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UK marriage visa requirements: genuine and subsisting relationship

Non-EEA nationals applying for a UK settlement spouse visa to join their British partner, husband or wife in the UK must demonstrate that their relationship is genuine and subsisting. ‘Subsisting’ has caused some confusion because the usual English meaning of the word is different to the legal definition. In legal language, ‘subsisting’ means to exist or prevail – in other words, to be long-lasting. There is no specified time limit that two people must have been living together in order to qualify for a UK marriage visa. However, UK Visas & Immigration (formerly the UK Border Agency) officials processing partner and marriage visa applications will take steps to find out whether a ‘bona fide’ relationship exists, and there are a number of criteria which must be met by the applicant and their UK sponsor to convince the examining Entry Clearance Officer (ECO) that the marriage is not a sham.

There is no definitive list of documentary evidence which may be required of people making an application for a UK spousal visa, but it is essential that the applicant and their sponsor provide as much information as possible. What the UKVI officials are looking for is proof that the relationship is genuine and of reasonably long-standing and so photographs, boarding passes from trips to see each other, letters and greeting cards from one to the other all go towards proving that the marriage is genuine. However, photos and letters alone have limited evidential value. The couple should be able to show at least some shared financial responsibilities. This could be a title deed or mortgage statement in both names if the couple own property together, or a tenancy agreement with both parties on the contract; a joint bank account or savings account, or utility bills in both names. It is important to prove that the partners in the marriage have taken steps to visit one another in their home countries and that they have met each other’s families where that is possible. It is also essential that the parties are able to show that they have made plans to live together in the UK once the settlement visa is issued. Paper trails in some of these examples are difficult to obtain but every effort should be made as in most cases proof will be sought by UKVI officials and failure to produce satisfactory evidence may result in the refusal of the UK marriage visa application.

In order to qualify for a UK settlement visa by virtue of marriage to a British Citizen or UK legal permanent resident, the applicant and their sponsor must have been in a long-term relationship and living together for some time. This can be difficult to prove if the marriage is an arranged one, but cultural differences are respected and all the couple must do in this case is to prove that the marriage was arranged according to their customs and that both parties and the families involved are in agreement that it is genuine. If there are children or stepchildren, the couple must be able to show that they both share responsibility for their everyday care and upbringing. Again, if cultural or custody agreements make this difficult, documents should be provided to explain the situation.

We invite you to complete a UK marriage visa assessment form on the right hand side to learn more about the UKVI criteria for approval. Our free initial consultation is designed to address any issues or concerns you may have prior to submitting your settlement partner or spouse visa application to the appropriate British Consulate, Embassy or High Commission. There is no cost and no obligation to find out how we can help you and your loved one.

Free UK marriage visa assessment

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