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How divorce can impact your immigration status

Written by
Kerry Smith
Date of Publication:
25 June 2019

Even when a divorce is amicable, unravelling a marriage can be a complicated process. When one of the parties has immigrated to the UK, there can be the added challenge of resolving their immigration status. Below, K J Smith Solicitors discusses how Immigration and Divorce is becoming more uncertain but what other solicitors can advise to those experiencing this blurry situation.

The changing face of Family Law

In the case of actually getting a divorce in the event of a No-Deal Brexit, it has been determined that couples who were born in one country but live in another may have to endure their divorce proceedings in another country.

This consequence will only cause more emotional stress for couples who are not only getting a divorce but also have to consider their position as a UK citizen.

There may be a small light at the end of the tunnel for couples who have already started their divorce proceedings as there is an opportunity for them to continue their divorce under existing rules.

Divorce will automatically invalidate relationship-based visas

For those who's right to reside in the UK depends on the relationship with their soon-to-be-ex-partner, then they will automatically lose the right to remain in the UK when their relationship comes to an end.

This means that they will need to make alternative arrangements if they wish to stay in the UK. The complexity of the UK's visa system is such that getting specialist legal advice is usually highly recommended and ideally it should be sought as early as possible.

The Home Office will need to know of their change in status

The immigration process has long involved extensive box-ticking and, in the current climate, it is arguably more important than ever to make sure clients follow due process to the letter in order to maximize their chances of getting the necessary visa approval with the least delay and minimum expense.

This means that even though the divorce process itself may leave them with a lot on their mind (especially if there are children involved), it is crucial to make the time to inform the Home Office of the situation, to avoid them developing any suspicion that they intend to (try to) stay in the UK illegally.

There are five main options for staying in the UK

Most options for remaining in the UK are subject to English-language and financial requirements, some may have other requirements.

British Citizenship

Gaining British Citizenship can be an expensive and tedious process and may seem like more than most will want to take on during or just after a divorce, but, by its very definition, it puts immigrants on a legal par with those who were born here and confers all relevant rights such as the right to vote.

Indefinite Leave to Remain

If your client has lived in the UK with their partner for at least five years then they are very likely to qualify for Indefinite Leave to Remain. This does not confer the same benefits as citizenship, but, as its name says, it does allow them to stay in the UK for as long as they wish (possibly subject to some restrictions) and may be used as the first step to full citizenship.

Family Visas

This option is available to those who have one or more children with a British citizen and who have sole or partial responsibility for their welfare. These visas are typically issued for 30 months at a time; however they can be renewed until claimants meet the five years of residency necessary to qualify for Indefinite Leave to Remain.

Work visas

Immigrants who have arrived in the UK on relationship-based visas can subsequently apply for work visas on the same basis as immigrants from outside the country. They may, however, be at some advantage since they will be inside the UK and hence able to network domestically.

Study visas

Similar comments apply to study visas.