The two-year cohabitation requirement for unmarried partners eased

1 May 2024

There have been some important changes to the unmarried partner visa category that took place on 31 January 2024. In order to qualify for a UK settlement unmarried or de facto partner visa prior to this date, couples must have been living together in a relationship akin to marriage for at least two years immediately preceding the date of filing the application. There was absolutely no exception to this rule as a matter of previous Home Office policy. However, as of 31 January 2024, the requirement for two years of cohabitation has been removed from the Immigration Rules. It is now possible to apply for an unmarried partner visa if the couple have been in a relationship for at least two years when they apply, but they cannot live together physically, for example because they are working or studying in different places, or it is not accepted in their culture. Couples are still required to demonstrate that they have been in a relationship similar to marriage or civil partnership for at least two years.

While the changes are encouraging for many couples, this is unlikely to be a convenient option for a long distance relationship to suddenly meet the requirement for a UK unmarried partner visa, as the new rules clearly state that the relationship must be akin to marriage and there should be very compelling circumstances that prevented the couple from living together. For example, there must be evidence that although the applicant and their partner in the UK are currently living apart, they have lived together in a durable relationship at some point in the past and intend to do so again in the future. Essentially, this means that unmarried partner visa applications submitted by couples who have never lived together under the same roof are unlikely to succeed.

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