Updated on 10 October 2023
There are two main immigration routes available for couples who wish to marry in the UK – the Marriage Visitor Visa and the UK Fiance Visa. The main difference between these two routes is whether you are looking to reside in the UK for a longer period of time. And if you have already married outside of the UK, then you will be looking to apply for a different visa, commonly known as the Spouse Visa or Civil Partner Visa. We will now take a look at each of these visa categories.
Marriage Visitor Visa
The Marriage Visitor visa is designed for people over the age of 18 who wish to visit the UK to marry or form a civil partnership. All visitors (including non-visa nationals) coming to marry in the UK must have a valid visit visa endorsed with this purpose and the name of the holder’s fiance(e) or proposed civil partner.
The application should be made no more than 3 months before you intend to travel. If granted, the Marriage Visitor visa will be valid for six months, and during this period you should marry or enter into a civil partnership in the UK.
UK Fiance Visa
The UK Fiance visa category is for engaged partners of British citizens or individuals with indefinite leave to remain in the UK who wish to enter the UK and marry within 6 months of their arrival. An application for a UK Fiance visa must be made from outside the UK.
Before the expiry of the 6 month visa period, you should marry and apply for leave to remain in the UK as a spouse. The requirements are similar to those as a fiance, but you must be legally married when you come to apply as a spouse.
The processing time for this visa is around 12 weeks.
UK Spouse Visa
The Spouse Visa application is for couples who are already married. Getting married outside of the UK and then applying to enter as a Spouse can save the money of making two visa applications, namely a Fiance Visa and then a Spouse Visa.
Applying in this category still has a financial requirement and you must prove that you intend to live together permanently in the UK.
The spouse visa enables you to work in the UK and will initially be granted for a period of 30 months. After spending five years on a spouse visa you are then eligible to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain as long as your marriage is subsisting and you can continue to meet the financial requirements.
For more information on the requirements of these visa categories and how to get married in the UK once you are here, please see the full article on our website.
Differences between a Marriage Visitor Visa and a UK Fiance Visa
There are three main differences between a Marriage Visitor Visa and a UK Fiance Visa, namely intention to live in the UK, financial requirements and application fees.
Intention to live in the UK
As a visitor, under the Immigration Rules, you must have a genuine intention to visit and therefore must have an intention to leave the UK after your marriage. However, as a fiance, you must demonstrate that you intend to live permanently with your partner in the UK. This is an important difference between the two applications as the intention behind each of the applications is completely different. In deciding which application to make, you should first decide whether you intend to visit the UK for a short period or if it is your intention to move to the UK on a long term basis immediately. As a visitor, you cannot apply for leave to remain in the UK as a spouse.
As a marriage visitor, you will need to demonstrate that you have sufficient funds available to you to cover the costs of your visit and your return journey without needing to rely on public funds.
As a fiance, you would need to demonstrate that you can be adequately maintained and accommodated without needing to rely on public funds throughout your stay in the UK. The financial threshold for a UK Fiance Visa is more elaborate than the Marriage Visitor Visa.
The Home Office application fee for a UK fiance visa application is currently £1,846.
How to get married in the UK
In order to get married in the UK or enter into a civil partnership in the UK, the majority of individuals must give at least 28 full days notice at a local register office. ‘Giving notice’ at a Register Office essentially means that a couple gives notice of their intention to marry each other. To do so, you must have lived in the registration district for at least 7 days prior to giving notice. A list of the designated Register Offices in England and Wales can be found here. Couples required to give notice include those where a member of the couple is subject to immigration control. For instance, a non-EEA national.
Requirements for notice of marriage in the UK
In order to comply with the requirements of ‘giving notice’, each member of the couple must take documents to the Registry Office that prove their name, age and nationality and also proof of their address. Once you’re ready to register for your marriage, you’ll need to take the following⁴ to the local register office of the district that you intend to get married in:
- Proof of name (e.g. valid passport)
- Proof of age (e.g. birth certificate)
- Proof of any name changes
- Proof of nationality (e.g. valid passport, national identity card)
- Proof of address (e.g. valid driving licence, recent utility bill, etc.)
- A decree absolute or final order (if applicable)
- The death certificate of your former partner (if applicable)
- Entry visa (if applicable)
- Details of where and when you intend to get married.
What will happen after I have given notice of intention to marry?
Once you have taken the required documents and they have been accepted, your notice will be publicly displayed in the Registry Office for 28 days. This 28 day period of waiting is applicable to anyone in the UK, regardless of nationality or immigration status. It is not possible to marry during this 28 day period.
A Registry Office is required to inform the Home Office if either member of the couple is not ‘exempt’, meaning exempt from immigration control. Those exempt, for instance, include British citizens, EEA nationals or those with indefinite leave to remain in the UK.
The purpose of the Registry Office informing the Secretary of State of the proposed marriage is so that the Home Office is then in a position to investigate whether the marriage is a genuine one or not.
If it is decided that your marriage should be investigated, the notice period will be extended to a 70 day period. Again, it is not possible to marry within this 70 day period. It is during this 70 day period that your marriage may be investigated.
What to expect if I am invited for a marriage visa interview?
At a marriage interview, you should expect to be asked questions about your relationship with your partner such as where you first met and how your relationship developed. You may also be asked about activities you and your partner enjoy doing together. It is important to note that refusing to answer particular questions can be deemed as a failure to comply with the investigation. You will be asked a series of questions, some of which are covered in our recent blog post – UK Spouse Visa interview questions and tips.
Contact our Immigration team
For expert advice and assistance regarding what visa you need to get married in the UK or a spouse visa, contact our team on 02087575751 or complete our enquiry form, link in the description box below.
Frequently asked questions:
You cannot get married in the UK on a Standard Visitor Visa, you will have to apply for a Marriage Visitor Visa.
Once you’ve applied online, proved your identity and provided your documents, you’ll usually get a decision on your visa within 3 weeks.
Currently, it costs £1,846 to apply for a Fiance Visa from abroad.
Yes, our experienced team will be happy to assist you with your journey. Please contact us on 02087575751 or fill in our online contact form and a dedicated lawyer will contact you.
The documents will depend on your personal circumstances, however, for fiance visa applications some evidence of your wedding ceremony is required, this may include the following:
Evidence that the ceremony is already booked, such are booking receipt/email from the Registrar, Church, etc;
Receipts of any expenses incurred for the wedding, such as the venue booking, reception party booking, wedding
Receipts of both the applicant and sponsor’s dresses/clothes to be worn at the wedding;
Save the date cards and similar proof.