A Foreign National’s Guide to Getting Married or Forming a Civil Partnership in the UK

A Foreign National’s Guide to Getting Married or Forming a Civil Partnership in the UK
Can I get married or form a civil partnership in the UK?

One of the questions we often get here at Migration Expert is if foreign nationals can marry in the UK. They also get confused about the rules and regulations concerning this matter, and the mix-up usually worsens when it comes to notice periods. To answer: yes, anyone can marry in the United Kingdom as long as they satisfy the requirements. Even tourists who want to visit the UK solely for the purpose of marriage, so long as they satisfy the prerequisites for this category.  

The basic requirements for getting married and forming a civil partnership in the UK include:
  • Both parties should be single, divorced, or widowed.
  • Both parties should be above 16 years old.
  • For those who are younger than 18 years old, they will need to submit a valid permission document from their parent/s or legal guardian/s.
  • A valid Marriage Visitor Visa is required for those who are not from Switzerland or any European Economic Area (EEA)-member country. This also includes those who don’t normally need visas for general visits, unless they’re already in the UK.
Same-sex marriage is legal in the UK. However, only couples of the same sex can enter into a civil partnership. Civil partnerships can only be converted into marriage in select areas in England and therefore specific legal advice is required prior to proceeding to ensure all required prerequisites are met. This is where competent legal advice is important to ensure that you can legally proceed with your intended marriage or civil partnership plans.

Standard notice period
Currently, all couples are required to register their intention at least 28 days ahead of their marriage.  This ruling applies to both British and non-British citizens. The notice must include the details of the ceremony, especially the location and the date. After submitting it to the Home Office, the notice will be displayed in the register office for 28 days. Following this period, you are required to register your marriage or civil partnership within one year. It is shorter in Scotland, however, as you need to do this in three months.
Is shorter notice still possible?
In the past, the Home Office required all notices to be submitted 15 days ahead of the marriage or civil partnership, but the government extended it to 28 days so that it can enhance its efforts in investigating and identifying fake unions. There are special cases in which the government grants a couple shorter notices. Exemptions include:
  • At least one part of the marrying or uniting couple is a non-UK citizen
  • If the marriage or civil partnership is not referred to the UK Home Office
  • You want to give notice and get married/form a civil partnership in one visit after March 2015
 However, it is important to ensure that you meet all of the relevant requirements before deciding that an exemption is applicable.
Non-EEA nationals
If anyone of the marrying or intending to form a civil union with a person who is not from a European Economic Area country or is subject to immigration control, a standard 28 days’ notice to be submitted to the Register office in England and Wales is compulsory. Both parties are required to live in England and/or in Wales for at least seven days to be qualified for the notice.  Notice period can be extended up to 70 days if at least one-half of the marrying/uniting couple is: 
  • Not from an EEA-member country
  • Has limited or no immigration status in the UK
  • Unable to provide the registrar with sufficient proof that he/she is settled in the UK
 You may have to wait for at least 28 days for the extension of your notice period. An extended notice period may be automatically referred to the UK Home Office, which has the full rights over investigating a proposed marriage or civil partnership’s validity. 
Fees and conditions
A foreign national must pay £35 if your passport or immigration document states the following:
  • you have settled your UK status;
  • you are exempt from immigration control;
  • you have a Marriage or Civil Partnership Visitor/ a fiancé, fiancée or proposed civil partner visa plus a passport-sized photograph; and
  • you have an EU right of permanent residence in the UK
 The absence of these documents may lead to having to pay a £47 fee instead and provide the following:
  • details of your current normal address; if it’s different from the address you’ve used to give notice;
  • details of your current UK mailing address; if your normal address is outside the UK;
  • details of any names/identities you’ve been known as, especially if you’ve undergone a legal name change in or outside the UK; and
  • a passport-sized photograph
 After the submission

As part of their investigation, the UK Home Office may conduct either an interview or request for additional information from the applicants. The UK government encourages the applicants to always comply with the investigation and submit necessary documents on time. These are the persons exempt from being referred to the UK Home Office: 
  • British Citizens
  • EEA Nationals
  • Foreign Nationals not subject to UK Immigration Control
  • Persons with settled status or UK Permanent Residence
  • Persons with Entry Clearance to the UK as a Fiancé or Proposed Civil Partner.
 For specific advice on your marriage or civil partnership situation, consult with one of your industry-trained and OISC Regulated UK consultants to apply for a UK Marriage Visitor Visa.
About Migration Expert:
Migration Expert is the visa & immigration consulting company of choice in Australia, Canada, the UK and the US. Their registered consultants provide expert legal counsel for all aspects of immigration law and visas, including family-sponsored immigration, employment-sponsored immigration, investment immigration, temporary visas for work and college, permanent residence, citizenship, consular visa processing, waivers, and appeals. 
Interested in living, working, studying or traveling to Australia, Canada, the UK or the US? Contact Migration Expert, a widely recognized immigration consulting company. Visit our website at www.migrationexpert.co.uk or phone for a consultation with a Registered UK Migration Consultant at more updates on UK Immigration by following us here. For more visa-related questions, speak to one of our OISC-registered UK migration consultants. 

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