If you are a parent of a child that lives in the UK, but you live outside of the UK and wish to move to the UK, there is an immigration route available to you. The Parent of a Child Visa route in Appendix FM of the Immigration Rulessets out various requirements that you must satisfy in order to qualify for a UK visa on the basis of your family life as a parent of a child in the UK.

Parent of a Child Visa Requirements for A Child

In order to qualify for a UK Parent of a Child Visa, you will need to be a parent of a child who is:

  • Under the age of 18; and
  • Living in the UK; and
  • A British or Irish citizen; or settled in the UK (i.e. has indefinite leave to remain, settled status or proof of permanent residence); or is from the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein and has pre-settled status under Appendix EU.

Your child must be physically present in the UK at the date of application and you should intend to make the UK your home with your child. The Parent of a Child route is not appropriate if your child is overseas.

If your child turns 18 after your Parent of a Child Visa application is submitted, then this does not mean per se that your application will be refused, provided your child has not formed an 'independent life.' You would need to show that your child is still dependent on you or another parent/career, wholly or mainly, for financial and emotional support, and that they have not yet formed an independent family unit. Your child therefore must not have a partner, and must still be living with a parent/carer, unless they are attending school, college or university, on a full-time basis.

Parent of a Child Visa Relationship Requirement

In order to qualify for a Parent of a Child Visa, you will either need to have sole parental responsibility for your child or you will need to share parental responsibility with the parent or carer with whom your child normally lives.

If you have shared parental responsibility with the other parent or carer of your child must not be your partner and must also either be a British or Irish citizen; or have indefinite leave to remain, settled status or permanent residence in the UK; or have pre-settled status under Appendix EU.

Who Qualifies as a Parent?

According to paragraph 6 of the Immigration Rules, a 'parent' includes a natural parent, a step-father or step-mother, parents of illegitimate children (where proven), and adoptive parents. The Rules also consider that where a child is born in the UK, and is not British, and there has been a genuine transfer of parental responsibility to a person because the child's parents are unable to care for the child, that person may be considered a parent. To prove the relationship between you as a parent and your child, you will need to provide evidence – such as your child's birth certificate, or any other cogent evidence that can be used to prove parentage.

For the relationship requirement to be met, you must either have sole responsibility for your child; or have shared parental responsibility and direct in-person access to your child, where this access has been agreed with the parent or carer that normally lives with your child in the UK, or where that access has been ordered by a court in the UK.

The meaning of 'sole responsibility' was helpfully set out by the Immigration Tribunal in TD (Paragraph 297(i)(e): sole responsibility) Yemen [2006] UKAIT 00049, where it was stated that:

"The test is, not whether anyone else has day-to-day responsibility, but whether the parent has continuing control and direction of the child's upbringing including making all the important decisions in the child's life – if not, responsibility is shared and so not "sole"."

The key consideration for decision-makers is who has 'responsibility' for raising the child – this responsibility is evaluated practically by looking at the current arrangements for the child's care. Responsibility may be shared between different persons, and indeed, the day-to-day decision-making about the child's welfare may be shared between others (including friends, grandparents, and other relatives) because parents and children may be separated geographically. This does not mean that a parent cannot have sole responsibility for the child. The important factor for decision-makers is who has the authority and controls the decision-making about the child's upbringing. In other words, who has control over the major decisions which impact the life of the child (regardless of geographical location)? Financial support provided to support the child's upbringing may be submitted as evidence.

If you wish to rely on the fact that you have shared parental responsibility and access to your child, either by agreement or court order, you will have to show that the parent/carer who normally lives with your child, is a British or Irish citizen, has indefinite leave to remain, settled status or permanent residence in the UK or has pre-settled status under Appendix EU and that you and the other parent/carer are not partners. 'Direct access' (previously known as 'access rights'), set out in JA (meaning of "access rights") India [2015] UKUT 225 (IAC), requires contact in person. Whereas conversely, 'indirect access' means phone calls or Zoom calls, text or social media messages, letters, cards, etc. Showing 'direct access' may be difficult for those living abroad. It may be useful to provide evidence, if possible, of contact arrangements made between parents/carers previously, whether these details were arranged formally or informally. The evidence of contact does not need to be a formal document and could include, for example, evidence of holidays or days spent with the child – such as booking confirmations, plane tickets, and photographs.

It is important to note that the Parent of a Child Visa route is not available to parents who share responsibility for the child, are partners, and therefore are still together as a couple. If you and your partner are both parents to the child, share responsibility for the child, and are in a genuine and subsisting relationship, this route is not available to you as the route is not intended for those in a relationship with the other parent. If you are eligible to apply as a Spouse, Civil Partner, Unmarried Partner, Fiance or Proposed Civil Partner then you should apply on the applicable partner route rather than as a Parent of a Child.

You will also need to provide evidence that you are currently taking an active role in the upbringing of your child, and that you intend to continue to do so. The types of evidence required could potentially include letters from your child's school, or a healthcare practitioner, which set out how you either live with, or care for your child. You can also rely on letters from the Court (with permission), parental agreements signed by your solicitor and the other parent/carer, social services paperwork, HMRC letters setting out that you claim Child Tax Credit. Usually, evidence such as cards, text or social media messages, and photographs, are not considered to be as strong as other, more 'formal' evidence. This requirement would need you to show how you are, and would be, involved in the care arrangements of the child – including residential arrangements or visiting arrangements, as well as the broader care arrangements of the child in future.

Parent of a Child Visa Financial Requirement

In support of your Parent of a Child Visa application you will need to further provide evidence that shows that you will be able to adequately maintain yourself financially, as well as have appropriate accommodation, without seeking recourse to public funds. You will need to set out where you intend to live, and include the details of how many others you will be staying with. This is to ensure that any proposed accommodation is not overcrowded and does not contravene public health regulations.

Parent of a Child Visa English Language Requirement

If you wish to apply as a Parent of a Child, you will need to meet the minimum English language requirements (unless you are exempt) at CEFR Level A1. You can meet this requirement by being a national of a majority English speaking country, taking an approved English language test, or you can rely on academic qualifications.

If you do not meet the English language and financial requirements, you can still make an application for permission to extend your stay if your child has lived in the UK for 7 years continuously and you can satisfy the Home Office that it would not be reasonable for your child to leave the UK.

Length of Stay on a Parent Visa

If your application for a Parent Visa is approved, you will be allowed to stay in the UK for 2 years and 9 months, following which, you will need to make an application to extend your stay.

After spending 5 years (60 months) in the UK on the Parent Visa route, you may be eligible to apply for indefinite leave to remain in the UK.

In order to qualify for indefinite leave to remain as a parent you will need to demonstrate, in addition to the above requirements, that:

  • You meet the higher CEFR Level B1 English Language requirement that applies to settlement applications;
  • You have passed the Life in the UK test (unless exempt).

If you make an application for indefinite leave to remain as a parent but do not satisfy the above requirements, UK Visas and Immigration will go on to consider if you meet the requirements for a further extension of stay as a parent.

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.