Relationship Breakdown – how does this affect your UK visa?

read time: 6 mins

The breakdown of a marriage or relationship is inevitably a distressing time for all involved, but this can be further compounded in circumstances where one of the parties’ immigration status is linked to the relationship. 

The UK permits certain family members of British nationals and those with “indefinite leave to remain”/permanent residency in the UK ( also known as “settled” status) to live with that family member by obtaining a UK visa linked to their relationship. 

Generally speaking, this right applies to spouses, civil partners and unmarried partners.

The UK immigration system therefore allows families to live together in the UK, based on the residency rights of just one member of that family (the British or “settled” individual) who will act as the ‘sponsor’ for the visa.

Relationship breakdown – the impact on your visa 

If your visa is linked to your relationship with a British or settled national where there is a breakdown in that relationship, there is an obligation on you to notify the Home Office of that fact because these visas are conditional on there being a genuine and subsisting relationship. 

Your partner/spouse can also make the notification.

This notification will prompt the Home Office to issue a curtailment notice, which cuts short the visa and gives a specified period of time (usually 60 days, or the remaining duration of the visa whichever is shorter) for you to either make a different type of visa application, or to leave the UK. The reason that the Home Office does not immediately revoke the visa is to allow the holder to review their options and make a decision as to the best course of action. 

This is an extremely daunting prospect for visa holders who have made a life in the UK, particularly where there are children involved. 

Given the prescriptive timescales for making a different visa application or being forced to leave the UK, if this issue affects you or a family member, we recommend seeking legal advice from an immigration expert at the earliest opportunity to explore available options before reporting to the Home Office. 

What are my options?

Because your visa is based on a relationship that has broken down, you cannot extend or renew your visa on the basis of that relationship (i.e. you cannot stay on a partner or spouse visa). Your visa options to stay in the UK will depend on your personal circumstances and each visa route will require you to meet specific requirements.

Some of the possible immigration routes include:

  • work-related visas, such as the Skilled Worker visa for which you would need to be sponsored by a registered UK employer. Only certain “skilled” roles are eligible for sponsorship – the role needs to be skilled to at least A-Level or equivalent, and the minimum salary requirements for the role must be met.
  • a Student visa if you are planning on studying in the UK and have been offered a place at a higher education institute.
  • If you are an entrepreneur, there are other business visas which may apply to your situation.
  • If you have suffered domestic abuse from your British spouse or partner, you may be eligible to apply for “indefinite leave to remain”.
  • A visa based on your private life if you are:
    • between 18 and 24 and you’ve lived continuously in the UK for more than half your life;
    • 18 or over and have spent less than 20 years in the UK and would have very significant problems living in the country you would have to return to; or
    • 25 or over and you’ve been in the UK continuously for 20 years.

However, in the majority of circumstances, individuals may not qualify for these types of visa, and it may prove difficult to secure sponsorship with a UK based employer given the tight timeframes if you do not already work for an employer that holds a Sponsor Licence enabling them to sponsor you on a Skilled Worker visa. 

An alternative option, if you have a child in the UK, is that you may be eligible to apply for a visa on the basis that you are a parent of a British or settled child who is living in the UK. We have assisted a number of clients with this route, and are well versed in the common obstacles that applicants are faced with when going through a relationship breakdown as well as securing their right to remain in the UK, including:

  • Financial issues – where a relationship has broken down, it may be more difficult to provide evidence to the Home Office that you are able to support yourself (and your children) in the UK without taking into account your ex-partner’s income/assets. However, this is not an absolute bar to making an application, and we can make detailed representations to the Home Office regarding your circumstances to give your application the best chances of succeeding;
  • Accommodation – you may not have secured permanent accommodation yet to meet the accommodation or “living” requirements for this visa, but again that is something that can be explained to the Home Office;
  • Contact with your child – it is a requirement for this visa that you have contact with your child/children, and to demonstrate that you play a part in their upbringing. Where there may be child contact issues or disputes over the living arrangements of your child following a relationship breakdown, there are documents and evidence you can provide to meet this requirement;
  • Human rights – where not all of the prescriptive criteria for a parent visa are met, you may still be successful in securing a visa to remain in the UK with your child or children (even if they are not living with you) by making human rights representations to explain to the Home Office the hardships you and your children would face if you are not granted a new visa to enable you to continue to live in the UK. 

If you do not have a child in the UK, but want to remain here after a relationship breakdown, there might be other avenues worth exploring, and our Immigration team can carry out a detailed assessment of your circumstances in order to advise you on the next steps. 

Our immigration team are praised for being “quick to understand complicated and urgent immigration situations and able to offer helpful, positive ideas regarding a detailed plan of action."

Our Family team also work closely with our immigration team, giving you a joined-up approach and complete understanding of your situation.  

If you are affected by these issues, please contact us for further advice.

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