A partner visa can be held on the basis of being a spouse, civil partner or unmarried partner – the latter relies on a two-year cohabitation akin to marriage. It can also be held as a fiancé(e) or prospective civil partner but in these cases there is a requirement to convert the temporary status into marriage or civil partnership within the specified time limit. The Journey from Partner Visa to Settlement takes time and there are requirements to be met along the way.
Applicants can apply for a partner visa from outside the UK or possibly from within the UK. When leave is granted it is granted for 30 months, ie two and a half years. There are requirements about the level of earnings/savings, accommodation and English language and also a requirement that the relationship can be demonstrated to be genuine.
When the initial visa is on the point of expiry it may be possible for the applicant to apply for an extension visa. Again there are various requirements to be met, and including a requirement that the relationship is still intact; if the parties are separated or divorced then the application will not be possible. The extension visa will also be granted for two and a half years.
A combined total of five years’ partner leave (ie two and a half years plus two and a half years) can lead to settlement, ie indefinite leave to remain – the right to live in the UK permanently without any further immigration permission.
This is the case if the applicant is deemed to be on the “five-year route” to settlement. If they meet all the various application requirements then they are deemed to be so, and they will be able to apply for settlement after the five years – but again they will have to meet specified requirements when they make the settlement application.
But it sometimes happens that a migrant who is in the UK does not meet all the requirements and it sometimes happens that such a migrant does not have immigration leave because, for example, they have overstayed their visa.
In cases such as this it may still be possible to make a partner visa application but the application is decided on discretionary principles. The application may be made on the basis that (a) the applicant is in a genuine relationship with their partner living in the UK and that (b) there would be “insurmountable obstacles” to their partner having to relocate from the UK if the applicant had to leave the UK.
Or it may be made on the basis that (a) they have a genuine parental relationship with their child/children living in the UK and (b) it would not be “reasonable” for the child/children to have to relocate from the UK if the applicant had to leave the UK.
These rules are quite different from the standard rules: if you meet all the requirements of the standard rules – which, although complicated, are of a “black and white” nature – then you should get the visa. But these other rules are more difficult to measure: what exactly constitutes “insurmountable obstacles” and what is exactly is “reasonable”? It is obviously the case that in instances like these discretion and judgement have to be used in the decision-making.
And if the applicant succeeds under these discretionary rules they go on the “ten-year route” to settlement, not the five-year route. This means what it says, ie it takes ten years to qualify for settlement. But in some cases an applicant might be able to switch from the ten-year route to the five-year route and – more depressingly – in some cases they may have to switch from the five-year route to the ten-year route. The journey from Partner Visa to Settlement does vary time it takes to settle permanently in the UK.
Once settlement has been obtained the migrant may be on a clear path towards acquiring British citizenship. Depending on the status of their UK partner they may, if they meet all the relevant requirements, be able to apply for British naturalisation immediately or after one further year.
The above is a very brief outline. The rules are complicated and very particular, and you might want to take legal advice if you are thinking about making an application. We at GSN have many years’ experience of partner visa and settlement applications and we will be able to help you.
OISC Level 3 Immigration Lawyer