Marriage or civil partnerships in the UK does not automatically grant citizenship to the spouse that is not a UK resident. Therefore, when a person marries a UK citizen and ultimately wishes to remain and live in the UK, they must apply for legal recognition of their status to remain in the UK. Previously, EU citizens married to UK nationals would not have generally had their status officially recognised due to the rights that were afforded to all EU citizens in relation to freedom of movement.
However, post-Brexit those couples must ensure that the non-UK spouse applies to become a UK citizen if they wish to remain in the UK. Non-UK spouses can currently apply for permanent residence (though this is due to end in December 2020), indefinite leave to remain under the UK Settlement Scheme or indefinite leave to remain on a spouse visa. This documentation can then be used to apply for UK citizenship by marriage.
EU Settlement Scheme for spouses who are EU residents
Although there is currently still the option of using the automatically acquired permanent residence option for EU citizens that have resided in the UK for at least five years, this is being removed once the Brexit transition period has ended. It will be replaced by indefinite leave to remain under the EU Settlement Scheme (settled status).
When is settled status granted?
Settled status will generally be granted to EU nationals that have lived in the UK for a continuous five-year period that began before 31 December 2020 (the end of the transition period). Once granted, this will allow the person to work and study in the UK as well as accessing benefits and travelling into and out of the UK.
Applying for indefinite leave to remain if spouse is a non-EU resident
A foreign national that is not an EEA or Swiss national but is married to a UK national can apply for indefinite leave to remain on a spouse visa if they wish to remain in the UK on a permanent basis. This will allow the person to remain and live in the UK and to work here on an indefinite basis without any immigration restrictions.
It can also be used as one of the requirements for a UK citizenship application. The applicant must have lived in the UK for five years before applying, but unlike the other immigration routes, absences from the UK are not specifically restricted, though excessive or lengthy ones may jeopardise an application.
Obtaining UK citizenship through marriage
A spouse that has married a UK citizen (or is in a civil partnership) can apply for UK citizenship if they are at least 18 years old and have lived in the UK for at least three years before making the application.
During the three years, the applicant must not have spent more than 270 days outside of the UK and in the last 12 months no more than 90 days. They also cannot have breached any immigration laws, such as residing here illegally. They must also have indefinite leave to remain in the UK as discussed above. The applicant has to also prove their knowledge of English with a suitably recognised qualification or documentation, have passed the "Life in the UK" test and be of good character and sound mind.
Contact our Specialist Immigration Lawyers in London
Our specialist immigration lawyers can advise you on the best route to pursue in these circumstances to make sure that the rights of you and your family are properly protected. Please get in touch via our online contact form or call us on 020 3972 9011 to see how we can help you.