In summary, Appendix V of the Immigration Rules provides for 4 types of Visitor including Standard Visitor: for example Tourism and Visiting Family, Permitted Paid Engagement Visitor, Transit Visitor and Marriage/Civil Partnership Visitor.
This article will focus on those seeking to come to the UK to marry or form a civil partnership, or give notice of marriage or civil partnership.
Guidance is provided to caseworkers in the Visit guidance, Version 11.0, published for Home Office staff on 06 October 2021.
General Requirements for a Marriage or Civil Partnership Visit Visa
In order to qualify for a Marriage or Civil Partnership Visit Visa you will need to satisfy UK Visas & Immigration that:
- You are at least 18 years old;
- You intend to give notice of marriage or civil partnership in the UK or intend to marry or form a civil partnership in the UK, within six months of your arrival;
- You are in a genuine rather than a sham relationship;
- You are genuinely seeking entry to the UK for a purpose that is permitted by the visitor routes;
- You will not undertake any prohibited activities;
- You have sufficient funds to cover all reasonable costs in relation to your visit (including travel, maintenance and accommodation costs) without working or accessing public funds;
- You will visit the UK for less than 6 months and leave the UK at the end of your visit;
- You will not live in the UK for extended periods through frequent or successive visits, or make the UK your main home; and
- Your application does not fall for refusal under the general grounds for refusal.
Do I Need To Apply For a Marriage Visit Visa or Civil Partnership Visit Visa?
If your reason for visiting the UK is to marry or form a civil partnership, or give notice of marriage or civil partnership, in the UK you must apply for a Marriage or Civil Partnership Visit Visa before you travel.
There is a very limited group of individuals who do not need to apply for prior entry clearance. They include Irish citizens, persons with settled status or pre-settled status granted under the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) and persons with a decision pending on an application for EUSS leave submitted before 1 July 2021 (see section 62 of the Immigration Act 2014). You cannot apply if you qualify for British citizenship including if you hold dual nationality. In those circumstances you should apply for British citizenship.
It is important to note that the requirement to apply for this visa applies equally to Non-visa nationals. The requirement does not apply if the Applicant is converting an existing Civil Partnership (that took place under the laws of England and Wales or Scotland) to a marriage. They are not required to hold a Marriage/Civil Partnership Visitor Visa. The Applicant may in those circumstances apply to enter as a Standard Visitor.
If you are intending to enter the UK in order to enter into a marriage not recognised by UK law you do not need to apply for a marriage visit visa.
If you already hold a visit visa to enter the UK and are now seeking entry to marry or enter a civil partnership must hold a Visit Visa for that purpose.
Making a Valid Marriage Visit Visa or Civil Partnership Visit Visa Application and Suitability
You will need to ensure you make a valid application and consider if any of the provisions of Part 9 of the Immigration Rules apply. We examined making a valid application and general grounds in an earlier article. The same considerations apply to Marriage/Civil Partnership Visitors.
Free to Marry or Enter into Civil Partnership
You will need to show proof that you are free to marry or enter into a civil partnership. Depending on your personal circumstances, you may need to provide a decree absolute or death certificate of a previous partner.
Meeting the Genuine Intention Requirement
You will need to satisfy the Home Office that you genuinely intend to either give notice of marriage or civil partnership in the UK or intend to marry or form a civil partnership in the UK. In summary, the proposed marriage or civil partnership must not be a sham.
You will need to consider providing evidence of your arrangements. The guidance reads: "Examples of evidence include confirmation of the church or register office booking (email confirmation or a receipt for payment of the marriage/ civil partnership venue)". Intentions and plans can be expressed through witness statements, letters given in support, as well as documentary evidence.
You will need to provide evidence to show your relationship is genuine. The guidance confirms a caseworker should consider: "the evidence submitted, including the arrangements for the marriage or civil partnership, the couple's relationship, future plans and living arrangements". This previous post Genuine and Subsisting Relationship Requirement may assist in considering what evidence you may provide taking into account your individual circumstances.
