Can I Live in the UK if I Marry a British Citizen?
A common question our immigration solicitors get asked is: Does marrying a British citizen automatically secure the right to reside in the UK? The straightforward answer is no, not necessarily. Being wedded to a British citizen doesn’t automatically grant you the privilege to live in the UK unless you’re a British national yourself, are on a visa route such as the skilled worker visa or senior or specialist worker visa, or have been granted the status of indefinite leave to remain. The way that you can legally live in the UK after marriage is by obtaining a UK spouse visa which will grant you residency rights for 2.5 years and then can be extended for a further 2.5 years. After this period, you can apply for indefinite leave to remain and then British citizenship.
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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.
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.
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.
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 sophisticated landscape of immigration law can be a daunting task. That’s where the legal team at Gulbenkian Andonian Solicitors comes in. Our renowned firm stands ready to assist you every step of the way, turning complex legal jargon into clear, understandable advice.
Our specialist team of dedicated Spouse Visa Solicitors has a wealth of experience in handling spouse and partner visa cases. We’re well-versed in dealing with intricate circumstances, and we’re well-prepared to help even if previous attempts to secure a spouse visa have been unsuccessful.
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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Dr Bernard Andonian – the Co-Founder of Gulbenkian Andonian Solicitors, is an experienced Immigration Solicitor, former Judge, and recipient of a PhD in Law from the University of West London. He has over four decades of experience practising UK Immigration, Human Rights and Civil Litigation Law. He has served on the Law Society Immigration Law Panel, achieved numerous groundbreaking decisions in higher courts and is featured in the Legal 500’s Hall of Fame.