Immigration Rules: changes to the definition of unmarried partner

According to the new Statement of Changes HC 246, on 31 January 2024, the definition of “unmarried partner” was changed, removing the requirement of cohabitation for 2 years in the Immigration Rules: introduction.

Previously, “unmarried partner” was defined as “where the couple have been living together in a relationship similar to marriage or a civil partnership for at least two years.”

Now, paragraph 6.2 substitutes it with “where the couple have been in a relationship similar to marriage or civil partnership for at least 2 years.”

In short, the applicant can apply for unmarried partner status under Appendix FM as long as they have been in a relationship for at least 2 years with their British partner when they apply, even if they have never lived together. For example, this might be due to work or study commitments in different locations, or cultural reasons.

The previous rules posed difficulties for couples in genuine relationships who were not married or had never lived together. For instance, they may have been in long-term relationships but unable to live together due to economic or religious reasons. Some couples may have lived together but faced challenges in providing the necessary evidence due to frequent travel for work.

The updated Rules focus solely on the relationship being “similar to marriage or a civil partnership for at least two years.”

Although there is no specific definition of “similar to marriage or civil partnership,” it suggests that the couple must be committed to a long-term relationship and intend to build a family life in the UK soon. In addition, they may share financial responsibilities or regularly visit each other if in a long-distance relationship. Some example of evidence is listed below:

-Regular communication

-Financial support

-Childcare responsibilities

-Spending time together as a couple, such as holidays or events

This is a welcome change, however it also opens the door to “interpretation” on part of the UKVI and as a result, the more evidence and the longer the relationship, the easier might be for the couple to show that they are in a genuine relationship akin to marriage.


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