When applying for a UK spouse or civil partner visa, it is key to first check if a marriage or civil partnership is recognised in the UK as valid, as this will determine if you can apply as a spouse or civil partner OR you need to apply as an unmarried partner. Home Office guidance on Family Life provides the starting point and the Partners, Divorce and Dissolutions guidance gives the more detailed information on how UK immigration authorities assess validity of marriages and civil partnerships, both those taking place in the UK and the overseas ones.
Under Appendix FM to the Immigration Rules, a partner is defined as a person in a genuine and subsisting relationship to a person who is their spouse or civil partner, fiancé(e) or proposed civil partner, or a person who has been living together with the applicant in a relationship akin to a marriage or civil partnership for at least 2 years prior to the date of application. We refer you to our Family visas pages for more information on spouse or civil partner visa.
Further below we provide some guidance on how the UK Home Office assess validity of UK marriage, UK civil partnership as well as overseas marriage and overseas civil partnership.
When a UK marriage or UK civil partnership is valid
All marriages which take place in the UK, to be recognised as valid, must be monogamous and must be carried out in accordance with the requirements of the Marriage Act 1949 (as amended), the Marriage Act (Scotland) 1977 or the Marriage Order (Northern Ireland) 2003.
All civil partnership which take place in England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, to be recognised as valid, must be carried out in accordance with the The Civil Partnership Act 2004. In England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland two people may register a civil partnership provided:
• they are not already in a civil partnership or lawfully married
• they are not within a prohibited degree of relationship
• they are both aged 16 or over.
How to evidence a valid marriage or civil partnership for spouse or civil partner visa
For the purposes of Appendix FM and under Appendix FM-SE to the Immigration Rules to evidence marriage, divorce, civil partnership and dissolution of civil partnership the below evidence is required for the visa applications:
• a marriage in the UK must be evidenced by a valid marriage certificate recognised under the laws of England and Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland
• a divorce in the UK must be evidenced by a decree absolute from a civil court
• a civil partnership in the UK must be evidenced by a civil partnership certificate recognised under the laws of England and Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland
• the dissolution of a civil partnership in the UK must be evidenced by a final order of civil partnership dissolution from a civil court
• marriages, civil partnerships or evidence of divorce or dissolution from outside the UK must be evidenced by a reasonable equivalent to the evidence issued in the UK, which must be valid under the law in force in the relevant country.
Overseas marriage and civil partnerships
A marriage or civil partnership which has taken place overseas is recognised in the UK where:
• the type of marriage or civil partnership is recognised in the country in which it took place
• the marriage or civil partnership was properly conducted to satisfy the requirements of the law of the country in which it took place
• there is nothing in the laws of either person’s country of domicile at the time of the marriage or civil partnership which prevents the marriage or civil partnership being recognised
• any previous marriages or civil partnerships of the couple have broken down permanently.
Schedule 20 to the Civil Partnership Act 2004 (updated by The Civil Partnership Act 2004 (Overseas Relationships) Order 2012) provides a list of overseas relationships which will be recognised as civil partnerships in the UK.