Fiancé Visa Application For Couples That Have Never Met Physically
In the internet age, it is not uncommon for two people who have never met but have spent months or even years conversing online, to decide to get married. Indeed, given the recent COVID-19 lockdown, singletons looking for love had little choice but to get to know people through digital means. For international relationships, where one person is in the UK, and the other is outside of the European Economic Area (EEA), not having met in person can pose a problem if the couple plan to marry and settle in the UK.
The immigration rules for fiancé, fiancée, or proposed civil partner visas include specific requirements that are designed to ensure the relationship is genuine.
Do We Have To Meet To Acquire A Fiancé Visa?
The family fiancé visa route allows non-EEA citizens who are planning to get married or enter into a civil partnership visa to a British citizen or a person who is settled in the UK (this person is referred to as a ‘sponsor’), to come to the UK. The visa is granted for six months, allowing the couple time to get married, after which the non-EEA citizen can apply for a partner/spouse visa. It is important to know from the outset, however, that the Home Office guidance for fiancé, fiancée or proposed civil partner visas states it is required that “the parties to the proposed marriage or civil partnership have met”.
According to the Home Office guidance ‘Fiancé(e)s: SET01’, in the context of internet relationships, “A relationship that has developed over the Internet would not satisfy the ‘to have met’ requirement unless the relationship included a personal face-to-face meeting between the couple concerned. Evidence of a face-to-face meeting might include a travel history, relevant email exchanges etc”. This makes it quite clear that even couples who have been conversing digitally will not satisfy the immigration rules requiring them to have met.
Caselaw and ‘making the acquaintance of’
As with many aspects of immigration law, there are nuances to this rule. Previous immigration tribunal cases involving individuals applying for a fiancé visa have challenged the interpretation of what is meant by ‘to have met’. In previous cases, including that of Balvinder Singh, and another case of Rewal Raj, the immigration tribunal concluded that ‘to have met’ could broadly be construed as meaning ‘to have made the acquaintance of’. In addition, in the case of Abdulmajid Esmail Jaffer, the tribunal reasoned that ‘to have met’ is “more than a mutual sighting”. Furthermore, they concluded that “a mere coming face-to-face followed by telephone or written contact would be insufficient to satisfy the rule, as would a family background together with such a face-to-face meeting”. The key test of whether the ‘to have met’ rule has been satisfied is whether the couple has had a face-to-face meeting which led to the ‘making of mutual acquaintance’.
What Are The Other Requirements Which Must Be Met For A Fiancé Visa?
In addition to the requirement to have met, there are several other criteria to be granted a fiancé visa; these include:
- The sponsor must be a UK citizen or a person who is settled in the UK (i.e. they are settled under the EU Settlement Scheme, or they have permanent residence or Indefinite Leave to Remain).
- The couple must intend to live together on a permanent basis once married or in a civil partnership
- You have sufficient money and accommodation without needing to access public funds (i.e. social security benefits) – this must apply both before the marriage/civil partnership, and after.
- You must have passed an English language test certificate in speaking and listening from an English language test provider – this must be at A1 level or higher of the CEBR standard. This requirement will be ignored if the applicant is over 65 years or they have a mental or physical impairment which would prevent them from taking the test. This requirement can also be bypassed if the applicant is from Antigua and Barbuda; Australia; the Bahamas; Barbados; Belize; Canada; Dominica; Grenada; Guyana; Jamaica; New Zealand; St Kitts and Nevis; St Lucia; St Vincent and the Grenadines; Trinidad and Tobago; United States of America. This can also be satisfied based on a degree level qualification taught or researched in English.
During the period when the non-EEA national is in the country on a fiancé visa, they will not be permitted to work
Related Article: Read more on English Language Test Requirement Exemption here.
Extending Your Fiancé Visa
The fiancé visa is only granted for a relatively short duration of six months to allow for the marriage or civil partnership ceremony to take place. Once this is completed, the non-EEA national will then be able to apply for a partner/spouse visa which will allow them to stay for 2.5 years. This can then be further extended for another 2.5 years after which has reached five continuous years in the UK, they can then consider applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain.
To satisfy the home office that your intended marriage/civil partnership is genuine, you will need to have met in person. The key is making sure that you meet the threshold of ‘making the acquaintance of’. If you are unsure if you will meet the requirements of the Home Office, it is advisable to hold off submitting your fiancé visa application until you have spoken to an immigration Solicitor. You may need to take additional steps before this is fully met to the satisfaction of a case officer. And if you have already been refused, it will then be important to provide evidence that a meeting in the sense of ‘making the acquaintance of’ has now taken place.