Unmarried partners from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland have to apply for a UK visa to join their partners in the UK.
What is the unmarried partner visa, who is eligible and how do you apply?
What is the Unmarried Partner Visa?
The Unmarried Partner Visa UK comes within the Family Visa category, which applies to unmarried couples, as well as other relatives such as a spouse, civil partner, children and parents.
By virtue of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, a non-EEA or non-Swiss national can apply to live in the UK on the basis of family life as the partner or fiancé(e) of a person who falls into any one of the following categories:
- a British citizen; or
- a person who is present and settled in the UK, with indefinite leave to remain; or
- a person in the UK with refugee status or humanitarian protection.
Unmarried partner visa eligibility
The family visa applies to unmarried partners which include same-sex partners, and refers to anyone who has been living together and in a relationship akin to a marriage or civil partnership for at least 2 years.
The cohabitation element is mandatory. It is not sufficient that you have just been in a relationship with your partner for 2 years. You must have also lived together for 2 years prior to the date of the visa application.
Unmarried partners also include fiancé(e)s and proposed civil partners, although here the applicant must demonstrate that they plan on getting married or entering into a civil partnership in the UK within 6 months of arriving.
To apply for an Unmarried Partner Visa UK, there are various other criteria that must be fulfilled, including the following:
- You and your partner must both be aged 18 or over
- Your relationship must be genuine and subsisting
- You must intend to live together permanently in the UK.
Your partner must also meet what’s known as the financial and English language requirements. These are dealt with in turn below.
The financial requirement
To satisfy the financial requirement for an Unmarried Partner Visa UK, your partner will need to demonstrate that between you, by way of a combined income, you have the means to support yourselves, as well as any dependent children, without recourse to public funds in the UK.
Here, the minimum income threshold is at least £18,600 a year. Further, for any dependant child who is not a British citizen, an EEA national or permanently settled in the UK, you will need to prove an increase of £3,800, with an extra £2,400 for each additional child.
Your partner will not, however, need to prove the minimum income threshold where you are in receipt of a specified benefit or allowance. Instead, they will need to provide evidence of adequate maintenance and accommodation for you and any dependents.
The English language requirement
To satisfy the English language requirement for an Unmarried Partner Visa UK, unless your partner is a national of a majority English speaking country, your partner will either need to take an approved English language test, or show that they have an academic qualification that was taught in English and is recognised as being equivalent to a UK bachelors degree, masters degree or PhD.
They will be exempt from meeting the English language requirement if they are aged 65 or over, have a physical or mental disability that prevents them from meeting this requirement, or there are exceptional circumstances that prevent them from being able to meet the requirement prior to entry to the UK.
Unmarried partner visa application process
When applying for an Unmarried Partner Visa UK, an application will need to be submitted online, together with various documents in support.
As part of the application process your partner will need to attend an appointment to provide their biometric information, ie; fingerprints, a digital photo and signature. They will be told how to make an appointment to enrol this information when they submit their application.
If your partner is applying from outside the UK, a decision on their Unmarried Partner Visa UK will usually be made within 12 weeks. This is more likely to be around 8 weeks when applying from inside the UK.
If the application for an Unmarried Partner Visa UK is approved, your partner will be granted permission to stay in the UK for 2.5 years, or for 6 months if they are applying as a fiancé(e) or proposed civil partner. They will then be required to extend their stay as a spouse or civil partner.
All applications will lead to a grant of limited leave whereby your partner must spend at least 5 years in the UK before being eligible for indefinite leave to remain (ILR). At this stage, your partner will not only have to satisfy the 5 year continuous residence requirement, but in many cases, the KoLL requirement.
The KoLL requirement represents their “knowledge of the English language and about life in the UK”, whereby the ability to communicate in English and have knowledge of life in the UK forms an integral part of the necessary commitment to respect the laws, values and traditions in the UK.
Unless your partner is exempt by reason of age or otherwise, they can satisfy the KoLL requirement by proving their knowledge of English, and by passing a “Life in the UK” test at an approved test centre.
Your partner will need to submit various documents in support of their application for an Unmarried Partner Visa UK. Inevitably, this must include proof of your relationship, ie; that you have lived in a relationship akin to a marriage or civil partnership for at least 2 years prior to the date of the application.
Please note that evidence of 2 years cohabitation is mandatory here. This might include joint leases or a letter from your landlord stating that you live at the same address. It could also include joint utilities bills or correspondence addressed to both of you. It could also include correspondence that is addressed individually but show the same address.
To show that your relationship is genuine and subsisting, your partner may also want to provide evidence of any contact between you while you have been apart, for example, telephone bills and emails.
You could also both provide a covering letter detailing how and when you met, how the relationship has developed, any time spent apart, any milestones in your relationship such as moving in together or going on holidays, as well as any future plans you may have together.
Your partner will also need to provide, where required, documentary proof of their knowledge of English, as well as the financial requirement. The documentary proof of income might include bank statements, payslips and/or letters from your respective employers.
Do you have a question about an unmarried partner visa?
Given the extensive nature of the supporting documentation for an Unmarried Partner visa, applications are regularly refused on the basis that the documents do not sufficiently evidence the eligibility criteria.
DavidsonMorris is a law firm specialising in UK immigration. We help individuals with their UK immigration needs, and can guide and support you through any Home Office process, including applications for unmarried partners to join their loved ones in the UK. If you have a question about a family visa application, please contact us.