So, does a spouse visa lapse if the marriage breaks down?
Strictly speaking, no, it doesn’t. Partner visa is granted for a limited period of time. It remains valid until it runs out or is revoked (for which see below).
However, you won’t be able to extend the visa or apply for indefinite leave to remain on the basis of a relationship which had broken down. Unless the relationship broke down due to domestic violence. I am not sure if I should mention that this is one-way traffic: it only works if the British partner is violent against the foreign partner but not the other way round.
Domestic violence aside, it is best to be pro-active if you want to stay.
What can I do to stay?
If you employed in a professional capacity your employer may potentially wish to sponsor you. It is worth checking – sponsored employment can be a reliable route to settlement. You won’t be able to change your visa in-country, but you can leave the UK and come back with an entry clearance in the Tier 2 General category.
You may also consider Tier 1 exceptional talent, innovator or start-up route, or the investor visa if you have spare cash.
Student visa does not lead to indefinite leave to remain. However, if the total length of your lawful stay reaches 10 years you may qualify for settlement under the long-residence rule.
Do I have to inform the Home Office?
This is a controversial question. The Home Office would encourage you to send them a letter. It would be wise to seek legal advice before you do so. There is a number of factors to be taken into consideration: are you going through a rocky stretch or has the relationship broken down irrevocably? Do you have children? What are you going to do next? Are you planning to divorce in the UK? Are you looking to come back in another immigration category? Do you need to travel in the near future?
In some circumstances, you may prefer to get in touch with the Home Office through your lawyers.
Access to a child in the UK
If you have parental responsibilities towards a child in the UK you should be able to extend your stay on this basis. Again, it is worth asking for legal advice before making an application for variation of status.
Can partner visa be revoked?
Yes, it can but it does not happen routinely. The burden of proof is on the Home Office to demonstrate that a change in circumstances justifies revocation.
In a more common scenario, you may be denied entry to the UK if at the border control the immigration officer realises that you are trying to enter the country on the basis of a relationship which has by now broken down. The immigration officer may curtail the visa and grant you temporary admission to collect your stuff. If the officer is particularly unhappy with you, you may not even get temporary admission.
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 unless the couple is divorced and the sponsor has sole responsibility for the child. Sole responsibility is not the same as sole custody.
If any of the above may be of relevance to you, it is certainly wise to seek legal advice. 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!