Does Marrying a British Citizen Give You The Right to Live in the UK?

marrying a british citizen

Can I Live in the UK if I Marry a British Citizen?

People often ask if marrying a British citizen would allow them to live in the UK. Not right away. Being married doesn’t automatically give you permission to live there.

There are exceptions, though. If you’re already a British citizen or have a different visa, like a work visa, you’re fine. Otherwise, you’ll need a special visa for spouses. This visa lets you stay for 2.5 years, with a chance to extend it for another 2.5 years. After that, you can apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) and become a British citizen.

In this article, our UK immigration lawyers in London provide insights into how you can secure residency rights in the UK through marriage to a British citizen or someone with established UK status through the Spouse Visa route. 

Marriage and Residency Rights in the UK

A common misinterpretation is that wedding a British citizen automatically grants the right to live in the UK. However, this is not the point, regardless of the duration or commitment level of your union. Many couples wrestle with this reality, believing that as British national, they can live with their chosen partners in the UK. While British citizens or individuals with settled status have residency rights, their spouses or partners who are subject to UK immigration controls do not automatically share these rights.

There are, however, pathways to UK entry clearance that hinge on your relationship, such as the spouse or family visa. It’s crucial to note that a marriage certificate or relationship evidence alone does not guarantee a spouse or partner visa. You must satisfy all eligibility criteria to secure a spouse visa.

Our immigration lawyers emphasise that not all individuals meet the necessary criteria for a spouse visa. Various circumstances, such as a partner in a low-income job, can prevent the spouse from fulfilling the financial requirements of the spouse visa. In such instances, other options like a student, graduate, or skilled worker visa may be feasible, depending on personal circumstances.

To improve your chances of uniting with a British spouse in the UK, it’s advisable to seek early expert advice on the most suitable visa for your situation and objectives.

You can contact our team at Gulbenkian Andonian Solicitors for guidance on Applying for a UK Spouse Visa at +44 20 7269 9590 or send us a message through our contact form

Implications for EU Nationals Married to British Citizens

EU nationals may assume they are exempt from UK immigration rules and spouse visas, which could be true under certain conditions. If you relocated to the UK prior to the termination of the free movement policy on December 31, 2020, and successfully applied for either settled or pre-settled status via the EU Settlement Scheme, these immigration rules may not be applicable to you. However, for those who migrated to the UK post this cut-off date, UK immigration laws would be in effect and you will need to follow the standard Spouse Visa route procedure.

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British Citizenship Through Marriage

Tying the knot with a British citizen or an individual with settled status in the UK does not provide a direct path to acquiring British citizenship. The initial step involves applying for a spouse or family visa, followed by fulfilling the necessary residency criteria and other eligibility prerequisites to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain status (ILR). Keep in mind securing ILR status doesn’t equate to becoming a British citizen. You must undertake a separate application procedure to attain British citizenship.

The advancement from marriage to British citizenship can be a complicated and lengthy procedure, and its complexity can vary based on your individual circumstances. Not every person who marries and migrates to the UK seeks to become a British citizen. Some individuals consider ILR status to be adequate, given that it endows them the freedom to reside and work in the UK for an unlimited period.

From Marriage to British Nationality: Steps to Follow

The journey from marriage to becoming a British citizen typically includes four key stages. Each stage has its own individual set of requirements, which makes it vital to get in touch with an immigration expert from the very start so you can gain a thorough understanding of the process and boost your chance of eventually acquiring British citizenship. Let’s understand each of these stages a bit more:

1. Initiating a Spouse Visa Application

The foremost stage of this approach concerns the foreign spouse submitting an application to the UK authorities. The aim of this application is to obtain authorisation to reside in the UK alongside their British partner. It’s necessary to provide a variety of documents with this application to substantiate the legitimacy of the marriage, to demonstrate the couple’s financial stability, and to confirm their joint plan to establish residence in the UK.

