Avoiding a marriage visitor visa refusal

marriage visitor visa refusal

A marriage visitor visa refusal can be devastating. In this article we can clarify what a marriage visitor visa is, when to apply for one, and how to avoid a marriage visitor visa refusal.

What is a marriage visitor visa?

The marriage visitor visa  is suitable for nationals from outside of the United Kingdom (UK) and Europe Economic Area (EEA) who wish to:

  • Marry or register a civil partnership in the UK; or
  • Give notice of a marriage or civil partnership in UK; and
  • Leave the UK after their marriage or civil partnership and do not plan to stay or settle in the UK

When making an application, the applicant must demonstrate that they (and their partner) are:

  • 18 years of age or over
  • Free to give notice to marry or enter into a civil partnership in the UK within 6 months of their arrival
  • In a genuine relationship
  • Visiting the UK for less than 6 months
  • Intending to leave the UK at the end of their visit
  • Able to support themselves without working in the UK or State support, or that they will be financially supported and accommodated by relatives or friends
  • Able to meet the cost of their return or onward journey

Our previous clients, John, a British national living in the United States (US), and his partner Celia, a US citizen,sought advice about how best to marry in the UK. It was important to John for his large family and elderly grandparents to be present at his wedding. He did not want his grandparents to suffer the undue stresses of international travel.For Celia, she loved the idea of having the wedding ceremony at a particular historic venue in Cambridgeshire and fortunately for her, her family were more than willing to travel to the UK.

John and Celia were both over 18, free to marry, had substantial savings, and neither had any intentions of remaining in the UK beyond a few weeks after the ceremony.

For John and Celia, a marriage visitor visa was the correct option. They were able to successfully demonstrate how they met each of the requirements under the immigration rules and Celia secured her marriage visitor visa.

When should you apply for a marriage visitor visa?

UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) states that ‘the earliest you can apply is 3 months before you travel’. This means that if an applicant wishes to travel to the UK on 1 August to give notice to marry or enter into a civil partnership, they may submit their onlineapplication on 1 May at the earliest.

Timing is going to be a key consideration when applying for this type of visa. This is because in order to marry or enter into a civil partnership, the couple must have physically lived in the UK, in the registration locality, for at least 7 full days.

On Day 9, the couple must then give the registry office at least 28 days’ notice of their intention to marry or enter into a civil partnership. If 28 days’ notice cannot be given for exceptional reasons, the Registrar General may authorise for the ceremony to take place.

A question that we are often asked, is whether the non-EEA applicant must remain in the UK for the entire 28 days’ notice period. The answer is no. The applicant can enter the UK, give notice to marry, or enter into a civil partnership. Following their departure, they may return to the UK under the same marriage visitor visa (and providing the visa is still valid) to attend the ceremony. The applicant will need to be mindful however,to carry further documentation with them when returning to the UK, just in case it is requested by the Immigration official at the border.

Another frequent question, is whether the person can forgo the marriage visitor visa application process and marry or enter into a civil partnership under a standard visitor visa or visitor status.The simple answer is, no!

How to avoid a marriage visitor visa refusal?

The marriage visitor visa requirements can seem pretty straightforward, so many people are surprised when they receive a marriage visitor visa refusal. Three of the main reasons, from our experience,for marriage visitor visa refusals are:

  1. Not providing evidence of notice to marriage or civil partnership, or of an intention to marry or enter into a civil partnership
  2. Not evidencing an intention to leave the UK at the end of the marriage or civil partnership, or applying with the intention to stay in the UK permanently
  3. Lack of sufficient finances or financial support for the duration of the visit

Reason 1: Not providing evidence of notice to marriage or civil partnership, or intention to marry or enter into a civil partnership

To assess whether the applicant has an intention to marry or enter into a civil partnership, or that they even intend to actually marry or form a civil partnership, the decision maker will consider the documentary evidence provided. Decision makers are wary of ‘sham marriages’ or sham civil partnership’ used for the purposes of thwarting immigration laws.

In one case, Michela, a Botswana national who had previously (albeit briefly) studied in the UK, had received a marriage visitor visa refusal. Michela had submitted proof of contact with theRegister and of her provisional booking of the wedding venue. Yet, Michela had taken it for granted that the decision maker would accept this as proof of her relationship to Edison. Having provided no further evidence of her relationship with Edison, Michela’s application was refused.

