Church-spouse/civil partner visa

Get Me To The Church* On Time

*Or marriage venue of your choice

On 8 June, the Home Office (finally) confirmed their approach to those in the UK hoping to marry and then switch into the spouse/civil partner category of the Immigration Rules.  The update didn’t last long, however, and was quickly removed from the Home Office’s website.  On 9 June, during the afternoon, the guidance was slightly tweaked and was released again.  As of today (10 June), the guidance remains accessible on the Home Office’s Covid-19 update page which can be accessed here, so hopefully the Secretary of State is now happy with her guidance…

Latitude Law has a number of clients who arrived in the UK prior to the Covid-19 lockdown holding entry clearance valid for 6 months, and who gave notice of their proposed marriage and subsequently arranged their ceremony.  However, as a result of the lockdown, ceremonies have been rearranged beyond the expiry of the initial 6-month visa, and sometimes cancelled altogether.  In relation to how we can secure such clients an extension, the Home Office has announced the following:

Fiancés, fiancées or proposed civil partners

If you’re here with 6 months’ leave as a fiancé, fiancée or proposed civil partner and your wedding or civil ceremony has been delayed due to coronavirus you can either request an extension until 31 July 2020 by updating your records with the Coronavirus Immigration Team, or apply to extend your stay for a further 6 months to allow the ceremony to take place.

The extension to 31 July is the Home Office’s general Covid-19 extension scheme – you can access this very straightforward scheme here.  However, such an extension is unlikely to benefit the majority of fiancé(e)s and proposed civil partners in the UK; these individuals can’t marry due to the lockdown and whilst the lockdown has started to ease, the government hasn’t confirmed that marriages can take place again – certainly there is no guarantee they will happen before 31 July.  There was a suggestion that smaller ceremonies may be allowed, but nothing has been confirmed yet.  This therefore means that the majority of fiancé(e)s and proposed civil partners are likely to be forced to submit an official application to extend their leave for a further 6 months.

So how best to approach such an application? If they are able to show that their ceremony couldn’t take place within their initial 6 month visa, fiancé(e)s and proposed civil partners have always been able to apply to extend their leave for a further period of 6 months.  The recent announcement is therefore not that helpful; it’s always been an option, and will mean that those in the UK who couldn’t arrange their ceremony within the validity of their 6 month visa will need to pay an application fee of £1033 to apply to extend their fiancé(e) / proposed civil partner visa.  Not great…

Is there light at the end of the tunnel?  Latitude Law thinks so.  With careful preparation and monitoring of the initial fiancé(e)/proposed civil partner extension application, we may be able to vary the application to a spouse/civil partner application in the future, meaning that Applicants overall will only be paying one application fee of £1033.  Note that, to submit an online application, the application fee will need to be paid twice, but as long as the spouse application is submitted before the fiancé(e)/proposed civil partner is decided, the initial £1033 paid when the fiancé(e)/proposed civil partner extension application was submitted will be refunded.

Varying applications is a complex procedure; it involves careful consideration in relation to the timeliness of submission of the fiancé(e)/proposed civil partner extension application and the subsequent spouse application; an error could result in an Applicant becoming an overstayer, so Applicants are strongly advised to seek legal assistance before attempting this approach.

For advice on your fiancé(e)/proposed civil partner extension application get in touch on 0300 131 6767 or submit a website enquiry form

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