Each year, the UK is host to around half a million international students, over 340,000 of whom are from countries from outside of the EU. Some of those students may meet their lifelong partners in the UK and decide to get married. We are commonly asked whether there are any immigration restrictions on international students from outside of the EEA getting married. The answer, you may be pleased to hear, is generally, no; students on valid Tier 4 study visas are free to get married while they are in the UK. In this article, we will explain how this works in practical terms, how you can switch from a Tier 4 visa to a spouse visa, and the requirements you will need to meet.
There are no specific restrictions on getting married in the UK while you are on a valid Tier 4 study visa. The key point to bear in mind is that your Tier 4 visa must be valid when you get married. Given that some marriages can take months to plan, if your study visa is due to expire before you can get married, you will either need to extend your study visa or apply for a spouse visa.
Once you are married or in a civil partnership, you will be able to apply for a spouse visa, if you meet the eligibility criteria.
In order to switch from a Tier 4 study visa to a spouse visa, you will need to fulfill a number of eligibility criteria; specifically, you will need to show:
Assuming you meet the above criteria, you also need to prove that you have a good knowledge of English, and can financially support yourself and your dependents. You may still be able to apply for a spouse visa if you do not meet these two requirements if:
If your application for a spouse visa is successful, you will receive permission to remain in the UK for a period of 2.5 years, after which you can apply to extend your visa. In addition, after five years of continuous residence, you may be able to apply for indefinite leave to remain (ILR).
The application form to switch from a Tier 4 visa to a spouse visa is completed online.You can add your children to your application if they are dependant on you and are under 18. As part of the application process, you will be asked about, and required to show proof of:
In addition, you will be asked to provide information on your previous marriages and partners with whom you had children. For previous marriages, you will need to provide a copy of the relevant divorce certificates to prove they have ended. You will also be asked to provide details of your children, and those of your partner, including:
While the application for a spouse visa is reasonably lengthy and will take some time to complete, do not be deterred. It is highly recommended that you take your time when applying and answer each question as thoroughly as possible, or seek an immigration Solicitor who can complete the process on your behalf.
The fee to apply for a spouse visa is currently £1,033, and then a further £1,033 of each dependant you have included on your application. You will also need to pay the required health surcharge as part of your application, for yourself and any dependants.
The process of applying for and then receiving your spouse visa can take several weeks – typically around eight weeks, according to the Home Office. If time is of the essence, and you need to accelerate the process of securing a spouse visa to allow you get married, you can apply for the super-priority service at an additional cost, which will provide a decision by the end of the next working day after providing your biometric information. If your appointment to provide your biometrics is held at the weekend, your decision may take up to two working days.
If you are an international student planning to embark on the next stage of your life with your partner, the immigration process is relatively straightforward. It is important to bear in mind, however, if you are unsure if you meet the necessary criteria, or your circumstances may lead to complications in your application, do seek expert immigration law advice. Doing so will remove any worry and concern regarding your situation, and will ensure that not only are you able to get married to your loved one, but you will also be able to remain with them in the UK. We wish you all the best for your married life in the UK.
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