Important Update 4th December 2023

A statement made this evening by James Cleverley, the UK Home Secretary, will have a massive impact on Unmarried Partner Visas in 2024 and beyond. In the statement, a series of amendments to the UK immigration system were announced. Amongst these changes was a proposal to increase the minimum income threshold for family visas (including Unmarried Partner Visas) from £18,600 to £38,700, an increase of over 100%. This change will align it with the new minimum income band proposed for Skilled Worker Visas.

The proposed changes have been met with a huge public outcry and could be subject to change or legal challenges. There are very few specific details at the moment, including whether this will impact renewals or when the changes will go live. Our own expectations (and previous precedents) are that the changes will go live in April 2024 and will not impact visa renewals for anyone on a Unmarried Partner Visa prior to this date. However, we stress this cannot be confirmed at this point. Check back regularly for updates when further information becomes available.

We appreciate these changes are concerning developments and may have far-reaching implications for many families. If you plan on applying for a Unmarried Partner Visa in the next 12 months, we recommend contacting us at your earliest convenience to discuss your circumstances and how you should proceed.

21st December Update

Further information has now been released on the proposed changes to Unmarried Partner Visas and how this will impact new and existing visa holders. The key updates are:

  • The minimum income requirement will now be increased to £29,000 in April 2024 before being increased on as yet unspecified dates to £34,500 and then £38.700.
  • Those already on (or who have already applied for an Unmarried Partner Visa) before the changes will be assessed on the old £18,600 criteria for any subsequent extensions.
  • The additional child element for the minimum income requirement will be scrapped under the new minimum income criteria.
  • The changes will become effective in April 2024

We will continue to update these pages as and when further information becomes available.

What is a UK Unmarried Partner Visa?

The UK unmarried partner visa allows long-term partners of British citizens or settled persons to enter or remain with them in the UK. The visa is sometimes called a UK de facto visa and provides all the benefits and rights of the better-known UK spouse visa for married couples. The visa is based on the relationship between two people: the British citizen or settled person (“the sponsor”) and the non-UK partner (“the applicant”). The key requirement of the visa is that the couple must have lived together in a relationship akin to marriage for the last two years. This removes the need to legally formalise the relationship through marriage or a civil partnership.

Should the applicant be successful in their unmarried partner application, they will be granted a visa that means they can live and work in the UK for an initial two and a half years. At the end of this initial term, they can apply for an extension of their visa for an additional two and a half years. After living in the UK for five years under the unmarried partner visa, the applicant should be eligible to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR), allowing them to settle permanently in the UK.

Unmarried Partner Visa Eligibility

The sponsor and the applicant must satisfy various criteria to be eligible for the unmarried partner visa. The most important aspect relates to the relationship, and it must be clearly demonstrated:

  • You are in a genuine and subsisting relationship
  • Have been in a relationship akin to marriage for at least 2 years from the date of application
  • You have cohabitated for at least the past 2 years
  • There are shared finances or financial arrangements

In addition to evidencing the legitimate nature of the relationship, the sponsor must also satisfy this additional criteria:

  • Age: Both partners in the relationship must be at least 18 years old
  • Marital status: The applicant must not be married to or in a civil partnership with their partner.
  • Intention to live together: The applicant must intend to live with their partner permanently in the UK.
  • Financial requirement: The sponsor must meet the financial requirement by earning at least £18,600 per annum or through having sufficient savings. The earning requirement increases to £22,400 if there is an additional dependent child and by a further £2,400 for each subsequent dependent child.
  • English language requirement: The applicant must prove they have a good knowledge of English, either by passing an English language test or having a valid exemption.
  • Health: Some applicants must provide medical documentation, such as a TB Clearance Certificate if travelling from a country where tuberculosis is prevalent.
  • Character: All applicants must meet the character requirements set by the UK government.

 

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UK Unmarried Partner Visa Proof of Relationship

Substantiating and evidencing the genuine nature of your relationship is undoubtedly the most difficult part of an unmarried partner visa application. The burden of proof lies with the applicant, so you must consider how you will demonstrate your genuine relationship with the sponsor. The application needs to clearly evidence that your relationship is genuine and not just two people who have cohabitated for 2 or more years together. With this in mind, you need to consider what information you are going to provide for each of these areas of your relationship:

  • Cohabitation: You must prove that you have lived together in a committed relationship for at least two years before the visa application. This can be demonstrated through joint tenancy agreements, rental agreements, or mortgage documents showing both your names, as well as utility bills or bank statements addressed to both of you at the same address. These documents should spread across the full two years.
  • Financial documentation: You should provide evidence that you and your partner have shared financial resources and responsibilities. This can include joint bank account statements, joint savings or investment accounts, or evidence of joint ownership of assets such as property or vehicles.
  • Correspondence: It is important to provide evidence of your ongoing communication and contact throughout your relationship. This can be demonstrated through letters, cards, emails, or other correspondence addressed to both of you at your shared address.
  • Social and cultural integration: You should provide evidence that you and your partner are recognized as a couple within your social and cultural circles. This can include photographs of you together at family events, weddings, or social gatherings, as well as statements from family and friends confirming the nature of your relationship.
  • Declarations and statements: Both you and your partner may be required to provide personal statements detailing the history of your relationship, how it developed, and your future plans together. These statements should be truthful and consistent. You may also want to provide similar declarations from friends and family.