Michela arranged a consultation, perhaps, to get her frustrations out in the open more than anything else. Understandably, Michela was tempted to marry elsewhere, but we were able to persuade her that a marriage visitor visa was still achievable. Michela was advised to submit a selection of photographs of her and Edison together, screenshots of communications between them, and proof of their time together and travels during her studies in the UK from 2014 to 2015 and beyond, to demonstrate that their relationship was indeed genuine and subsisting.

Michela was still required to evidence how she met the remaining immigration requirements. We emphasised the fact that Michela had observed the terms of her previous student visa and set out the reasons why she was keen to marry in the UK, rather than in her home country. Needless to say, her application proved successful.

Reason 2: Not evidencing an intention to leave the UK at the end of the marriage or civil partnership or applying with the intention to stay in the UK permanently

The marriage visitor visa is a short term visa. The applicant is largely expected to enter the UK, marry or enter into a civil partnership, and leave. They do not need to immediately return to their home country and can instead leave the UK and travel, say, to a honeymoon destination elsewhere. Yet, it is advisable to evidence this by way of on onward travel ticket.

Even then, the decision maker may still expect to see documentary evidence that the applicant has a reason to return to their home country or country of residence.

In the case of John and Celia above, we were able to clearly show that they both had family and employment roles to return to in the US. We had provided their contracts of employment, recent payslips and return tickets.

In another case, we had advised a non-EEA partner, Stu, who wished to enter into a civil partnership with his British partner, Graham, to instead consider applying for a fiancé visa. We are in the process of assisting Stu with that visa application. Yet had Stu applied for a marriage visitor visa, that application would have certainly failed because Stu clearly intends to relocate to the UK and reside with Graham, in Bristol, on a permanent basis. As such, Stu has no intention of leaving the UK after his civil partnership.

Reason 3: Lack of sufficient finances or financial support for the duration of the visit

We are aware of instances, where bank statements and payslips have been provided, and yet, the decision maker was not convinced that the applicant had sufficient funds to cover their reasonable costs in the UK, without a need to claim public funds or enter into UK employment,

With this in mind, applicants are advised to demonstrate that they have enough funds to pay for their wedding or civil partnership expenses, and travel and accommodation costs for the duration of their visit. If a family member or friend is covering some or part of the applicant’s costs, this must be documented.

Conclusion

A marriage visitor visa is intended to be a short term visa for a specific purpose, and it may not always be a suitable option for individuals seeking to marry or enter into a civil partnership in the UK. Once identified as the best option, applicant should demonstrate how they meet each of the immigration requirements to give themselves the best chance of securing a marriage visitor visa. By following the above tips, we hope that you will avoid receiving a marriage visitor visa refusal.

—————————————————————————————————————-

Written by Carla Thomas – Managing Director at Thomas Chase immigration.

Thomas Chase Immigration offer immigration assistance to individuals and families.

Call to action

Need straight forward immigration advice or assistance?

Contact us at [email protected] to arrange a consultation. Or learn more about from our blogs

Liked this blog?

You might also like:

Fiancée visa or Spouse visa? That is the Question

Fiancee visa
Of all the visa types, assisting clients with fiancée visa or spouse visa applications are some of my favorites. Perhaps I’m an old fashioned romantic but I simply enjoy helping couples secure visas to reunite and carry on their lives together.

And so it was with Raj, a dual British national living and working in the United Kingdom (UK), and Louisa, an American citizen from California.

Raj and Louisa met during their university studies in the UK over 3 years. At the end of their undergraduate studies and Louisa’s Tier 4 student visa, Louisa returned to the United States (US) and took up a lucrative position in New York.

Raj remained in the UK and went on to study for his Masters’ degree before starting and running his own business.

The one constant was Louisa and Raj’s relationship to each other, something that they maintained via Skype, Facetime, email and regular trips abroad whenever their schedules (and finances) allowed it. As Raj’s business grew, he had less freedom to visit Louisa as before, though the funds to do so. For Louisa, taking more time off to visit the UK and spend time Raj was proving increasingly difficult as her employers were not always understanding of her inability to change her travel at short notice.

And so, Raj and Louisa approached me for advice. Raj and Louisa wanted to take their relationship to the next stage and live together. They did their research, readily admitting to me that much of the information they had read elsewhere was either complicated or contradictory.

Based on their research, they both agreed to try and secure a fiancée visa for Louisa to come to the UK to marry Raj. Yep! They were going to tie the knot!!! I warned you I was a bit of a romantic!

