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Overseas Marriages & Civil Partnerships in UK Visa Applications

For those applying for entry clearance or leave to remain in the UK as a partner under Appendix FM of the Immigration Rules, the applicant is required to satisfy the relationship requirements.  There are different relationship requirements depending on whether the applicant is a spouse, civil partner, fiance or proposed civil partner or unmarried partner.  In this post we consider what is required for those applying as a spouse or civil partner under Appendix FM, where the marriage or civil partnership has taken place overseas. 

Valid Marriage or Civil Partnership Requirement

Paragraph  E-ECP.2.7. of Appendix FM to the Immigration Rules states:

‘If the applicant and partner are married or in a civil partnership it must be a valid marriage or civil partnership, as specified.’

The guidance Family Policy: Partners, divorce and dissolution Version 1.0, published for home office on 29 May 2019, sets out where a marriage or civil partnership which has taken place overseas will be recognised in the UK on page 8:

  • the type of marriage or civil partnership is recognised in the country in which it took place 
  • the marriage or civil partnership was properly conducted to satisfy the requirements of the law of the country in which it took place 
  • there is nothing in the laws of either person’s country of domicile at the time of the marriage or civil partnership which prevents the marriage or civil partnership being recognised 
  • any previous marriages or civil partnerships of the couple have broken down permanently

Overseas Marriages Recognised as a Valid Marriage

The guidance confirms that there may be further investigation into whether a marriage is valid for immigration purposes in certain circumstances e.g. if “it was a religious or a customary marriage which has not been registered with the civil authorities of the country in which it was celebrated”. There is a non-exhaustive list of examples where marriages and civil partnerships may be investigated on pages 17 and 18 of the guidance. 

Overseas Relationships Recognised as Civil Partnerships

From 31 December 2019, it became possible for both same-sex and heterosexual couples to enter into a civil partnership in the UK. The Home Office guidance on Partners, divorce and dissolution was published on 29 May 2019, predates this change in law, and the reference to recognition of overseas civil partnerships only refers to same-sex couples. The Civil Partnership Act 2004, which was amended by the The Civil Partnership (Opposite-sex Couples) Regulations 2019, has now omitted the same-sex requirement in Section 216. 

Section 213 of the Civil Partnership Act 2004 as amended confirms that an overseas civil partnership will be recognised if the relationship meets the requirements in Schedule 20 of the Act. Parts 1 and 2 of Schedule 20 sets which relationships in different countries and territories will be recognised as a civil partnership in the UK.

Documents to Provide to Demonstrate an Overseas Marriage of Civil Partnership

The evidence which must be provided to demonstrate an overseas marriage of civil partnership is set out in Appendix FM-SE of the Immigration Rules.  The relevant provision states as follows:

Evidence of Marriage or Civil Partnerships

22. A marriage in the United Kingdom must be evidenced by a valid marriage certificate recognised under the laws of England and Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland.
23. A divorce in the United Kingdom must be evidenced by a decree absolute from a civil court.
24. A civil partnership in the United Kingdom must be evidenced by a civil partnership certificate.
25. The dissolution of a civil partnership in the UK must be evidenced by a final order of civil partnership dissolution from a civil court.
26. Marriages, civil partnerships or evidence of divorce or dissolution from outside the UK must be evidenced by a reasonable equivalent to the evidence detailed in paragraphs 22 to 25, valid under the law in force in the relevant country.

Contact Our Immigration Barristers

For expert advice and assistance with an application for a spouse visa or civil partnership visa following an overseas marriage or civil partnership, contact our Immigration Barristers on 0203 617 9173 or complete our enquiry form below.


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