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How to move to the UK with your loved one

We cannot predict where and when we are going to meet love of our life. Nowadays, when travelling is a norm and more and more borders are coming down, chances of meeting someone in another country are higher. In this article we will talk about the United Kingdom that has granted quite a lot of family visas.

If you know you have met someone you want to spend the rest of your life with, emotions and feelings overwhelm you to the point that nothing else matters, and least of all legal side of the situation. If your partner is a British citizen or UK permanent resident, you must sit down and discuss where you are going to live together, whether or not you need a British passport and how to arrange a wedding.


UK visas for those who plan to marry or are already married to a UK resident differ in their requirements and not always lead to naturalisation.

What you should know about marriage in the UK

A couple can register their marriage either in a local council or in a church. At the beginning of the 20th century, the number of religious ceremonies exceeded the number of civil ones, but now the numbers are reversed.

Same-sex marriages are legal in the UK.

Popular wedding locations are castles, country clubs, mansion to pubs and bandstands in a park provided they are approved ceremony venues.

It is common to sign a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement. You might want to use an attorney to draft and review one.

Main family visas to the UK

Family law in the United Kingdom does not limit who British citizens can marry, but there are certain rules and requirements that must be met both by a resident and a non-resident partner. They must be complied with from initial visa application to extension and finally application for an indefinite leave to remain (ILR). Please also bear in mind that not all family visas lead to settlement. For example, a fiancée/fiancé visa is a short-term visa and does not make you eligible for ILR, same as a marriage visa. The only visa that leads to UK permanent residence is a spouse/civil partner visa.

All you need to know about family visas to the UK

An overview of different UK family visas: application process and requirements

Marriage visitor visa to the UK

If you are not planning to live in Great Britain but want your British friends and relatives to be present at your wedding, or you simply love the UK, this visa is for you.

What you can do on a marriage visitor visa

It is a short-term permit (up to 6 months) that allows to enter the UK in order to get engaged or married. Once the marriage is registered, a non-resident partner (or both partners if they don’t live in the UK or are not British) must leave the country before their visa expires.

What you cannot do on a marriage visa

Almost all UK visas have restrictions and this one is not an exception. Because it is a visitor visa, you cannot do the following:

  • Stay and live in the country for a long period of time
  • Study at a higher educational institution
  • Work or start a business in UK
  • Receive benefits and state support

Что нельзя делать на свадебной визе

Fiancé/fiancée visa

Are you engaged to a British citizen or someone who is UK permanent resident (same-sex partners included)? If the answer is ‘Yes’, you are eligible for a fiancé/fiancée visa valid for 6 months. Apply for it in your home country, go to the UK and marry within this timeframe. Once you get a marriage certificate, you can apply for a spouse visa without leaving the country. Unfortunately, you are not allowed to work or study in the UK on a fiancé/fiancée visa.

Visa for unmarried partners

Not many people are aware that this visa category even exists. It is meant for both same-sex and opposite-sex partners that are not married and do not plan to. An unmarried partners visa will be granted if you have lived together for at least 2 years and been in a genuine relationship with a British national or a settled person.

Unmarried partner can apply for settlement after 5 years of continuous residence in the UK without long absences (time on a fiancé/fiancée visa is not counted towards this 5-year period).

Spouse/civil partner visa

This category has two different names because the first one applies to opposite-sex couples and the second one to same-sex ones. It does not matter who you are married to as long as you are married – that’s the key requirement.

The non-British spouse can apply for settlement after five years of living in the UK, provided they meet certain criteria (time on a fiancé/fiancée visa is not counted towards this 5-year period).


You are allowed to work and study in the UK while on a spouse visa. It is valid for 30 months if you apply in the UK and 33 months if outside the country. It is subject to extension.

Супружеская виза в Англию – Spouse/civil partner visa

Key requirements for a spouse visa and fiancé/fiancée visa to the UK

Your visa application will be refused if you, as a fiancée/fiancé or husband/wife of a British citizen or a settled person, do not meet the following criteria:

  • Your partner is British or settled in the UK.
  • Both of you are at least 18 years old.
  • You have met face to face and know each other.
  • Your relationship is genuine and there are no suspicions of a fake marriage.
  • All previous marriage have been annulled.
  • Your marriage is legal, i.e. you are not related.
  • You intend to stay and live together in the United Kingdom.

How to get married to a British national?

If one partner has a British passport and the other is not a UK or EU national, you have two options for arranging your wedding.

Wedding in the UK

To be able to get married in Great Britain, the non-resident partner must get a marriage or a fiancé/fiancée visa. In the first scenario, you must leave the country after the wedding and apply for a spouse visa from the country of your residence. Yes, you will be separated with your loved one for a while, but the other side of the coin is lower cost, less documents required and no financial requirement.

Fiancé/fiancée visa allows you to stay in the country after marriage and apply for a spouse visa in the UK. However, it is much more expansive and has financial requirements akin to a spouse visa: a British partner must earn at least £18,600 a year.

Wedding outside the UK

You can book your ceremony either in your country or anywhere else. Marrying in Europe would be easier for a British partner as they would not need a visa. Then you apply for a spouse visa to the UK and provide all the supporting evidence. Besides, a wedding can cost you less if arranged outside Great Britain.

