What UK visa options do unmarried partners have?

Despite what some people might believe, if you are not married to your partner there are still ways you can gain entry to the UK on the basis of your relationship. Which visa you apply for will depend on what you intend to do whilst in the UK and how long you would like to stay for.

Cohabitating couples

Under UK law, if you and your partner have been living together for at least two years, all the while being in a relationship with each other, then you have what is known as a ‘relationship akin to marriage’.

If this is the case for you and your partner, then you have the same immigration rights as married couples, or anyone in a civil partnership. In order for you to join your partner on the basis of your relationship, you would have to apply for a UK spouse visa as a unmarried couple. If you are from a European Economic Area country, or Switzerland, then you should apply for a European family permit rather than a spouse visa.


If one of the below applies to your partner, you could potentially join them living in the UK:

  • They are settled and living in the UK
  • They are from a country in the European Economic Area and are exercising their treaty rights in the UK
  • They have been given limited leave to remain in the UK

You cannot join your partner on the basis of your relationship if they are in the UK on a student or other short-term visa.

In order to be successful in your spouse visa application, you will have to meet the below requirements:

  • You must both be over eighteen at the time you apply
  • You must both intend to live together permanently in the UK
  • You personally must be from outside the European Economic Area
  • Your partner has to be ‘present and settled’ in the UK at the time of application, which means physically present, unless they are coming to the UK with you. If this is the case, they have to have indefinite leave to remain, permanent right of residence, British citizenship or right of abode
  • You will have to provide evidence that you have pre-arranged accommodation for when you arrive in the UK
  • You must meet the English language requirements

Financial requirements

If you want to come to the UK as an unmarried partner, and you’re from outside the European Economic Area, you have to be able to prove that you meet the financial requirements. If your partner is going to be acting as your ‘sponsor’, then they have to be able to prove that they meet the requirements instead of you.

In order to ‘sponsor’ your spouse, fiancé, civil partner, or unmarried partner, you have to earn a minimum of £18,600 per year. If you have children who will also need to be ‘sponsored’, that threshold rises to £22,400 per year, with an extra £2,400 from there on in for each additional child you want to bring with you.

How long you can stay in the UK

If you apply for a spouse visa as an unmarried partner, and your application is accepted then you will be allowed to live in the UK for up to thirty-three months. After this you can apply for an extension of thirty months, after which you may be eligible to apply for permanent settlement.

Visiting the UK as an unmarried partner

If you are from outside the European Economic Area and you and your partner are not engaged, married or in a civil partnership and you simply want to visit the UK, you should apply for your own visitor visa.

If you are engaged, however, and your partner is settled in or a citizen of the UK, you can apply for a fiance visa. This visa type allows you to come to the UK to get married and is valid for six months. This visa is intended for couples who plan on staying in the UK once they are married, so allows you to apply for a spouse visa after the six-month period.

If you are engaged and want to marry in the UK but do not want to live here afterwards, you should apply for a marriage visitor visa. This is also valid for six months but does not allow you to stay and apply for another visa afterwards. Instead, if you decide you would like to settle in the UK you must leave, apply from your home country, and then return when your spouse visa is accepted.

Help from professionals

Applying for a visa can be quite tricky, and if you get it wrong you risk having your application refused. This can set you back months and means that you lose precious time you could be spending with your loved one. Most immigration solicitors recommend consulting them for advice before submitting an application to avoid risking a denial. Of course, you might get the opportunity to appeal a Home Office decision if you believe it was unjust for good reason like they failed to take evidence into account, but it’s always best to get it right the first time around.

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