For many of us, travel and time spent abroad is an adventure – an opportunity to experience a new culture, to taste exotic foods, to admire architecture and to pick up snippets of a new language. For some, a short break away can become something longer term if a holiday romance turns into something more serious. With travelling back and forth being expensive and being constrained by annual leave limits from work, long distance couples may consider a relocation to be closer together.

If you are not a UK citizen and wish to relocate to live in the UK with your partner, it will usually be necessary to apply for a visa to ensure you have the appropriate rights both to live and work in the United Kingdom.

For many people, if they are in a relationship with a British citizen, with someone who is settled in the UK or who has another type of permission to live or work here, obtaining a visa based on their relationship is a common route to facilitate a relocation to the UK.

What is the impact of separation/divorce where an individual has a UK visa based on their relationship?

If you are in the UK on a visa based on your relationship, it is important to be aware that your visa may be impacted if your relationship breaks down.

There is an obligation to tell UK Visas and Immigration ('UKVI') when you divorce or separate from your partner if your visa is based on your relationship. It is important to note that the trigger point for reporting this to UKVI is not necessarily at the point the divorce decree is granted or other formal separation documentation is agreed, and instead can be at a much earlier stage depending on the circumstances. If you need advice on when the obligation to report your separation or divorce if triggered, please get in touch.

Failing to report the breakdown of your relationship (where required), may result in you being in breach of your visa conditions and may, in extreme cases impact your ability to remain in the UK in the long term.

What happens next?

Once the relationship breakdown has been reported to UKVI, a curtailment notice will be issued which will usually provide the individual with 60 days from the date of the notice (or to the end of their visa, if sooner) either to (i) switch into another visa category; or (ii) to leave the UK.

Accordingly, if the intention is to remain in the UK, it is important to consider other visa options which may be open to you as early as possible to ensure there is sufficient time to make a valid application within the relevant time frames.

What other visa options might be open to me?

There may be numerous different visa options open to you to remain in the UK depending on the circumstances. Some common routes to remain in the UK include:

• a work visa (such as a Skilled Worker Visa);

• a visa as the parent of a child who is British, settled in the UK or has lived in the UK for a qualifying period;

based on your private life in the UK, for example you’ve lived in the UK for a long time; or

A student visa.

Please note that the UK has a broad immigration system, and you may qualify for another type of visa depending on your circumstances. Depending on your period of residence, you may also qualify for 'Indefinite Leave to Remain' ('ILR'). Details on who might qualify for ILR can be found here.

If you need advice on what visa options may be open to you, or whether you are eligible for ILR, please get in touch.

What happens to any children?

If your children are British Citizens, they do not need a visa to live in the UK. If your children are not British, you may need to consider any implications for them if you were to obtain an alternative visa. Most visa categories do permit children under the age of 18 who have not established an independent life to enter or remain the UK with the main applicant, but it is recommended that you take advice on the visa options open to your children, particularly if both parents will not continue living in the UK going forward.

Where both parents have Parental Responsibilities and Parental Rights (PRRs), one parent cannot remove the child(ren) from the UK without the consent of the other, whether this is for a short holiday or a longer, more permanent move. Consent must be sought and given, otherwise court proceedings may be necessary.

The paramount consideration when making decisions about a child (including with which parent they should live and where they should live) is the child's best interests.

In summary

The law surrounding immigration and the impact it can have on family law is complex. If you are considering a move to the UK or require advice on the types of visas for which you may be eligible, please contact the Brodies' family law team and/or immigration team.


Kate Bradbury


Erin McLafferty