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Getting Married in UK on a Tourist Visa
Since the past few decades, United Kingdom has been facing issues of illegal immigration. One of the ways that the country has responded is by regularly increasing visa restrictions. Prospective immigrants now facing higher hurdles to permanent residence in the UK have begun looking for other ways they can gain access to the country - for instance by arriving on a tourist visa and then marrying someone in the UK and hoping to stay on. If you are thinking on these lines as a way of becoming a permanent resident of UK, it is best you know what the law has to say.
What does the tourist visa issued by UK entail?
A visitor visa is the equivalent of a tourist visa issued by UK Border Agency. Even a visitor visa may be of different types. For instance those foreign nationals whose stated purpose of visit to the UK is tourism or recreation are known as general visitors. The 'general visitor' category is for nationals of countries outside the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland1. Children, aged under eighteen, coming to the UK with the same purpose are known as child visitors. On the other hand, if you intend to come to UK for the purpose of visiting friends or family, you can apply to come here as a family visitor or as a child visitor if you are under 18. The maximum period of validity for a visitor visa is six months or twelve months if you are accompanying an academic visitor. The six months validity can renewed only under very few and pressing circumstances, that too on the discretion of UK immigration officials. You must be in the UK to apply for an extension of your visitor visa, and you must apply at least 4 weeks before your permission to stay in the UK ends.
Can you get married?
Apart from strict time limits, a visitor visa also entails very definite sphere of activities. The website of UK Border Agency is very clear on what you can and cannot do on your visit to the UK as a general visitor or on a tourist visa. It categorically states that a person arriving in UK as a general visitor cannot marry or register a civil partnership, or give notice of marriage or civil partnership. Among other activities that are unlawful for a general visitor to engage in, are take paid or unpaid employment, produce goods or provide services, do a course of study; receive private medical treatment. Carry out the activities of a business visitor, a sports visitor or an entertainer visitor.
How to get married
While you cannot get married in UK on a tourist or as they term it visitor visa, the country does offer other options to couples who wish to come here to get married. Foreign nationals from countries outside European Economic Area and Switzerland who wish to come to UK to get married would have to apply for a visa under the 'visitor for marriage or civil partnership' category. Even this has its own qualifying rules as well as ambit of dos and don’ts for instance you can apply for visa as a visitor for marriage or civil partner only if you are eighteen years of age or more, for not more than 6 months, if you intend to get married or register a civil partnership during your visit, you have enough money to support and accommodate yourself without working or help from public funds, or you and any dependants will be supported and accommodated by relatives or friends, you can meet the cost of the return or onward journey and you are not in transit to a country outside the 'Common Travel Area' which covers Ireland, the UK, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands. Also you should be able to produce evidence, if asked by immigration officials, of the arrangements for your wedding or civil partnership ceremony in the UK. Like in general visitor category visa, this too does not allow you to engage in professional, business, sport activities and studies.
If you and your future partner are both in the UK but at least one of you is subject to immigration control, you will need to give notice to marry or register your civil partnership with a registrar at a 'designated office’. You must both go together at the same time. Also you will have to give the register office at least 16 days’ notice of your marriage or civil partnership. Again you can only use a register office if you have lived in the registration district for at least the past seven days. Finally make sure that you have the necessary documents ready like proof of your identity, nationality and address. If you’ve been married or in a civil partnership before, you would also need to take a decree absolute or final order of your divorce or the death certificate of your former partner if you are widowed. A foreign divorce will usually be recognized in England and Wales if it was valid in the country where it took place.
To get married and stay on
If you are planning to come to the UK to get married with someone who is already settled or settling here, and you want to stay in the UK afterwards, you will need to obtain a visa as a fiancé (e) or proposed civil partner. Both you and your partner must be aged 21 or over, and you will need to show evidence that you plan to marry or register your civil partnership within 6 months of your arrival. Once you are married, you can apply to extend or your leave in the UK on the basis of the legal spouse with a settled person in the UK. Once the applicant has successfully applied for leave to remain in this category he/she would be granted 30 months’ leave after which he/she would need to apply for a another 30 months’ leave in order to complete five years in the UK before being eligible for settlement. This five year period is known as the ‘probationary period’ and if the applicant is still married or in a relationship with the sponsor spouse and they intend to live permanently in the UK at the end of this five years, the applicant may request for settlement, also known as indefinite leave to remain or ILR.
In UK a tourist visa or visitor visa cannot be used to get married. However there are other types of visas which can allow you to get married or enter into a civil partnership in the country, though if you are planning to stay on after your marriage, you will have to go through a separate process of immigration.