Unmarried Partner Visa UK Requirements in 2024

The following are the unmarried partner visa UK requirements in 2024:

This article will discuss each of these in turn.

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requirement 1

The Immigration Status Requirement (only if the applicant is applying from INSIDE the UK)

This requirement only applies to applications made from inside the UK.

We will discuss this first because you will need to know whether you will make the application from inside or outside the UK.

This is important because:

If the applicant (the person that needs the visa to enter the UK) does not have any UK visas, they will have to apply from outside the UK (in which case, you can skip this requirement – move on to requirement #2 – the unmarried partner visa relationship requirement).

If the applicant is in the UK as a visitor, they will be expected to return to their country of residence or nationality and submit an out-of-country application.

To submit an application from inside the UK, the applicant:

1) Will need to have been issued a visa which was granted for longer than six months (the exception here are UK fiance visa and proposed civil partnership visas which are fine to submit in-country);

2) Must not be in breach of the Immigration Rules; and

3) Must not be in the UK on immigration bail (unless they arrived in the UK more than six months before the date of their unmarried partner visa UK application).

“I am in the UK as a non-visa national. Can I make an application from inside the UK?”

No. Unfortunately, if you are in the UK with leave as a non-visa national, you will have to return to your home country (or another country that you are legally resident in) and make an application from there.

requirement 2

Unmarried Partner Visa UK Relationship Requirement in 2024

#1 Your relationship must fall within the definition of an unmarried “partner” in Appendix FM of the Immigration Rules.

The definition of an unmarried partner can be found in GEN.1.2.(iv), which states that an unmarried partner is:

“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 before the date of application, unless a different meaning of partner applies elsewhere in this Appendix.”

The first thing to note here is that there is a lack of public Home Office guidance regarding the two years cohabitation requirement.

Therefore, we advise our clients in light of our immigration advisors’ Home Office experience (totalling to well over 30+ years) and the thousands of partner visa applications we’ve personally dealt with as immigration advisors who specialise in UK partner visas.

As we discuss in our free video series, the two years cohabitation requirement for unmarried partners, unfortunately, can sometimes cause issues.

This is in large part due to the high standard of documentation that you are expected to submit, which shows that you have lived together for at least two years before submitting the online application (e.g., joint tenancy agreements and/or title deeds combined with enough letters or documentation addressed to you both at the same address).

In addition to the high standard of documentation required, other potential issues arise where at least one partner cohabited whilst on a visitor visa (or whilst having leave as a non-visa national) or where there were substantial periods where you did not cohabit.

We discussed these issues in detail in part 1 of our free video series, so if you are unsure if you satisfy the two years cohabitation period, I would recommend watching that.

#2 Your relationship must be ‘genuine’ and ‘subsisting’.

The genuine and subsisting relationship requirement will involve the Home Office caseworker making a subjective decision based on your application as a whole.

They will look at the supporting documentation you submit and the other factors that suggest a genuine and subsisting relationship (such as having children together).

With this being said, where partners sufficiently evidence the two years cohabitation requirement, it is rare for there to be an issue with the genuine and subsisting relationship requirement (as cohabiting is one of the most significant factors which suggest that the relationship is genuine and subsisting).

#3 The UK partner (also known as the ‘sponsor’) must be one of the following:

  • A British or Irish Citizen; or
  • Present and settled in the UK; or
  • Someone who has been granted Settled Status or Settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme; or
  • Someone from the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein with pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme (& started living in the UK before 1 January 2021);
  • Holds either refugee status or humanitarian protection status in the UK.

“What does ‘settled’ mean?”

Essentially, being settled in the UK normally means someone who has either:

  • Indefinite Leave to Remain under UK immigration law; or
  • Permanent residency under EU law.

If you are a ‘settled’ person, you do not have any immigration restrictions on your stay in the UK and can stay here as long as you choose.

“What about the ‘present’ requirement? I live outside the UK with my partner – can I meet this requirement?”

Yes. The ‘present’ requirement generally does not cause any issues – including for those sponsors who have been living outside the UK.

If the UK partner has been residing outside the UK but has said that they will return to the UK with the applicant if the application is approved, they will usually be treated as being ‘present’ in the UK for the application.

#4 For both the UK partner and the applicant, any previous relationships must have broken down permanently.

If the previous relationship was legally recognised, this must be evidenced by a decree absolute (or overseas equivalent).

#5 You and your partner must be 18 years or older.

#6 The relationship between the UK partner and applicant must not fall within the prohibited degree of relationships.

#7 The UK partner and the applicant must intend to live together permanently in the UK.

Please note that if you and your partner have spent any periods living apart from each other, you should explain this in your application as, depending on the particular circumstances, it may lead to the Home Office caseworker concluding that you and your partner do not intend to live together permanently in the UK.

