Non-UK spouses of British citizens who want to settle with their spouse in the UK must usually apply for a UK Spouse Visa for permission to enter the country in order to take up work, and receive free National Health Service (NHS) care, if they have been married for less than four years. But each situation and every application is different. Are you entitled to Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) or permanent residency, straightaway when you enter the UK?
Safeguards Against Marriage Fraud
As is the case in many countries, marriage fraud (also known as a marriage of convenience) is a way in which unscrupulous individuals seek to circumvent the legal immigration channels by marrying British citizens so that they can obtain immediate settlement and other benefits that they would not otherwise be entitled to. In response to the trend of marriage fraud, the UK Border Agency looks at the longevity of a marriage, amongst other considerations, before deciding on a case and when offering UK Spouse Visas.
Longevity of a Marriage
Couples who have been married for less than four years will need to apply for a UK Spouse Visa and prove that their marriage is genuine by furnishing such information as joint bank statements and other evidence of the genuineness of their marriage. The British citizen spouse will act as ‘sponsor’ to their spouse, which will allow them to enter the UK for settlement and work purposes.
However, couples who can prove that they have been married for four years or more, have lived together outside the UK and can successfully pass the Life in the UK test (if applicable) are eligible to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain straightaway without having to live in the UK for a two-year probationary period before they are deemed eligible to apply for settlement.
If your marriage is less than four years old, you will need to apply for a UK Spouse Visa and then live in the UK for a probationary period before you can apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain. However, couples that have been married for four years or more will be happy to learn that they can apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain straightaway without having to go through quite the same legal requirements to settle in the UK. To learn more about your rights, go to the UK Border Agency Web site for further information.
UK Border Agency, Part 1 – General provisions regarding leave to enter or remain in the United Kingdom.