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What is a ‘relationship akin to marriage’?

Under the Immigration Rules, a person who is British or Settled in the UK can bring their unmarried partner to the UK. This is sometimes referred to as a ‘partner visa’ or ‘de facto visa’. This is an option that more couples are currently considering, partly due to the ongoing restrictions around the world on wedding ceremonies due to covid-19. 

In some cases, it will be a better option for a person to apply as an unmarried partner rather than a fiancee, where this is available to them This is because it will give a longer grant of leave in the UK and it will still allow you to get married in the UK when this is possible again. In this article we will look at when an unmarried partner can apply for leave to enter or remain in the UK.

Note: This post was written prior to the change in the definition of ‘unmarried partner’ in the Immigration Rules.  For up-to-date guidance on the meaning of ‘unmarried partner’, and in particular the removal of the requirement to have lived together for 2 years, please refer to: Navigating the New UK Unmarried Partner Visa Rules or contact us for further advice.

Requirements for an Unmarried Partner visa

The Immigration Rules define a partner as:

a person who has been living together with the applicant in a relationship akin to a marriage or civil partnership for at least two years prior to the date of application […]’

The Home Office guidance states that they expect to see evidence that the couple have lived together at the same address for a period of two years prior to the date of the application. However, this does not have to be immediately before the date of application. For example, if a couple have previously lived together for the required period, but have since had a period of time living apart, the requirement can still be met, providing the relationship has continued despite their living apart. 

‘The 2-year period of living together for a couple who are not married or in a civil partnership must have been completed prior to the date of application. However, the 2-year period does not have to have been completed immediately preceding the date of application if, for example, the couple are currently living apart for work reasons in order to meet the financial requirements of the rules, provided that the relationship continues to be genuine and subsisting at the date of application.’

It also does not matter if you have moved addresses or even countries during the two years that you have relied upon, providing you are able to provide evidence that you were living together for the full period.

However neither the guidance nor the rules give any further information about how individuals should demonstrate their cohabitation.

Evidence of cohabitation

The application form, however, does provide further information of what the Home Office expect to see. It states:

You must provide at least 6 items of correspondence, addressed to you and your partner jointly or in both your names. The dates of the items of correspondence should be spread evenly over the whole 2 years. They should be from at least 3 different sources. If you do not have enough items in your joint names, you may also provide items addressed to each of you individually if they show the same address for both of you. For example – 4 items of correspondence in joint names to the same address and 2 items addressed to each partner at the address. In total 8 items would need to be submitted. If you and your partner have no bills or correspondence in joint names, you will need to submit 12 items (6 each) of correspondence evidencing that you reside together at the same address.

Examples of acceptable evidence include:

Letters or other documents from government departments or agencies, for example HM Revenue and Customs, Department for Work and Pensions, DVLA, TV Licensing

Letters or other documents from your GP, a hospital or other local health service about medical treatments, appointments, home visits or other medical matters

Bank statements or letters

Building society savings books or letters Council tax bills or statements Electricity or gas bills or statements Water rates bills or statements Mortgage statements or agreement Tenancy agreement(s)

Telephone bills or statements 

This can be used as a useful starting point for preparing an application. However, individuals should be aware that this is not a legal requirement and an application cannot be refused solely on the basis that individuals do not provide the documents as set out on the application form. 

It may be that a couple do not have the exact types of evidence listed here, but can prove their cohabitation from other sources. Especially at the moment, where documents may be more difficult to obtain than usual due to covid-19 closures, couples may need to think innovatively about the documents that are available to them to demonstrate their cohabitation. 

Other Requirements

Obviously demonstrating cohabitation is an important starting point for the application, but there are other requirements that also need to be met, including demonstrating that your relationship is genuine and subsisting, meeting a financial and accommodation requirement and an English language requirement. You can find more details about these here and details about how applications might be affected by covid-19 here.

Contact our Immigration Barristers

For expert advice regarding an application for a fiance visa, proposed civil partner visa, spouse visa, civil partner visa or unmarried partner visa, contact our immigration barristers on 0203 617 9173 or complete our enquiry form below.


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