LEGAL EAGLE: What next after a holiday romance?

A holiday romance.
A holiday romance.

You go on holiday overseas and meet someone special. After returning home, you keep in touch.

As you get to know each other better, you both realise that you’ve met your perfect partner and want to be together.

You’ve got family and work commitments, so decide that your partner should come here to live.

But how do you go about it?

Anyone wanting to come to settle in the UK needs to apply for a visa before they travel here from their home country.

The Immigration Rules set out the requirements that have to be met for a visa to be granted and what evidence must be provided.

Partners need to meet requirements of:

Suitability: Your partner must have no criminal convictions and a good immigration history.

Relationship: You and your partner need to be married or in a civil partnership, engaged or have cohabited for two years and demonstrate that your relationship is genuine and subsisting.

English language: Your partner must have an approved English language qualification.

Finance: You need to demonstrate that you have a minimum gross income of £18,600 per year from employment, self-employment, cash savings or pension.

There are exemptions for those on non-means tested benefits. Equity in a property doesn’t count.

This minimum gross income is particularly difficult to meet for those in lower paid jobs or who work part-time, possibly because they have child care commitments.

Working full-time (40 hours per week) earning the national minimum wage of £6.70 per hour would give a gross income of just £13,936 in a year.

There is no regional variation either so here in the North East, where the average income in 2013 was £24,084 compared to London’s £35,238, it is harder for people to meet the financial requirements, yet no account is taken of the lower living costs in our region.

The cost of applying to being a partner to the UK is not inconsiderable.

Visa fees are expensive and forfeited if an application is refused.

Applicants coming to the UK for more than six months also need to pay to be able to use the NHS.

The cost is £200 per year and has to be paid up front when a visa is applied for.

However it is the emotional cost if things going wrong which is the hardest to bear. This is especially so where there are children involved. The Children’s Commissioner reported this month that up to 15,000 British children are growing up in ‘Skype’ families, reportedly suffering significant stress and anxiety from being separated from a parent who is stranded overseas because they cannot meet the Immigration Rules.

With so much at stake, it is important that anyone embarking on this process does so fully aware of the requirements that have to be met so they can make realistic plans for the future with their partner.

l Bryony Rest is a Partner and Head of Immigration at David Gray Solicitors LLP. If you would like a no obligation chat with Bryony, please call on 0191 243 8151.