This information is for those who wish to marry in the United Kingdom and neither of the applicants is a permanent resident or a British citizen. This category includes, for example, people who are in the UK under one of the visa categories or another long-term category.
Foreigners’ marriages are registered at any register office (Register Office) in the UK or at a church or embassy.
A. Getting married in a church
A couple can get married in a church. In the UK, this can be done in the Anglican Church in England or Wales. As for the possibility of registering a marriage in the Church of England in Scotland, it can be done at the Scottish Episcopal Church (Scottish Episcopal Church), which also belongs to the Church of England. Such marriages will be considered valid. The Home Office of Great Britain does not recognize other types of religious marriages, i.e. such marriages will not be considered valid.
B. Getting married at your country’s embassy
Marriages performed in the embassies of their respective countries are accepted as valid. A couple can contact their country’s embassy to find out if they can help arrange the marriage or not. Sometimes this is very important because if the marriage is concluded at the embassy and depending on the immigration situation of the applicants, they may have a chance to apply to the Home Office for permission to issue a temporary residence permit in the UK.
C. Marriage opportunities for people who are not legally resident in the UK
According to the general principles of UK immigration law, it does not matter what immigration status the person who wishes to marry has, or with whom they plan to marry (whether they are a UK resident or an EU citizen, or a British citizen themselves).
In either case, the marriage can be arranged within the UK, but then, in order to apply for a spousal visa, an applicant who does not have legal status in the UK or does not have a long term visa with a right to stay in the country for more than 6 months will have to leave the country and apply for a family visa from abroad.
D. Partners of persons with limited leave to remain in the UK
Some people who are temporarily resident in the U.K. can bring their partners to the U.K. to be reunited/accompanied with them. As a dependent of a person with limited leave to remain (for example, on a student or work visa), the partner may take up employment or self-employment for the duration of his or her leave to remain (depending on the immigration category of the principal visa holder).
Normally, applicants will receive a visa which is the same validity period as the sponsor’s visa and the applicant is expected to leave the country with the sponsor if the sponsor has no intention of settling in the UK.
However, if the sponsor is able to settle permanently and has applied for a visa to do so, dependents may also settle in the UK with the sponsor. In this case, the rules for victims of domestic violence do not apply.
In view of this, persons residing in the UK on a residence permit, other than on short-term visitor visas or with illegal residency, can marry in the UK and then join their partner on a dependent visa. Or they can marry outside the UK and then immediately apply for a dependent visa for their married partner.
Let’s look at several situations in this regard.
Situation 1. Alexander is in the UK on a student visa and is studying at a British university on an undergraduate program. He has a spouse who lives outside Britain and wishes to join him as a dependent. Based on the current rules, in order for Alexander’s spouse to be able to apply for a dependent visa, Alexander will need to obtain a student visa to study at least an undergraduate or postgraduate program, until then his spouse will be able to come on a visitor’s visa.
When Alexander will have a student visa for undergraduate or graduate studies and his spouse will have a dependent visa, the validity of her visa will be the same and with the same expiration date as Alexander’s student visa.
And then, depending on their future plans to study or live in the country, they will both be able to either extend their visas for Alexander to continue his studies, or apply for a Graduate Visa, provided that Alexander successfully completes his graduate or undergraduate program.
Situation 2. Peter lives in the UK on a Skilled Worker Visa and has an unmarried partner in Ukraine. She wants to join him on a dependent visa. Immigration rules allow her to apply for a Dependent Visa, but since they are not married they will need to show that they have lived together at the same address in Ukraine, the UK or any other country for the past two years.
Peter’s unmarried partner will initially receive a dependent visa for the same length of time that Peter’s work visa will still be valid. However, in that case, Peter will be able to apply for permanent residency first because he will reach the 5-year residency mark faster on a work visa, while the unmarried partner will need to renew her visa for a few more years until she herself has lived on a dependent partner visa for five years.
Situation 3. Nikolai has been living in Great Britain on a foreign company’s sole representative visa for several years. He has a girlfriend, Natalia, with whom he is in a relationship, but without a registered marriage. He wants to join her on a dependent visa and is not sure if he should register his marriage officially or file as unmarried partners.
Nicholas and Natalia can marry both in and out of the UK and she can then apply for a dependent spouse visa under Nicholas’s visa category. Or, if they will not register their marriage, they will need to show that the last two years they lived together at the same address in any other country. And then, as in the case with Peter in a situation 2, Nicholas would be able to apply for permanent residency first, as he quickly reached the 5-year mark of residence in the country on a work visa, and for his wife Natalia will need to renew her visa for several years until she herself has lived five years on a dependent visa.
Situation 4. Maria is a Spanish citizen, and she is living in the UK on the basis of the Pre-Settled status she obtained. She has a spouse, David, who is a citizen of Georgia and currently resides outside of the UK. She wishes to apply for a spousal visa and join him.
Under the current immigration rules, the important point is when their marriage was arranged before December 31, 2020 or after that date. If before the above date, then Dovid will be able to apply for a Family Permit under the EU Settlement Scheme under the European rules under the simplified scheme. If their marriage took place after December 31, 2020, then David will be able to apply for a spousal visa under the standard British rules, which, among other things, to meet certain financial requirements and David will need to demonstrate the necessary level of English language skills.