If you are a long term partner of a British citizen or someone with UK indefinite leave to remain or settled status, you may be eligible to apply to join them in the UK by applying for an unmarried partner visa.
Unmarried partner visa requirements
The unmarried partner visa falls within the UK’s family visa category, which applies to unmarried couples, as well as other relatives such as a spouse, civil partner, children and parents.
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 with either:
- a British or Irish citizen; or
- a person who is present and settled in the UK, with indefinite leave to remain or EU settled status; or
- a person with a Turkish Businessperson visa or Turkish Worker visa; or
- a person in the UK with refugee status or humanitarian protection.
The following criteria must also be met:
- You and your partner must both be aged 18 or over
- Your relationship must be genuine and subsisting
- You must have lived together for at least 2 years in a relationship akin to a marriage or civil partnership
- You must intend to live together permanently in the UK
- Any previous relationships have broken down permanently
- You have the required level of English language ability
- You have adequate accommodation for you and any dependants
- You have adequate funds and income and will not need to access public funds while in the UK
The cohabitation element is mandatory, as is the intention to live together permanently in the UK if the visa is granted. 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 you plan to get married or enter into a civil partnership in the UK within 6 months of arriving.
Minimum income requirement
In your application, you will need to provide evidence that between you and your partner, you have a combined income of at least £18,600 a year. In some cases, if you have dependent children who are not British or Irish or do not have pre-settled status and are not permanently settled in the UK, this threshold increases by £3,800 for your first child and £2,400 for each subsequent child you have after your first child
The minimum income rules are complex. For example, you may be able to rely on savings instead of income to meet the threshold. It is recommended applicants take professional advice to ensure you are providing the required evidence to meet the relevant threshold.
What counts as salary can also quickly become complicated. You would generally be allowed to rely on:
- income from employment before tax and National Insurance
- income you earn from self-employment or as a director of a limited company in the UK
- cash savings above £16,000 held for at least 6 months (unless you can show they result from a recent sale of property or investments)
- money from a pension, investments, stocks, shares, bonds or trust funds
- non-work income, for example from property rentals or insurance payments
English language requirement
To satisfy the English language requirement for an unmarried partner visa, 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 you have an academic qualification that was taught in English and is recognised as being equivalent to a UK bachelors degree, masters degree or PhD.
Applicants 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 you will need to attend an appointment to provide your biometric information, ie; fingerprints, a digital photo and signature. You will be told how to make an appointment to enrol this information when you submit your application.
If your partner is applying from outside the UK, a decision on their visa 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 is approved, you will be granted permission to stay in the UK for 2.5 years, or for 6 months if you are applying as a fiancé(e) or proposed civil partner. You will then be required to extend your stay as a spouse or civil partner.
All applications will lead to a grant of limited leave whereby you must spend at least 5 years in the UK before being eligible for indefinite leave to remain (ILR). At this stage, you will not only have to satisfy the 5 year continuous residence requirement, but in many cases, the KoLL requirement.
The KoLL requirement represents your “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 you are exempt by reason of age or otherwise, you 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.
You will need to submit various documents in support of your application for an Unmarried Partner Visa UK.
The documents to provide will depend on your circumstances, but in general would include:
- Valid passport or other travel document
- Proof of your partner’s UK status eg British passport or BRP
- Recent bank statements
- Proof the minimum salary threshold is met eg wage slips, your partner’s bank statements
- Proof of knowledge of English
- Your National Insurance number (if you have one)
- Names, ages and nationality of any children coming with you
- Details of your accommodation in the UK
- Your parent’s date of birth and nationality
- Details of any criminal convictions, if applicable
- Details of the countries outside the UK you’ve lived in and visited
Inevitably, this must include proof of your relationship and that it is genuine and subsisting, 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, for example:
- Evidence of any contact between you while you have been apart, for example, telephone bills and emails.
- 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.
Evidence of 2 years cohabitation is also mandatory. Supporting documents should evidence how long you have lived together, and could include:
- Joint lease agreement or a letter from your landlord stating that you live at the same address.
- Joint utilities bills, things you pay for together or correspondence addressed to both of you such as council tax bills.
- Correspondence that is addressed individually but shows the same address.
Can you work in the UK with an unmarried partner visa?
Yes, unmarried partner visa holders have the Right to Work during the validity period of their visa.
How long is the unmarried partner visa valid for?
If the Home Office approves your visa application, it will usually be issued for 33 months.
If you are applying for leave to remain, the visa is generally issued for 30 months.
To remain in the UK beyond this period, you will need to make an application to extend your stay. If you continue to meet the requirements of the partner visa, you can apply to extend under the same category. If successful, you will be granted leave for a further 30 months.
After five years’ residence in the UK, ie two periods of leave as an unmarried partner, you become eligible to apply for UK settlement.
What if your application is refused?
The Home Office can refuse unmarried partner visa applications for many reasons. It may be that you have failed to meet the requirements such as the salary threshold.
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. This makes it vital to prepare your application well and ensure you are providing sufficient evidence of your eligibility.
If your application has been refused, your options are generally to either make a new application or to bring an appeal to the tribunal.
If making a new application, you should ensure that you address the initial grounds for refusal, for example by addressing any evidential gaps in your supporting documents.
Appealing can be a drawn out process, with no guarantees.
It may be that a different route would be more suitable, such as sponsorship for a skilled worker visa.
Take advice on your circumstances.
Do you have a question about an unmarried partner visa?
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.
Unmarried partner visa FAQs
How do I get a UK unmarried partner visa?
To be eligible, you must be in a relationship akin to marriage or civil partnership for at least 2 years, and have lived together, with someone who is a British citizen or has UK indefinite leave to remain or settled status.
How can I prove my unmarried partner status?
The visa application will need to include evidence of the UK citizen's or settled person's status, and proof that the relationship qualifies under the family route.
How much does a partner visa cost UK?
The Home Office application fee in 2021 is £1,523 if you are applying outside the UK and £1,033 if you are applying inside the UK.
Last updated: 2 March 2021