as long as they satisfy the residence requirement.
In the event that you and your EU fiancé(e) are not planning to get married in the UK until after 30 June 2021, they should still apply under the EU Settlement Scheme to safeguard their status.
For anyone who has not successfully applied under the scheme by 30 June 2021, they will no longer be protected by the previous freedom of movement rights under EU law and will be classed as living unlawfully in the UK after that point.
As such, if your EU fiancé(e) comes to the UK after 31 December 2020, they will have to meet the requirements of the UK’s new immigration rules apply under an appropriate UK visa route, such as the fiancé(e) visa or spouse visa if they want to live here with you. The spouse visa requirements are strict and include meeting financial, language thresholds, and your relationship will be assessed for ‘genuineness’.
This involves making an application to the UK Home Office for a relevant visa, such as the spouse visa where permission to live in the UK will be on basis of a qualifying relationship, or a work visa such as the Skilled Worker visa which requires sponsorship in a qualifying role.
Settled status application process
The application process under the new EU Settlement Scheme is fairly simple and free of charge. In most cases, your EU fiancé(e)/spouse should be able to apply online.
They should also be able to scan the necessary documents and upload their photograph using the ‘EU Exit: ID Document Check’ app. In support of their application they will need:
- Proof of their identity, for example, a passport or national identity card
- Proof of their residence in the UK
If your EU fiancé(e) or spouse is unable to scan the documents via the app, they will either need to send them via post or visit a location providing access to the ID document scanning service.
Further, if your EU fiancé(e) or spouse can provide a National Insurance number, if they have one, the Home Office will carry out an automated check of their residence based on tax and certain benefit records. If this check is successful, they will not need to provide any documents as proof of residence.
Finally, in addition to proof of their identity and residence, the application requires your EU fiancée or spouse to undergo a criminality check. This means they will need to declare any criminal convictions on the form, although only serious or persistent criminality will affect their application.
It will usually take around 5 working days for applications to be processed if no further information is required, but it can take up to a month. Your EU fiancé(e) or spouse can track the progress of their application online.
What rights will my EU spouse have?
Successful applicants will be emailed a letter confirming the grant of their new status. However, they cannot use the letter itself to prove their status, although they can view this or prove it to someone else online. It is important to note that your EU fiancé(e) or spouse will only receive digital proof of their immigration status rather than a physical document.
If their application under the EU Settlement Scheme is successful, they will be granted either settled or pre-settled status. The type of status they will be granted will depend on how long they have been living in the UK.
If your EU fiancé(e)/spouse has lived in the UK for 5 years or more on a continuous basis, they will usually be granted settled status. This will allow them to live, work and study in the UK on an indefinite basis.
If they have lived in the UK for less than 5 years, or there has been a significant break in their period of residence, they will be granted pre-settled status. This will allow your new spouse to live in the UK for a further period of 5 years. They can then apply for settled status once they have accrued a period of 5 years continuous residence, although this application must be submitted prior to expiry of their pre-settled status.
DavidsonMorris are specialist UK immigration advisers, helping individuals understand their UK immigration options. The end of EU free movement and wide-ranging changes to the UK Immigration Rules have impacted EU citizens in the UK and those coming to the UK from 2021. If you are concerned about your EU partner’s rights to live and remain in the UK with you, we can help. DavidsonMorris can advise on your status and any applications you need to make to ensure lawful status, including settlement options which may become available.
If you have a question about your eligibility under the spouse visa requirements or about making your spouse visa application, contact us.
Can I stay in the UK if I marry an EU citizen?
If you marry an EU citizen you can stay in the UK, but you will both need to apply under the EU Settlement Scheme for permission to do so post-Brexit. You will either be granted settled or pre-settled status, depending on how long you have lived in the UK, where settled status will allow you live in the UK indefinitely.
What happens when you marry an EU citizen?
If you marry an EU citizen, you will be granted certain rights under EU law. This will make it easier for you to join your new spouse if they are living, working or studying in an EU country different from the one they come from. In the UK, as from 30 June 2021 EU law will no longer apply, where you and your spouse will need to apply for permission prior to that date under the EU Settlement Scheme.
Can EU citizen bring non EU spouse to UK?
An EU citizen can bring their non EU spouse to live with them in the UK, although you will both need to apply under the new EU Settlement Scheme to enable you to reside lawfully in the UK after 30 June 2021. The non EU spouse must also be living in the UK prior to the end of the transition period on 31 December 2020.
Can I live in the UK if I marry a British citizen?
If you marry a British citizen you can live in the UK although, depending on where you are from, you will either need a visa or permission under the EU Settlement Scheme. After 30 June 2021, the rights and status of EU citizens living in the UK will change, where an application for lawful immigration status must be made under the new scheme, even as the spouse of a British citizen.
Last updated: 3 January 2021