UK Unmarried Partner Visa Financial Requirements

To obtain a UK unmarried partner visa, certain financial requirements need to be met by the sponsor. Specifically, they must demonstrate that they can support themselves financially without relying on public funds. This is assessed by seeing whether the UK sponsor earns a sufficient income or whether the couple has adequate savings to support themselves for their visa. Additional details on this subject can be found in our Appendix FM Financial Requirement guide.

To be eligible, applicants must satisfy one of the following three financial criteria:

  1. Income threshold: The UK partner must earn a minimum gross annual income of £18,600 or more. If the partner has dependents, such as children, the income threshold will increase to £22,400 for the first child and by £2,400 for each subsequent child.
  2. Savings: In cases where the UK partner fails to meet the income threshold, they may rely on cash savings to meet the financial requirement. The savings must amount to at least £62,500 or more and have been held in the UK for at least six months.
  3. Combination of income and savings: If the UK partner falls short of the income threshold but possesses some savings, they may combine their income and savings to meet the financial requirement.

If none of these requirements can be met, there is the potential for third-party sponsorship. This would typically be via a family member or friend, but it’s not straightforward. We’d suggest contacting us if this is the route you’re considering.

UK Unmarried Partner Visa Accommodation Requirement

To obtain a UK unmarried partner visa, the applicant and their UK partner must provide evidence of suitable accommodation in the UK where they intend to reside together. The requirements for suitable accommodation typically encompass the following:

  • A place to live: The applicant and their partner must have a place of residence in the UK that is appropriate for them as a couple. This can be a rented or owned property and could involve staying with family or friends.
  • Sufficient space: The accommodation must offer adequate space to accommodate both the applicant and their partner comfortably, without overcrowding.
  • Safety and habitability: The accommodation must meet the standards of being safe, habitable, and free from any hazards that could jeopardize the health and well-being of its occupants.
  • Documentation: The applicant and their partner need to provide documentary evidence to demonstrate the suitability of their accommodation. This may include a tenancy agreement, proof of property ownership, and documentation of utility bills or other relevant utilities.

Unmarried Partner Document List

Here is a list of the necessary documents that you will typically need to provide when applying for a UK unmarried partner visa:

  1. Valid passport: You’ll need to provide your current valid passport
  2. Proof of the relationship: this can include photos together, written correspondence, evidence of shared finances or household utilities, as well as statements from family or friends
  3. History of the relationship: A detailed statement of the history of the relationship, including evidence of cohabitation for the past 2 years, as well as details of future plans together
  4. Evidence of financial support: You will need to provide evidence that the sponsor can meet the financial requirements for the visa. Evidence for this may include payslips, bank statements, and tax documents.
  5. Proof of accommodation:  You must provide evidence of suitable accommodation for you and your partner in the UK, such as a tenancy agreement or a letter from your host.
  6. English language ability: You must provide evidence that the applicant meets the English language requirement for the visa. This may include a test certificate or evidence of an exemption.
  7. Tuberculosis (TB) test results: You may need to provide evidence that you have been tested for TB if you are from a country where TB is prevalent.
  8. Other additional documentation: Any other relevant documents the immigration office requests, such as police clearance certificates or medical reports.

 

Documentary requirements vary from case to case, so the above list may not suit everyone. If you’re in any doubt, you should contact UKBA or a UK immigration expert such as First Migration.

UK Unmarried Partner Fees

As of April 2023, the fees for a UK unmarried partner visa are as follows:

  • Entry clearance (for applicants outside the UK): £1,846
  • Leave to remain (for applicants in the UK): £1,048

These fees do not include the additional NHS Immigration Health Surcharge. This fee is as follows:

  • IHS Fee outside the UK – £3,105
  • IHS Fee inside the UK £2,587.50

Extra fees could also be applicable for biometric appointments, TB tests, and English language tests. There will also be additional fees if you want to expedite your application. Priority processing services are subject to local availability and pricing. See our UK visa application process guide for further information.

UK Unmarried Partner Processing Times

The processing times for a UK unmarried partner visa can vary depending on several factors, such as the volume of applications being processed, the completeness of the application, and whether additional information or documentation is required. Processing times also vary between countries, with UK submitted applications generally processed more quickly. The UK government aims to process 90% of unmarried partner visa applications within 12 weeks of submission, and this is a realistic timeframe based on our experience. However, some overseas applications take up to 24 weeks to process. The current timescales for UK submitted applications are slightly better, with most applications assessed within 8-10 weeks.

Absolutely. The key requirement for Unmarried Partner Visas is to demonstrate you have been in a relationship akin to marriage for the past 2 years. This means there are expectations for cohabitation, shared finances, shared bills, and an intimate relationship. All of these aspects of your relationship must be evidenced through official documents, correspondence, and even written declarations from people who know you.

The Unmarried Partner Visa is issued for 2 years and 6 months (or 2 years and 9 months if applying from overseas). Shortly before your initial visa term ends, you can apply for an additional 2 years and 6 months extension. The intention is that this extension will provide you with sufficient time to meet the requirements for Indefinite Leave to Remain.

There is no difference between the two visas regarding application fees, rights, and permissions. The only difference between the two visas is the documents required as part of the application process.

The application form you need to use to make your unmarried partner visa application depends on whether you are applying from within the UK or from outside the UK.

  • Use the FLR(M) online form for applications submitted inside the UK. You can access the FLR(M) online form via the Gov.uk website.
  • If you apply outside the UK, you will use the VAF4A online form. You can access the VAF4A form via the Gov.UK website.

All applications must be completed and submitted digitally before you can progress to the next step of the application process.