Is Getting Engaged on A UK Visitor Visa A Breach of The Visit Rules?
If you have recently come to the UK on a visitor visa and got engaged to your future life partner while here, many congratulations. Understandably, we frequently receive questions from individuals in similar situations who want to ensure they do not jeopardise their current or future immigration position, or that of their partner (if they are not a British citizen or settled in the UK). In this article, we will explain the visitor rules, how these would be interpreted in the context of a person getting engaged, and the next steps they should take to ensure their immigration status is secure.
What Is the Visit Visa Rules?
Visitor visas are issued to individuals coming to the UK for up to six months (there are some exceptions to this duration) for a purely temporary purpose, e.g. as a tourist, to visit family or and or friends, or for a business event. The immigration rules prohibit visitor visa holders from working unless they are given permission otherwise (e.g. if they are on permitted paid engagements or academics from overseas institutions). A breach of the visitor visa rules might occur if:
- There has been a change in circumstances which means the basis of granting the visa no longer applies
- If the person holding a visitor visa has a different intention for being in the UK than they originally stated
- According to section V9.4 of the immigration rules, it comes to light that when applying for a visit visa, a“(a) false representations were made, or false documents or information submitted (whether or not material to the application, and whether or not to the applicant’s knowledge); or (b) material facts were not disclosed, in relation to the application for a visit visa or leave to enter or remain as a visitor, or in order to obtain documents from the Secretary of State or a third party provided in support of their application”.
Am I In Breach of The Visitor Visa Rules by Getting Engaged?
Based on these rules, as long as you genuinely came to the UK for the reasons stated on your visitor visa, there is no reason that you would be in breach by becoming engaged to your partner.
What Are the Next Steps If I Am in The UK On A Visitor Visa and Am Now Engaged?
If you are planning to get married or enter into a civil partnership in the UK, your first steps will depend on your future plans.
Step 1) Returning home and applying for a new visa
If you and your partner are from outside of the UK/EEA, but you plan to marry in the UK and then live in another country, you will need to apply for a marriage visitor visa. If you plan to get married to a British or settled partner and will remain in the UK, then you will need to apply for a fiancé visa. With the fiancé visa, you will be given six months from the date of your arrival in the UK to get married. Once you are married, you can then apply for a spouse visa.
Whether you intend to apply for a marriage visitor visa or a fiancé visa, you will need to make your application outside of the UK. Once you have left the UK, you can then submit your application online. If your application is successful, you will then be able to enter the UK for the purposes of getting married.
The eligibility criteria vary between these two visa types. With the marriage visitor visa, the main requirements are that you are in a genuine relationship, over 18, leaving the UK at the end of your visit (within six months) and that you can support yourself financially during that time. With the fiancé visa, because you are planning to stay for the long term, you will need to meet the English language requirement and prove you can support yourself and your dependants financially.
Step 2) Returning to the UK and registering your marriage/civil partnership
Part of the process of getting married or entering into a civil partnership is that you and your partner will need to ‘give notice’ to your local UK registry office at least 29 days before your ceremony. You will also need to pay a fee to the registry office of £47 (as a non-EEA national) and £30 for your British or settled partner.
Step 3) Investigation process
Any intended marriage or civil partnership involving a non-EEA national with limited or no immigration status in the UK will be referred to the Home Office’s Marriage Referral and Assessment Unit (MRAU). This is to ensure that any ‘sham marriages’ are discovered and prevented. Not all cases referred to the MRAU are investigated; this will only occur if they have reasonable grounds to suspect your relationship is not genuine. If you and your partner are investigated, remember that this is a purely routine process as required under law and that you are far more likely to sail through the process if you cooperate and comply fully with the case officer assessing your marriage registration.
Step 4) Marriage or civil partnership ceremony
Assuming that the MRAU are satisfied that your marriage/civil partnership plans are genuine, then you can proceed with finalising your ceremony.
If you are currently in the UK on a visitor visa and you are now planning to get married to your UK based partner, it is advisable to secure the help of an immigration Solicitor before you proceed too far. Applying for a marriage visitor visa is relatively straightforward, but the application process for a fiancé visa and the subsequent spouse visa requires more consideration and planning. Whichever route you choose, we wish you the very best with your plans to marry in the UK and your future married life.
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