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McGill & Co is a Scottish immigration law firm specialising in UK immigration, nationality and refugee law.

What happens if your marriage breaks down while you are in the UK with a spouse visa?

04 December 2019 James Ritchie Personal Immigration


If you are in the UK as a dependant on a spouse or partner visa and your marriage or relationship breaks down, your immigration status will be affected. Dealing with a relationship breakup can be stressful enough, but add in an immigration dimension and it can quickly become overwhelming. We’ve put together this blog to try and answer some of the most common questions that we get asked about this.



Do I need to tell the Home Office?

Yes. The onus is on you to inform the Home Office about the change in your circumstances. The Home Office wants you to write to a specific department, known as the Marriage Curtailment Team, at the earliest opportunity, explaining what has happened. We strongly advise that you take legal advice before doing this however, because once you have notified the Home Office, you will very likely be informed you that you must either quickly make a new visa application, or else leave the UK.

Will my visa be cancelled?

Generally, your visa will be curtailed to 60 days, unless you have less than 60 days left on your visa in which case the Home Office will normally let your visa run its course.  Upon notification of the breakdown of a relationship, the Home Office has directions to check their casework database for any indication of domestic abuse amongst other concerns such as the existence of any children. If there is a reliable indication of domestic abuse having the occurred, the Home Office may investigate further.

If however there are allegations that your UK sponsor has been a victim of domestic abuse, or you have a history of immigration abuse, the Home Office has the power to cancel your visa with immediate effect.


Can I remain in the UK myself?

You do not have an automatic right to remain in the UK if your relationship breaks down while you are on a spouse visa. You will need to check if you are eligible for a visa on any other basis and if so, make a new visa application. Subject to eligibility criteria, you may apply:

  • For “indefinite leave to remain” (also known as permanent residence or settlement) if you have been in the UK legally for ten continuous years; or
  • “Limited leave to remain” as a parent if you have a child who is either British, settled, or has lived in the UK for seven years.

Other immigration routes may be available if you are willing to leave the UK and make a visa application from abroad. The Tier 2 (General) route for example is open to those employed by an organisation licensed to sponsor skilled workers. It may also be possible to apply for a Tier 4 (Study) visa, which is available to those with an unconditional offer of study by an institution licensed to sponsor migrants. There could also be more obscure visa categories open to you which we will not cover within this blog.

What if I am a victim of domestic abuse?

If you have suffered domestic abuse from your British partner, you may be eligible to apply for “indefinite leave to remain”. This is open to those currently in the UK whose most recent visa was granted to them on the basis of their relationship with a British partner and where that relationship has broken down permanently as a result of domestic abuse. This route is also open those with a visa as the spouse or partner of a settled person or person with refugee status. Any applications of this type must be appropriately evidenced with documents such as:

  • A police report about attending a domestic incident that confirmed that domestic abuse occurred;
  • A court report showing that an individual was convicted of a domestic abuse;
  • A letter from a charity supporting victims of domestic abuse.

This is not an exhaustive list and the appropriate evidence for each application will be case-specific. These applications can be costly and stressful for victims. Our firm has a lot of experience in this area and we are able to work with you throughout the process to help minimise your stress and anxiety, and to help you present the best possible case.

What if my partner was an EEA national?

The rules are different for those in a marriage with an EEA national. If the marriage breaks down, you may be able to apply for what is known as a Retained Right of Residence. To be eligible, you must prove:

  • Your ex-spouse was exercising Treaty rights a qualified person at the time of divorce;
  • their marriage had lasted 3 years prior to the divorce; and
  • both parties were in the UK at the date of divorce.

If successful, an applicant will be granted permission to reside in the UK for five years.

If you would like more information on the immigration rules related to this topic and legal advice tailored to your situation, we offer consultations and a full application service to provide advice and assistance on the best course of action to take to secure your position the UK. Please fill out our online enquiry form to get in touch.


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