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requirement 3

Unmarried Partner Visa UK Adequate Accommodation Requirement

The accommodation requirements for unmarried partner visas can be found in E-ECP.3.4. and E-LTRP.3.4. of Appendix FM.

Accommodation cannot be prospective – as we discuss in part 3 of our 3-part video series.

The Immigration Rules, therefore, require you to provide documentation showing there will be suitable, adequate accommodation for all those living in the same household (even if they are not included in the application) without recourse to public funds.

Furthermore, adequate accommodation requires the accommodation not to be classed as being “overcrowded” and to comply with public health regulations.

Requirement 4

Unmarried Partner Visa UK Financial Requirement in 2024

Please note

The government intends to increase the minimum income threshold on 11 April 2024 from £18,600 to £29,000.

We discuss this in our UK Spouse & Partner Visa Financial Requirement (Minimum Income Threshold) Increase from £18,600 to £29,000 article.

Please also note

The financial requirement rules for unmarried partner visas can be complex and are often underestimated by partners.

It is essential to recognise that:

  • You need to know the ‘Category’ that your application will rely on meet the financial requirement;
  • You need to know the particular rules which apply to that Category (or Categories if you are combining income); and
  • You need to know the specific requirements relating to the required financial documentation.

A detailed account of the financial requirement is available in our spouse visa UK financial requirements in 2024 (the financial requirement is identical to spouse visa applications).

We also discuss the common mistakes applicants make about the financial requirement in our 3-part free video series.

“What if we do not meet the financial requirement when we submit the unmarried partner visa UK application?”

In-country applications

When an application is made inside the UK, the financial requirement does not have to be met if a paragraph EX.1. exception applies.

“What is the paragraph EX.1. exception?”

The paragraph EX.1. exception applies if one of two specific situations highlighted below applies to your application.

The two situations can be quite difficult to meet, and there can be a lot of relevant case law regarding who qualifies under the paragraph EX.1. Exception.

As such, we will only briefly mention it here.

Situation 1 – Where it is unreasonable to expect a child to leave the UK

In the case of a child living in the UK, it can be considered unreasonable to expect the child to leave the UK.

The relevant child must:

  • Be a British citizen; or
  • Is living and has been living in the UK continuously for at least the last seven years.

Situation 2 – Insurmountable circumstances

‘Insurmountable circumstances’ here mean it is not possible to continue your family life with your unmarried partner outside of the UK.

Please note this standard can be very difficult to satisfy.

If either of the two exceptions applies and you are granted a visa on this basis, you may be eligible to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) in the UK after ten years of continuous residence in the UK (rather than the standard 5-year qualifying period).

Out-of-Country applications

It is important to note the paragraph EX.1. exception outlined above does not apply to applications submitted outside the UK.

Therefore, if the financial requirement is not met, it is likely for the application to be refused.

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requirement 5

The Unmarried Partner Visa Suitability Requirements

Under this requirement, the Home Office assesses the applicant’s conduct, character, immigration & criminal records to see if anything makes them unsuitable for the visa.

There are slight variations in the requirements depending on whether:

  • The applicant is applying from outside the UK (an ‘out-of-country application’); or
  • The applicant is applying from inside the UK (an ‘in-country application’).

We will discuss each in turn.

Out-of-Country applications

When the application will be refused

The application will be refused under S-EC.1.1 of Appendix FM of the Immigration Rules if it is considered to be against the public interest because:

#1 The applicant has a deportation order issued against them that is still valid when you apply;

#2 The applicant’s general conduct or character means they should not be granted an unmarried partner visa.

#3 The Home Secretary has personally decided the applicant is to be excluded;

#4 The applicant has:

(a) been convicted of a criminal offence resulting in a sentence of at least four years’ imprisonment; or

(b) been convicted of a criminal offence resulting in a sentence of at least 12 months imprisonment (but less than four years), unless ten years have passed since the date the sentence ended; or

(c) been convicted of a criminal offence resulting in a sentence of fewer than 12 months imprisonment, unless five years have passed since the date the sentence ended.

#5 The applicant was required to leave the UK or were removed from the UK as a condition of a caution issued in accordance with section 22 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 during the five years before the unmarried partner visa’s date of decision.

#6 Medical reasons make it undesirable to grant an unmarried partner visa.

#7 The applicant did not comply (without a reasonable excuse) with a request to provide:

  • Information;
  • A medical report or a medical examination; or
  • Biometric information.

