If you’re in the UK on a partner visa and your relationship breaks down, your Spouse Visa UK will be cut short, meaning you may be given only a brief time to leave the country. Living as a spouse in the UK, you’ve most likely built strong relationships, got a job, and settled down… all this shouldn’t just end because it didn’t work out with your partner.
Fortunately, there are a number of visa routes you can switch to from your Spouse Visa after divorce, which will allow you to stay and not disrupt your life any more:
- Work Visa
The UK Home Office operates a tiered system with work visas, the most common being the Tier 2 Work Visa for skilled workers. If you are already employed in the UK, there’s a chance your employer could be willing to sponsor your application to stay on a work visa.
This visa route is points-based, so you’d have to prove you meet the 70-point requirement. These come from:
- Having an offer from a UK business that is able to provide you with the correct Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS).
- Meeting the English Language Requirement – through completing the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) test or proving that you’ve completed a degree in English.
- Proving you have enough savings to support yourself in the country before you get paid.
Your Tier 2 sponsor also has to prove that they’ll be paying you the expected income, which is currently £30,000.
This visa route is facing some difficulty at the minute, as the monthly cap has been reached every month this year. Although the government is seriously considering altering this, there is also the Shortage Occupation List, a list full of jobs that can sometimes bypass the visa cap because they are in such high demand.
- Family Visa
If you and your partner had children together, there’s also the option of remaining as their guardian. As long as you can prove you have legal access rights (or better, sole responsibility), the government could allow you to stay in the country for a further 30 months. There’s also the option to extend this visa once it’s expired, so long as you can prove you’re still their legal guardian.
You’ll also have to prove your English Language ability and that you can support yourself without public funds.
Having children together can make a divorce even more difficult than it already is – the threat of leaving the country shouldn’t put further stress on your family.
- Study Visa
This visa route would be perfect for a foreign national who has considered going back to school or furthering their education in the UK. The Tier 4 Student Visa also comes under the points-based system, with the applicant needing to meet a 40-point requirement.
Similar to the work visa, you’ll need to prove that you meet the English Language requirement, as well as be able to support yourself and pay for your course fees. You’ll also need an unconditional offer from a UK institute and a Certificate of Acceptance for Study (CAS) before you submit your application.
Staying in the country on these three visa types counts towards the five-year requirement for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR), which will allow you to stay indefinitely with no need to renew your leave.
- Tier 1 Entrepreneur or Investor
This is a high-value visa route, meaning that financial investment is the most significant element of your application. For those who can afford it, however, this route is a perfect way of staying in the UK.
The Tier 1 Entrepreneur route will allow you to start your own business in the UK while the Tier 1 Investor route requires at least £2 million of investment in the UK economy. Tier 1 Investors also enjoy a simplified application process for Indefinite Leave to Remain. For those who invest £5 million, you can settle after three years instead of five. For those who invest £10 million, settlement applications can be made after two years.
These two applications could be a great way of staying the UK but you may need to leave the country before you apply. If this isn’t possible for you, it might be better to aim for one of the previous routes.
- ILR after domestic abuse
The Home Office has an exception to the five-year residency expectation for ILR in the case of sufferers of domestic abuse. If your relationship has ended because you have had to leave an abusive partner, the UK government will allow you to apply for ILR regardless of how long you have been in the country.
You will be able to apply for temporary leave to remain while you apply and you will need to provide proof that you have suffered abuse for your application to be considered.
Your immigration status should not be determined at the hands of your abuser, and if you’re in this situation, there are possibilities for support.
If you and your family are already going through a divorce, make sure your immigration status isn’t going to add any more stress with these routes to staying in the country.
By Damon Culbert, Immigration Advice Service