Once in the UK, Louisa planned to apply for a spouse visa to remain in the UK with Raj.

And that’s when they contacted me to assist them with applying for a fiancée visa.

However, rather than launch into preparing the fiancée visa, I wanted to make sure Raj and Louisa understood the immigration requirements and were aware of their options.

Fiancée visa

Fiancée visas allow overseas nationals, from outside of the European Economic Area (EEA) to enter the UK and marry their British or ‘settled’ partner.

The marriage must take place within 6 months of entry.

This visa type was attractive to Louisa because she could stay in the UK and apply for a UK spouse visa.

I also explained to Raj and Louisa that fiancée visas were very different from marriage visas, the latter being a short term visa to enter the UK to marry only. At the end of the 6 months’ visa, the marriage visa holder must leave the UK.

Clearly, Louisa’s wish was to remain in the UK so a marriage visa was immediately discounted.

Fiancée visa requirements

Though not an exhaustive list, to qualify for a fiancée visa, Louisa would have to demonstrate that:

  • Raj is over 18 years of age
  • That she and Raj had met each other and are in a genuine relationship together
  • That they both intend to live together on a permanent basis once married
  • That they are both free to enter into a relationship with each other
  • They intend to marry in the UK within 6 months
  • They have sufficient funds to support themselves
  • That Raj, as the sponsor, earns a minimum salary of £18,600 per annum or equivalent in savings
  • They have suitable accommodation in the UK

Of importance was helping Raj and Louisa understand  UK Visas and Immigration’s (UKVI’s) application fees and when they would be incurred.

Raj was somewhat shocked to hear of the level of fees involved. For instance, a fiancée visa would cost Louisa and Raj around $2,050 USD at the point of submission on the online application. And they would have to incur similar fees, within 6 months, for a spouse visa as well as incur the Immigration Health Surcharge.

In fact, although they both had well paid jobs, their various overseas trips to see each other and wedding plans had depleted both of their savings.

Spouse visa

We discussed their options further and Louisa revealed that her preference was to marry in California. She had a large family and it would prove logically easier and cost effective to have the wedding in the US.

Raj appeared easy going about the location of the wedding. His family was much smaller and he just wanted to move matters forward.

Another area of concern for Louisa was employment. Louisa considered a 6 months’ career gap to be a long one and was not aware that she could not work while holding a fiancée visa.

Why not get married in California?

Raj and Louisa hadn’t really considered this as an option. Quite rightly they were focused on securing Louisa’s immediate long term stay in the UK, but I wanted to highlight that they had wider options.

Spouse visa requirements

Though not an exhaustive list, to qualify for a spouse visa, Louisa would have to demonstrate that:

  • Raj is over 18 years of age
  • That she and Raj had entered into a genuine marriage
  • That they both intend to live together on a permanent basis once married
  • That they are both free to enter into a relationship with each other
  • They intend to marry in the UK within 6 months
  • They have sufficient funds to support themselves
  • That Raj, as the sponsor, earns a minimum salary of £18,600 per annum or equivalent in savings
  • They have suitable accommodation in the UK

Applying for a spouse visa from New York or California would negate the need for Louisa and Raj to incur fiancée visa fees and for Louisa’s family members to travel to London.

Also, Louisa would be granted entry to the UK for 30 months, and could immediately take up employment. The fact that their marriage would be a recent one, and could be subjected to further scrutiny by UKVI, was something that could be overcome with proper preparation of the application.

Conclusion

Six months later, Louisa secured a spouse visa UK and is currently in the UK.

And I am pleased with the part that I played in helping Louisa to secure her spouse visa from New York, drafting the application form on Louisa’s behalf, advising on the documents to be provided and inspecting them, preparing the application bundle of documents and booking the biometric appointment for her. Like I said at the start, I enjoy seeing couples reunited.

Here’s wishing Louisa and Raj all the best!

And by the way, the main picture is not a photo of Raj and Louisa, but I have seen the wedding photos and they are gorgeous!

 

Over to you. Have you applied for a spouse visa or fiancée visa and how did you find the experience?

 

If not, do you need straightforward immigration advice or guidance? Contact us at [email protected] for a quick reply.

 

Written by Carla Thomas – Managing Director at Thomas Chase immigration. Thomas Chase Immigration offer immigration help to individuals and families secure visas to travel to and remain in the UK.

 

Call to action

If you would like straightforward immigration guidance or assistance, or simply have a question, contact us at Thomas Chase Immigration.  Or learn more about from our blogs