Recent Changes to Unmarried Partner Visa Rules

by | May 31, 2024 | Partner & Family Visa, UK Immigration, Unmarried Partner Visa

The recent changes to the definition of an “unmarried partner” under Appendix FM of the Immigration Rules have significant implications for couples seeking to enter or remain in the UK. This update, effective from 31 January 2024, eliminates the previous requirement that unmarried partners must have lived together for at least two years to qualify for a partner visa. In this post, we explore the changes to the Unmarried Partner Visa Rules. 

The Old Definition of an “Unmarried Partner”

Before the change, the Immigration Rules defined a ‘partner’ in the context of a visa application as one of the following:

  • A spouse
  • A civil partner
  • An unmarried partner, where the couple had been living together in a relationship akin to marriage or a civil partnership for at least two years

This definition required unmarried couples to cohabit for a minimum of two years. This posed significant challenges for couples who, for various reasons, could not live together. The requirement excluded many genuine relationships from qualifying for a partner visa, especially those constrained by cultural, religious, or economic factors.

The New Definition of an “Unmarried Partner”

The Statement of Changes in the Immigration Rules (HC246), has revised the definition. The updated which can be found in the Immigration Rules: Introduction, now defines a ‘partner’ as:

  • A spouse
  • A civil partner
  • An unmarried partner, where the couple has been in a relationship similar to marriage or a civil partnership for at least two years

The critical change here is the removal of the cohabitation requirement. Couples no longer need to prove they have lived together for two years, making it easier for many genuine relationships to qualify for a partner visa.

Implications for Visa Applicants

The removal of the cohabitation requirement is a positive change for unmarried couples. It recognizes that many couples in genuine relationships may not live together for various valid reasons, which will vary based on individual circumstances. Although this is not a mandatory requirement, it may be recommended for those applying to explain the reason they are not cohabiting with their partner. While cohabitation is no longer mandatory, proving the genuineness and subsistence of the relationship remains crucial.

The new guidance on Family life (as a partner or parent) and exceptional circumstances confirms the removal of the cohabitation requirement:

The 2-year period for a relationship between a couple who are not married or in a civil partnership must have been completed prior to the date of application. The 2- year period does not require evidence of cohabitation for the period and will take account of instances where, for example, the couple are currently living apart for work reasons in order to meet the financial requirements of the rules. The essential point is that the relationship has been genuine and subsisting for the duration of the 2-year period and continues to be at the date of application.

However, there is no detailed explanation of what constitutes a relationship “similar to marriage or civil partnership” or how it should be evidenced. The guidance only directs applicants to the section that lists evidence for proving a “genuine and subsisting” relationship.

Applicants must still demonstrate that their relationship has been similar to marriage or a civil partnership for at least two years. Evidence of cohabitation, though no longer required, can still play a significant role in proving the relationship’s authenticity.

Required Evidence for an Unmarried Partner Visa

While the rules have relaxed the cohabitation requirement, applicants must still provide substantial evidence to support their relationship claims. Suggested documentation includes:

  • Tenancy agreements or mortgage statements
  • Utility bills
  • Joint bank statements
  • Official correspondence addressed to both partners at the same address

Additional evidence, such as photographs, communication records, travel itineraries, and written statements from friends and family, can further substantiate the relationship’s genuineness and duration. The goal is to present a comprehensive picture of a genuine and subsisting relationship akin to marriage or civil partnership. Couples looking to apply should ensure they satisfy the complete application requirements.

The recent change in the definition of an “unmarried partner” under Appendix FM of the Immigration Rules marks a significant shift towards inclusivity and flexibility for couples seeking to live together in the UK. By removing the stringent cohabitation requirement, the updated rules acknowledge the diverse circumstances of modern relationships.

However, it is essential for applicants to understand that proving a genuine and subsisting relationship is still paramount. While cohabitation evidence is no longer mandatory, it remains highly persuasive. Applicants must be prepared to provide a variety of documents to support their relationship claims.

This change is a positive step forward, reflecting the evolving nature of relationships and the need for immigration rules to adapt accordingly. If you are considering applying for an unmarried partner visa, we strongly recommend seeking professional advice to navigate the application process effectively and increase your chances of success.

How we can help

Navigating the complexities of visa applications can be challenging, especially with recent changes to the rules. Our immigration team specializes in preparing applications for unmarried partners and can provide expert guidance throughout the process. We can help you gather the necessary evidence, ensure that your application meets all requirements, and address any unique circumstances that may apply to your situation.

If you need advice or assistance with your visa application, please contact us on +44 208 757 5751 or complete our enquiry form

Frequently asked questions

What are the key changes to the Unmarried Partner Visa rules effective from 31 January 2024?

The changes remove the need for unmarried partners to have lived together for two years, making it easier for couples to qualify for a partner visa.

How do the new rules benefit couples unable to live together due to cultural, religious, or economic reasons?

The removal of the cohabitation requirement lets couples who can’t live together qualify for a partner visa if they show a genuine, marriage-like relationship for at least two years using other evidence.

Can couples who live apart due to work or other commitments still qualify for a partner visa under the new rules?

Yes, couples living apart for valid reasons can qualify if they provide sufficient evidence of a genuine, committed relationship similar to marriage or a civil partnership.

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