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What Does Sole Responsibility Mean in Immigration Law

Sole responsibility or sole parental responsibility under UK immigration rules means that one parent no longer has parental responsibility for their child, placing the other parent in a position of sole responsibility for the child’s upbringing and welfare. The immigration rules on sole parental responsibility apply where a foreign national wishes to bring a non-British child with them to the UK under the family migration route (e.g., with a spouse visa or parent visa). The sole parental responsibility rules may also apply where a foreign national is already in the UK and intends to bring their child here (e.g. on a child dependent visa if the parent holds a qualifying UK visa or if the parent is settled in the UK).

What is considered "sole responsibility"?

Under the UK’s sole responsibility immigration rules, a parent has sole responsibility if they have “abdicated or abandoned” parental responsibility for their child, leaving the child’s remaining parent with sole control of their day-to-day welfare. This may happen, for example, if one parent dies or if a court makes the decision to remove parental responsibility due to abuse or withholding permission for medical treatment.

A person has sole responsibility if they are exclusively responsible for the control and direction of the important decisions in the raising of the child. To determine if a parent has sole parental responsibility for a child, the Home Office will check whether:

  • the applicant is responsible for the child’s welfare and the key areas of their life, and no other person shares this responsibility.
  • the applicant has exclusive responsibility for making decisions in relation to the child’s education, health, and medical treatment, religion, residence, holidays and recreation.
  • the applicant has exclusive responsibility for the protection of the child and for giving them direction and guidance.
  • the applicant has exclusive responsibility for the child’s property.
  • the applicant has exclusive responsibility for the child’s legal representation.

When it comes to determining whether a person has sole parental responsibility, what matters is whether they have "authority" or "control" over the child’s upbringing.

What is not considered "sole responsibility"?

It is important to note that sole parental responsibility is not the same as legal custody, and it is not granted simply by providing financial support to the child. According to the sole responsibility Home Office guidance, they may also consider that a person does not have sole parental responsibility where:

  • both parents are involved in the child’s upbringing, or
  • there has been a recent change of parenting arrangements which may suggest an attempt to get around the immigration rules, or
  • there is insufficient evidence to prove they have sole parental responsibility.

It should also be noted that imprisonment does not mean that a parent automatically has their parental responsibility removed or restricted. While other adults, such as family members and relatives, may have some responsibility in terms of the daily care of a child (e.g., where a grandparent takes a child to school and cares for them after school), this does not necessarily mean they have sole parental responsibility.

Evidence to prove sole responsibility

You may be asked to provide several items of evidence of your sole responsibility for a child, including:

  • Your child’s birth certificate.
  • Evidence that the other parent no longer has parental responsibility for their child (e.g., death certificate, court order/letter, or another official document).
  • Certificate of divorce or dissolution.
  • Evidence of the applicant’s immigration status if already in the UK (e.g., passport, visa, biometric residence permit).
  • Evidence that the applicant has and continues to make important decisions regarding the upbringing of their child (e.g., letter from their school or medical doctor).

Based on the factors of your case, the Home Office may ask you to provide more documents or to attend an interview. Please be assured that this is quite normal and allows the person making a decision on your case and that of your child to check that all of the immigration rules have been met. By gathering all of the information requested by the Home Office and anticipating any additional items of evidence that may be required, you can reduce the time to process your application and improve your chances of a successful outcome.

If you are unsure if you have all of the necessary evidence to support your case or if you are concerned that your application may be refused, speak to one of our immigration solicitors on 020 3744 2797 or email info@reissedwards.co.uk.

What if you don’t meet the sole responsibility requirement?

If you do not meet the Home Office’s requirements to qualify as a person with sole parental responsibility for your child, you may still be able to bring them to the UK. This may be possible if you can show that there are “serious and compelling family or other considerations” which would make the exclusion of your child from the UK undesirable and that “suitable arrangements” have been made for their care.

To make a successful application in this situation requires more than stating that you would like your child to join you in the UK. Rather you will need to show that there are serious and compelling reasons, such as if they have been subjected to neglect or abuse or they have unmet needs that need to be catered for. This is a complex area of immigration law; therefore, professional advice and guidance are essential to achieve a positive outcome. If you do not meet the criteria for sole responsibility, please speak to one of our immigration solicitors on 020 3744 2797 or email info@reissedwards.co.uk.

How can Reiss Edwards help?

Reiss Edwards is a specialist in all aspects of personal immigration law, including applications under the family visa route d. Our immigration solicitors can:

  • Confirm if you qualify as a parent with sole responsibility for your child.
  • Check whether you can apply to bring your child to the UK even if you do not qualify as a parent with sole responsibility.
  • Check if there are other more suitable immigration routes for you and your child.
  • Gaining settlement and British citizenship for your child once they are in the UK.
  • Overcome a visa refusal of your child’s application to join you in the UK.

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