As per the latest updates from the UK government, the financial threshold for all family visas is £29,000 as  of April 11th 2024, with a further increase to £34,500 later in 2024 and then to 38,700 by the start of 2025. Ensure you’re up-to-date with these changes by visiting our family visa financial requirements page or by contacting our office directly.

2. Filing for an Extension to Lengthen the Duration of the Spouse Visa

The initial spouse visa usually has a validity of 2.5 years. Close to the end of this period, an application must be submitted to extend the visa for another 2.5 years. This step requires demonstrating the continuity of the relationship and meeting the same criteria as the initial spouse visa application.

3. Applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR)

After 5 years of residing in the UK on a spouse visa, you are eligible to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR). This step requires you to demonstrate a basic knowledge of life in the UK and your English language proficiency, along with evidence of continued marital relationship and financial stability. You also need to meet the residency requirement for ILR, which includes not being outside the UK for more than 180 days in a 12-month period during the 5-year period.

4. Submitting an Application for British Citizenship

The final stage in this process is applying for British citizenship. This can be done 12 months after obtaining ILR, provided the relationship is still intact. In addition to this, the applicant should not have breached any immigration laws and should pass the “good character” requirement. This includes not having any serious or recent criminal record and not attempting deception in your dealings with the UK government.

Remember, understanding the specific residency prerequisite for acquiring Indefinite Leave to Remain is critical, as well as being aware of how extended stays overseas for work or family reasons might impact this requirement. Navigating these complexities can be easier with the help of an immigration expert who can provide guidance tailored to your unique circumstances.

How Gulbenkian Andonian Solicitors Can Help You

Navigating the challenges of immigration law can be a challenging task. That’s where we at Gulbenkian Andonian Solicitors come in. Our renowned firm stands ready to assist you every step of the way.

Our specialist team of dedicated spouse visa solicitors has a wealth of experience handling spouse and partner visa cases. We have a lot of experience and are ready to help, even if you’ve had trouble getting a spouse visa before.

Get in touch with us to discover more about the services we offer.


No, marriage to a British national does not automatically guarantee UK residency. The spouse of a British citizen must still apply for a UK spouse visa to reside in the UK. This visa requires satisfying specific eligibility criteria, including knowledge of English, financial stability, and a genuine relationship.

No, a UK spouse visa is not a permanent visa. It is granted for a period of 2.5 years. After this period, you extend it to a further 2.5 years. After living in the UK for 5 years on a spouse visa, you may be qualified to apply for ‘Indefinite Leave to Remain’ (ILR), which enables you to stay permanently in the UK.

The process required to bring a spouse to the UK can vary based on individual circumstances. However, once you submit the spouse visa application, it typically takes between 2 to 12 weeks for the Home Office to make a conclusion. It’s suggested to plan in advance and account for possible uncertainties in processing.

Not immediately. However, yes, a foreigner can live in the UK if they tie the knot with a British citizen or someone settled in the UK if they apply for a Spouse Visa. They must fulfil particular requirements, such as proving the relationship is genuine and meeting a certain income threshold.

You need to live in the UK for a minimum of 5 years before you can apply for British citizenship. Additionally, you need to have had ‘Indefinite Leave to Remain’ (ILR) or ‘Settled Status’ for at least 12 months (1 year) before applying.

Yes, after successfully getting a UK spouse visa, you can work in the UK. In fact, one of the advantages of a spouse visa is that it allows you to work in any job, full-time or part-time. It also allows you to be self-employed. However, you cannot access public funds until you have been granted indefinite leave to remain. 

If the children are not British citizens or do not have an ILR, they will need a visa to live in the UK. You can apply for a ‘Child of a British Citizen or Settled Person’ visa on their behalf. The child must be under 18, not live an independent life, and be financially supported without recourse to public funds.

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At Gulbenkian Andonian, we pride ourselves on “Excellence, Experience and Efficiency”. With over 35 years of experience on your side, our team of London based lawyers and solicitors have a wealth of experience advising individuals, families and businesses of all sizes to find clarity on UK law.

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