Genuine Visitor Requirement
The casework guidance refers to a number of factors that will be considered, this was explored in the context of a Standard Visit Visa for tourism in our earlier article. There is a wide range of evidence that can be provided and relied upon to demonstrate this.
How Do I Demonstrate the Maintenance Requirement?
Evidence and consideration can be found in our earlier article.
Do I Need to Satisfy An English Language Requirement?
Unlike with a Fiance(e) Visa pursuant to Appendix FM, an applicant for a Marriage or Civil Partnership Visit Visa does not need to satisfy an English language requirement.
Can I Work or Claim Public Funds?
The position is the same as examined in our earlier article.
What Permitted Activities Can I Carry Out as a Marriage or Civil Partnership Visit Visa Holder?
You may of course marry or form a civil partnership and give notice. Other activities that are permitted under other Visitor routes are permissible but it is not possible to study.
What Is the Current Processing Time for a Marriage or Civil Partnership Visit Visa?
Processing times will depend on a number of factors and until recently visit visas took 3 weeks to process but are currently taking on average 6 weeks. The government website currently reads:
'We are working hard to process applications to get back to the 3-week service standard'.
The application waiting time starts once you attend a biometric appointment and waiting time ends when you receive a decision.
When Can I Make My Marriage or Civil Partnership Visit Visa Application?
It is possible to select a travel date up to 3 months in advance of planned travel.
What is the Application Fee for a Marriage Visit Visa or Civil Partnership Visit Visa?
Application fees have recently increased. At the time of writing and from 6 April 2022 the fees are £100.
How Do I Give Notice of My Marriage or Civil Partnership?
To 'give notice' you and your partner must sign a statement at your local register office to say that you intend to get married or form a civil partnership. You must have lived in the registration district for the past 7 days before you can give notice. The notice period is 28 clear days – so you must wait at least 29 days before the ceremony can take place. You can read more: here.
How Long Is a Marriage Visit Visa or Civil Partnership Visit Visa Valid for and Can I Leave and Enter the UK During the Duration?
Your Marriage Visit Visa or Civil Partnership Visit Visa should be valid for up to 6 months. It should be endorsed as multiple entry, meaning you can enter multiple times during the validity period of your Visit Visa. You should check carefully that it is not endorsed for a single or dual entry.
You will need to leave the UK before the end of the 6 month period shown in your vignette.
This is particularly helpful to those who wish to enter the UK to give notice and then leave and re-enter for their ceremony.
Is the Marriage or Civil Partnership Visit Visa the Right Visa For Me?
The Marriage or Civil Partnership Visit Visa is the right visa if you do not intend to settle in the UK after being married or entering into a civil partnership.
If you plan to remain in the UK with your partner, you may wish to consider applying for a Fiance Visa or Proposed Civil Partner Visa instead. This will allow you to remain in the UK after your marriage or civil partnership and make an application for further leave to remain before the expiry of your vignette.
Making a Marriage or Civil Partner Visa does not preclude a later application as a Spouse or Civil Partner. In those circumstances you will need to leave the UK in order to make an application for entry clearance. For many there are both practical and financial reasons why they choose this route. You will need to ensure you demonstrate the requisite intentions at the relevant time.
Given current processing times for family applications are 24 weeks, for those who already have provisional short-term wedding plans, this may be an option you can consider. You will need to consider carefully how this is addressed and include evidence to show you intend to leave the UK to apply for entry clearance and how you will meet the requirements in the relevant section of Appendix FM.
What If My Visa Application is Refused?
If your Visit Visa is refused there is no right to administrative review or appeal, unless in exceptional and limited circumstances where a human rights claim has been made and refused. You may consider whether to challenge the decision by way of judicial review. Further considerations are set out in our earlier article in the context of tourism, leisure and family Visit Visas.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.