When the application may be refused

The application may be refused under S-EC.2.1 of Appendix FM of the Immigration Rules if any of the below apply:

#1 Actions in the past caused serious harm or showed the applicant to be a ‘persistent offender who shows a particular disregard of the law’;

#2 False documentation, representation or information has been submitted as part of the unmarried partner visa application. Please note this applies whether the applicant knew whether this was the case or not;

#3 The applicant has failed to pay litigation costs awarded to the Home Office;

#4 The applicant has failed to provide important information required during the process for the visa;

#5 The applicant has failed to provide a maintenance and accommodation undertaking after being asked or being required to do so;

#6 The Home Office has been informed that the applicant owes the National Health Service (NHS) more than £500 in unpaid costs.

#7 The applicant was convicted of an offence resulting in a non-custodial sentence of another out-of-court disposal that has been recorded on their criminal record in the 12 months before the date of the decision, resulting in a grant of an unmarried partner visa being considered not conducive to the public good;

In-Country applications

When the application will be refused

The application to remain in the UK will be refused under S-LTR.1.1 of Appendix FM of the Immigration Rules if it is not in the public interest because:

#1 The applicant’s previous conduct means it is undesirable to grant them a visa;

#2 A deportation order has been issued against the applicant which is still in force;

#3 The applicant has been convicted of a criminal offence resulting in:

  • A sentence of at least four years imprisonment; or
  • A sentence of fewer than four years but at least 12 months imprisonment.

#4 The applicant’s offending is deemed to have caused serious harm, or the applicant is considered to be a ‘persistent offender who shows a particular disregard for the law’;

#5 The applicant failed to undergo a medical examination when asked to;

#6 The applicant failed to provide information (including medically related information & physical data) when asked to;

#7 The applicant failed to attend an interview when asked to;

When the application may be refused

The application may be refused if any of the below apply:

#1 The applicant failed to mention relevant and important information in the FLR(M) visa application;

#2 There are legal or practical reasons that would result in the applicant being unable to be removed from the UK.

#3 Incorrect supporting documentation, information or incorrect representations were submitted as part of your FLR(M) visa application. This applies whether the applicant was aware of this or not;

#4 The applicant failed to provide a maintenance and accommodation undertaking when asked to;

#5 The applicant has not paid legal costs awarded to the Home Office against them;

#6 The Home Office has been informed the applicant has not paid National Health Service (NHS) charges of more than £500; and/or

#7 The applicant made false representations or failed to disclose material facts when obtaining a document indicating they have a right to reside in the UK.

With this being said, it should be noted only a very small number of applicants are affected by the suitability requirements.

You should consider speaking to an immigration advisor if you are concerned one of the above may apply to the application you plan to make.

Requirement 6

You Must Submit a ‘Valid Application’

If you don’t submit a valid application, the Home Office will not approve your application for an unmarried partner visa.

To make sure a valid application is submitted, you (the “applicant”) must:

  • Make sure the required sections of the application form are completed;
  • Pay the required unmarried partner visa UK fees in 2024;
  • Pay the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) fee;
  • Provide an approved proof of identity (this is usually your passport);
  • Provide biometric information at a visa application centre when asked (this is your fingerprints, a photograph and signature);

A note to those applying for an unmarried partner visa from inside the UK

It is important to note that submitting an invalid application when applying to extend a stay in the UK can have significant consequences. This is because not submitting a valid application could lead to the applicant overstaying their visa.

“What are Section 3C extensions?”

The first thing to note is that an automatic extension of leave under Section 3C of the Immigration Act 1971 is only available to those applying from inside the UK.

Partners applying in the UK are often worried their visa will no longer be valid if the Home Office does not make a decision before their current visa expires.

However, the applicant’s leave will automatically be extended under Section 3C as long as you make sure you:

  • Submit the unmarried partner visa UK online application form before the current UK visa expires; AND
  • Submit a valid application.

If you satisfy both requirements, the applicant will be legally entitled to remain in the UK until a decision is made on the application (or until the application is withdrawn).  The conditions of the existing visa, such as the right to work, remain the same during this period.

So, if:

  • The application is made inside the UK;
  • The application is made before the current visa expires;
  • But you do not make a valid application…

…any time the applicant spends in the UK after the visa expires while waiting for the Home Office to make a decision could be classed as time spent in the UK illegally.

If this happens, the applicant could be deported or even banned from the UK.

requirement 7

The Unmarried Partner Visa English Language Requirement

Out-of-Country applications

The English language requirement is found in Appendix FM of the Immigration Rules under “Section E-ECP: Eligibility for entry clearance as a partner – English language requirement”.

The English language requirement can be met in one of the following ways:

#1 By being a national of a majority English-speaking country.