Свадьба за границей Великобритании

Applying for settlement and UK passport as a spouse of a British national

Normally, it is a 5-year route to UK citizenship for foreign nationals who are on a spouse visa in the UK. It can be divided into following steps:

  1. Application for a spouse visa and relocation to the United Kingdom.
  2. Visa extension in 2.5 years (if granted inside the country).
  3. Settlement in 5 years after arriving in the UK on a spouse visa.
  4. Naturalisation and UK passport after receiving ILR.

How to extend a spouse visa and get settlement

For both applications, extension in 2.5 years and ILR in 5 years, a couple must prove they are still married, living together and earning enough to meet the required minimum (£18,600) or have saving. Naturalisation application can be submitted straight away after obtaining ILR and only last 3 years will be considered and submitted with evidence.

When permanent residence is only possible in 10 years

If you do not meet the financial, accommodation or other requirement, you will only be eligible for settlement in ten years. However, if you manage to comply with them later, you can switch to a 5-year route. Talk to our immigration lawyers about your situation and options.

Get a spouse visa hassle-free

If you are blinded by your emotions and love, you fail to see all legal formalities and paperwork that must be taken care of so that you can spend the rest of your life with that person. Our qualified immigration lawyers from Imperial & Legal will be happy to take care of that on your behalf and guide you through the process smoothly. We will identify what family visa you need, prepare all the relevant documents and submit your application. When you are ready for settlement and naturalisation, we help you secure your status in the country. A successful visa is a key to a happy future together.

FAQ about UK family visas

What is the key difference between a marriage visitor visa and a fiancé/fiancée visa to the UK?

A marriage visitor visa is available not only for the future spouses of UK citizens and permanent residents but also for foreign brides and grooms who wish to come to the UK to marry in a picturesque place on the shores of the British Isles.

A fiancé/fiancée visa is granted to foreign citizens who are visiting the United Kingdom to register a marriage or civil partnership with a UK citizen or a settled person.

If a foreign bride or groom arrives in the UK on a marriage visitor visa, they will have to leave the country after six months in order to apply for a spouse visa in their home country. However, foreigners coming on a fiancé/fiancée visa can apply for a spouse/ civil partner visa without leaving the UK.

Which financial requirements must applicants for a UK spouse/civil partner visa meet?

The combined income of a couple must be at least £18,600 a year. This amount is increased if you have children. You will need to prove that you and your UK spouse/partner have an additional annual income, based on the following criteria:

  • £3,800 – for your first dependent child;
  • £2,400 – for additional children.

For example, the combined income required for a spouse visa for a family consisting of a British husband, a foreign wife and 2 minor children who are not British, is £18,600 + £3,800 + £2,400 = £24,800.

You do not have to show additional income on top of the minimum income requirement if your children:

  • Are from the UK or Ireland;
  • Have a settled status in the UK;
  • Have pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme – a special program that allows European Economic Area and Swiss citizens to confirm their right to stay in the United Kingdom.

Which information and documents should an applicant for a spouse visa to the UK provide?

UK Visas and Immigration officials require the following information:

  1. Your full name;
  2. Your date of birth;
  3. A current foreign passport with a blank page for a new visa, or other valid travel ID;
  4. Copies of the photo page and any visa or entry stamps in your previous passports;
  5. A copy of your biometric residence permit, if you are already in the UK in another immigration category;
  6. Details of any previous immigration applications you’ve made;
  7. Details of any criminal convictions;
  8. Your national insurance number, if you have one;
  9. Your parents’ name, date of birth and nationality if you’re applying from outside the UK;
  10.  Your tuberculosis test results (for citizens of certain countries);
  11.  Details about your UK spouse or civil partner and children, if any;
  12.  Bank statements.

You should have a certified translation of any document that is not in English or Welsh. If you have difficulties preparing the information required for a spouse visa and filling in the official online forms correctly, please contact our experienced advisors for assistance.

What is a UK nuptial agreement?

The term ‘nuptial agreement’ is currently used to describe not only a post-agreement but also a prenuptial agreement and cohabitation agreement.

As the name implies, a prenuptial agreement is concluded between a bride and groom before they are married. Although prenuptial agreements are not legally binding, they are often taken into account in UK courts when deciding on the division of property after a divorce. The main conditions that give effect to a prenuptial agreement are that it is signed by each party voluntarily with a full appreciation of what it entails. As there is case law in the UK, similar assessment criteria can be applied in court when the terms and conditions of a postnuptial agreement are disputed.

A cohabitation agreement is signed between couples who do not want to get legally married. Such documents regulate not only the division of property when the relationship ends but also the terms and conditions of cohabitation.

How can a fiancée/fiancé or spouse of a UK citizen protect their interests when signing a nuptial agreement?

For a person who is not familiar with the specifics of the UK legal system and whose English is not good enough to understand the law terminology, the only solution is to solicit the help of reputable advisors. In addition, it is preferable for your advisors to be fluent not only in English but also in your native language.

All these requirements are fully met by our experienced specialists at Imperial & Legal. If your future UK spouse insists on a nuptial agreement before signing any papers, please contact our advisors for advice.

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