Helena Sheizon
Poli Che
Helena Sheizon

What if my marriage breaks down… Does my spouse visa lapse?

marriage breakdownBreakdown of a relationship may be one of the most painful experiences in life. And visa problems would seem small next to it. Yet, visa problems may add a sting.

Does the spouse visa lapse if the marriage breaks down?

Strictly speaking, no, it doesn’t. Spouse visa is granted for a limited period of time – for 30 months, or 33 months in the first application for entry clearance. It remains valid until it runs out or is revoked (for which see below). However, under the terms of your visa you should notify the Home Office if you get separated or divorced.

When a relationship breaks down it doesn’t necessarily happen overnight. You may wonder, and indeed, I am often asked, when is the right time to notify the Home Office. The Home Office does not give any guidance on that and it is my understanding that the breakdown of the relationship should be reported when in is irrevocable or when the divorce proceedings have been initiated. Failure to notify the Home Office about a temporary separation or a separation with a reasonable hope for reconciliation in the foreseeable future may be understandable. However, you will not be able to extend your spouse visa or apply for ILR if separated.

If you write to the Home Office explaining your change of circumstances, you may expect a curtailment letter, so it is important to make sure the Home Office has your address on file. Curtailment letter may or may not be sent, but you would want to make sure you have received it if it was sent. A curtailing letter will give you 60 days to make an application for permission to stay in a new category or leave the country.

If you are concerned that a curtailment letter may have been sent to you but you haven’t received it, you can check your immigration status online using this link

Whether or not a curtailment letter is expected, we recommend that you decide on your plan of action in advance. This post is to give you some guidance on the options available.

Victims of domestic violence

If you fall victim to domestic violence and the family breaks down, you are eligible to apply for indefinite leave to remain.

Domestic violence is not limited to physical abuse. It can be psychological, financial or emotional. Controlling behaviour designed to make a person subordinate or dependent is also a form of abuse. Threats, humiliation and intimidation may amount to coercive and abusive behaviour.

Victims of domestic violence may apply for indefinite leave to remain out of time provided their last grant of leave was a partner or spouse. You will be exempt from the English language and Life in the UK test requirement. You may also be eligible for the fee exemption if paying the fee would make you destitute.

You will need independent evidence of abuse, such as police records, domestic violence protection order, a letter from social services or a support agency confirming that they have made a professional assessment of the case, or other independent evidence.

If you are a victim of domestic violence, it is important to seek legal advice as early as possible.

Parental responsibility for a British child

If you have parental responsibility for a British child you may switch into another immigration category as a parent. If the marriage breaks down you should be able to switch from the partner route to parent route. You will have to make the application before the expiry of your partner visa. You don’t have to wait closer to the time the visa runs out but can make the application as soon as you meet the requirements.

For the parent visa you will need to show that your British child lives with you while the other parent has moved out, or that the child lives with the other parent but you have parental responsibility and the right of access to the child.

Unfortunately, switching into the parent route will delay your application for indefinite leave to remain, as the five year period will start running afresh.

Dependent spouse of a sponsored migrant

Dependents of a sponsored migrant are not allowed to stay if the relationship breaks down. The Home Office will normally curtail the dependents’ visas if notified of the change of circumstances. Not only the partner of a sponsored migrant but also their children will be required to leave.

Dependent partner of a sponsored worker can nevertheless switch into another immigration category if they find sponsored work as discussed below.

Other immigration options

A breakdown in the relationship does not necessarily mean the end of your immigration journey. You may explore other options such as work related immigration options.

If you are employed in a professional capacity your employer may offer you sponsorship. It is worth checking with the employer if they would consider the option. If they are interested in keeping you but don’t have a licence it may be a good moment for them to apply for a sponsor licence.

If you are running your own business, you may potentially opt for self-sponsorship. You will need at least one settled employee in your business and you will have to pay yourself a salary (not dividends) which would meet the salary requirement under the skilled worker route.

Sponsored employment, which includes skilled worker or a scale-up worker categories, can be a reliable route to settlement. You can switch into a sponsored route in-country provided you make the application before your partner visa expires. There are certain advantages of the scale-up route as it gives you more flexibility and allows you to work for yourself as well as for any other business after only six months of sponsored work. At the same time, this route has a higher salary requirement and there are much fewer businesses that can offer sponsorship in this category.

You may also consider the Global Talent route if you are a leading specialist in academia or research, digital technology or a recognised figure in arts and culture.

If you graduated within the last five years from one of the top accredited universities worldwide, it is worth checking if you may qualify for the High Potential Individual route.

Running your own business

There is no immigration option that would cater specifically for people who run a business in the UK. However, if your business is active and trading and you have at least one settled employee working for the business, you may be able to sponsor yourself as a skilled worker and apply for permission to remain in this category.

Your business will need a sponsor licence and will be required to show that your position is genuinely needed for the business – something we can certainly help with.

ILR on the basis of long residence and private life

If you have spent in the UK a continuous period of 10 years in a combination of different immigration categories you may be eligible for indefinite leave to remain.

You may have have reached the 10 years entirely under Appendix FM in a combination of partner and parent routes or your 10 years may include time spent in the UK in a combination of immigration categories, such as work related immigration options or as a student and graduate.

The private life route (under Appendix FM) is different from the long residence route under another part of the Immigration Rules in that different limitations apply to the number of days you are allowed to be absent from the UK during the relevant period and general grounds for refusal that apply under these categories.

Your dependant are also treated differently and may lose out if you chose the long residence rule which does not allow applications for dependents.


If any of the above may be of relevance to you, it is certainly wise to seek legal advice. You can book an appointment with one of our immigration lawyers and we will be happy to discuss your specific circumstances in private and give you the best guidance for the next steps. Don’t forget to get in touch!


Post Author

Picture of Helena Sheizon

Helena Sheizon

Helena is the founder and managing director of Kadmos Consultants. She was called to the bar in 2005 and has been specialising in immigration since 2006. She is registered as Level 3 (OISC top level) immigration advisor with a licence for Judicial Review case management.

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11 Responses

  1. Hi Helena
    I am on a spousal visa and currently residing outside UK. Only visited UK once and divorced when i am already out of UK. Is it possible to return to the UK on another spousal visa.

    1. It is possible to return to the UK on another spouse visa, but the chances of success will depend on your individual circumstances and you will benefit from legal advice and representation in your application.

  2. Hi , I came to UK as a main applicant under tier 2 skilled work visa ( senior care assistant) my wife came as my dependent.we spent more than 2 years in UK now , can my wife apply for tier 2 skilled work visa and I am as her dependent?
    What happened to already spent 2 years?
    Is it calculate for our ILR

  3. I am currently in the UK on an ancestral visa with my wife and child, and have the option to apply for citizenship through ARD. If im granted citizenship do the dependant BRPs for my wife and child remain in place until their validity expires in 2027?

  4. My son is on a spouse visa which has been recently renewed his wife is going for separation. Can he work & will his BRB be cancelled. My son is a law abiding citizen & has been paying taxes as required.

  5. Am applying for spouse visa , my husband has a British card. He has children but was not legally married . Can my visa still be successful?

    1. Hi Lolo, the fact that your husband has children from a previous relationship should not defeat your visa application. But it is always advisable to seek legal advice and, if possible, get an immigration lawyer prepare the application professionally.

  6. My husband and I went through a little patch where we were separated. After reading HO info I informed the home office during this time we made up but then I got I letter his visa has been curtailed. Is it possible to have it reversed I do love my husband I think the current situation has an impact on our constant bickering . We are now on good terms but his visa is cancelled can I have it reverse

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