The following is a list of the majority English-speaking countries:

  • Antigua and Barbuda;
  • Australia;
  • the Bahamas;
  • Barbados;
  • Belize;
  • The British Overseas Territories;
  • Canada;
  • Dominica;
  • Grenada;
  • Guyana;
  • Jamaica;
  • Malta;
  • New Zealand;
  • St Kitts and Nevis;
  • St Lucia;
  • St Vincent and the Grenadines;
  • Trinidad and Tobago;
  • The United States of America.

#2 By providing a secure English language certificate or SELT unique reference number (URN), which shows that the applicant passed a Secure English language test which is at least A1 level.

Please note the test must be taken with a Home Office approved provider.

The mistakes partners make with English language tests are discussed in video 1 of our 3-part video series.

#3 By being awarded either:

  • A Bachelor’s, Master’s or PhD degree awarded by an officially-recognised educational establishment in the UK; or
  • A qualification taught in English outside the UK that is deemed by Ecctis (previous UK NARIC) to meet or exceed the recognised standard of a Bachelor’s, Masters’s or PhD degree in the UK.

#4 By being exempt.

The following applicants are generally exempt from the English language requirement:

(i) Applicants with a disability (physical or mental condition) preventing them from meeting the English language requirement; or

(ii) Applicants aged 65 or over; or

(iii) Applicants with exceptional circumstances preventing them from meeting the requirement before entry to the UK.

In-Country applications

For applications made inside the UK, the relevant rules are found in Appendix FM of the Immigration Rules under “Section E-LTRP: Eligibility for limited leave to remain as a partner – English language requirement”.

There are two main differences in comparison with out-of-country applications which are:

#1 Unmarried partner visa applicants may have to pass at least level A2 of the Secure English language test if they are extending their previously issued partner visa (where the minimum level was A1) and are applying for an FLR(M) visa based on their relationship.

Unmarried partners who are not extending their partner visa (but rather, the applicant is in the UK on another type of visa) can still sit an A1 level test.

#2 If the paragraph EX.1. exception applies, the English language requirement for In-Country applications does not need to be met.

Please note, the paragraph EX.1. exception does not apply to applications made from outside the UK.

requirement 8

The Tuberculosis (TB) Requirement

Out-of-Country applications

If you are submitting an unmarried partner visa application from outside the UK, the applicant may have to take a TB test if they are are living (or have lived in the previous 6 months) in one of the listed countries.

The TB test usually takes the form of a chest X-ray.

The applicant may also be asked to give a sputum sample (phlegm coughed up from their lungs) if the initial result is unclear.

If your test shows the applicant is free from TB, they will receive a certificate that must be provided with the unmarried partner visa application.

The certificate issued will be valid for six months and must not have expired at the date of application.

Some people will not need to be tested and therefore do not have to provide a TB certificate. These applicants are:

  • Diplomats accredited to the UK;
  • Applicants classed as a returning UK resident who has not been away from the UK for more than two years; and
  • Applicants who have lived for at least six months in a country where Tuberculosis screening is not required by the UK and have been away from that country for no more than six months.

“And what about TB tests for children?”

Though children must see a doctor who will decide if they need a chest X-ray, children under 11 years of age are not generally tested.

The child will need to be taken to a Home Office approved clinic and complete a health questionnaire.

A TB certificate will be issued if the results show the child does not have TB. The certificate must be included with the visa application.

In-Country applications

If the applicant is making an unmarried partner visa application from inside the UK, they will not need to take a Tuberculosis (TB) test.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does the online application form state all of the unmarried partner visa requirements?

Although the application form discusses some of the key requirements, it does not discuss all of the requirements. Rather, it is your responsibility to ensure that the requirements found in Appendix FM and the Home Office guidance are met.

When do the requirements for the unmarried partner visa have to be met?

It is normally the case that the unmarried partner visa requirements must be met on the date that you submit the online application.

What happens if all of the unmarried partner visa requirements are not met?

For the majority of applications, the most likely outcome is that the application will be refused.

Which unmarried partner visa requirement causes the most refusals?

The financial requirement is the biggest reason for unmarried partner visa applications being refused. Because of this, you particularly want to ensure that you take the time to familiarise yourself with the financial document-specific Immigration Rules.

Want help?

If you are preparing and submitting the application yourself, it is essential to emphasise that you need to spend a significant amount of time familiarising yourself with the Immigration Rules.

If you would like assistance with your application, as a fully regulated-OISC immigration law firm, we provide a range of services.

If you want us to handle your application from start to finish (including the application and document submission), you may be interested in our full legal representation service.

If, on the other hand, you would like to take primary responsibility for your application, you may be interested in our unique DIY Application Pack service – 100% money-back guarantee.

Among other things, this service involves us providing you with a tailored set of detailed document checklist(s) (which also identify the relevant document-specific Immigration Rules) and letter templates.

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