In recent years, the UK Home Office has been granting over 30,000 spouse visa annually, allowing non-EEA citizens to join their British partner or a settled person (i.e. a person with indefinite leave to remain or EU Settled Status). Under the family visa route, a UK based person can sponsor their non-EEA partner to live with them in the UK. Inevitably, a proportion of those relationships will fail, leading to separation. The challenge from an immigration stand-point for non-EEA citizens is that if they are no longer in a relationship to their sponsor, they are no longer entitled to remain in the UK. They can, however, apply for another visa, or possibly indefinite leave to remain (ILR) if they are eligible.
We recently received a question from a sponsor whose relationship to their non-EEA partner has ended, clarifying if they can cancel their partner's visa. In this article, we will explain the process for when a couple separate, where one person was permitted to stay in the UK on the basis of their relationship to a British national or settled person.
The Home Office makes it very clear that a person in the UK on a spouse visa is only able to stay (subject to their visa conditions) as long as they remain in a genuine relationship with their partner. The UK government website states, "You must tell the Home Office when you divorce or separate from your partner if your visa is based on your relationship. You must then either apply for a new visa or leave the UK. Your visa is based on your relationship if you have permission to stay in the UK for a limited time as:
In other words, both parties have an obligation to tell the Home Office in the event of divorce or separation.
The process of informing the Home office of a separation or divorce is very straightforward. You will need to send an email to StatusReviewUnit@homeoffice.gov.uk with the words' MARRIAGE BREAKDOWN' in the subject line.
In the email you should include you and your ex-partner's:
You must then complete and sign one of the following forms which should be scanned and attached to the email:
Remember – you only need to complete and attach one of these forms to your email, depending on your disclosure preferences. It should be noted though that both forms effectively grant permission for the Home Office official to contact your ex-partner at the address you have provided.
If you would prefer not to use email, you can send a letter with the above information and a printed copy of the form you have chosen to:
UK Visas and Immigration
Status Review Unit
New Hall Place
If you or your ex-partner have children in the UK, you must provide the following additional information in your email/letter to the Home Office:
As we have already outlined, if your relationship has ended, the non-EEA citizen will need to either leave or apply for a new visa. There are a number of routes which can be used depending on your circumstances, including:
You may be able to apply for ILR if you experienced domestic violence as the partner of a British citizen or person settled in the UK. The Home Office guidance explains that to make a successful application for ILR, your relationship must have been genuine and ongoing when you were last given permission as a partner, and you will need to provide sufficient evidence that "you were the victim of domestic violence from your partner, their family, or both, and this is why your relationship has broken down". You may be eligible for an additional three-month leave (referred to as a 'Victim of Domestic Violence Concession') while you apply to settle as a victim of domestic violence.
As a spouse visa holder, if your relationship has ended, it is not an option to simply not inform the Home Office and remain on your current visa. By doing so, you will be in breach of UK immigration law and will jeopardise any chance of receiving a positive decision on a future visa application. Ultimately, you may be forced to leave. If you do plan to stay in the UK, the best option is to seek the guidance of experienced immigration Solicitors who will be able to assess and explain your options, and then make an application on your behalf.
Retaining rights to stay in the UK after a divorce with a partner
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