Immigration Considerations On Separation & Divorce
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If your marriage or partnership breaks down irretrievably due to domestic violence or abuse, you may apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain.
However, if your marriage or partnership breaks down irretrievably, but no domestic violence or abuse has taken place, whilst you are resident in the UK with Limited Leave to Remain as a partner under Appendix Armed Forces, then you are required to leave the United Kingdom because the sole reason for your UK residence in based on your relationship with the serving member of HM Forces, who is your sponsor. This is because the Immigration Rules require that your relationship be still subsisting and that you intend to continue living together.
Once you have separated from your partner, you are no longer meeting the requirements of the Immigration Rules in terms of the residence requirements and your conditions of Leave to Remain or Enter (visa), and you are required to either return to your home country, or to apply for Leave to Remain from within the UK, in a different immigration category.
However, if you attempt an application for Leave to Remain in another category, you will be expected to meet the requirements or have your matter considered by the Home Office outside the Immigration Rules and/or under the European Convention on Human Rights; or if you have been in the United Kingdom for at least 10 years, you may apply under the Long Residence Rules.
Alternative Applications for Permission to Remain in the UK after the Breakdown of Your Relationship
Alternative Applications Alternative Applications for Permission to Remain in the UK after the Breakdown of Your Relationship
a. 10 Year Continuous Lawful Residence Route (Long Residence)
If you have had lawful residence and lived in the United Kingdom for at least 10 years, then you may apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain. However, you need to have been living in the UK legally for the whole of the 10 years. The Home Office UKVI does not currently recognise time overseas on accompanied assignments as residence in the UK under the 10 Year Route. For full Home Office guidance on the Long Residence route to settlement click here.
b. Permission to Remain in the UK on the Basis of being a Parent of a British Child or a child who has been living in the UK for at least 7 Years.
Your eligibility to apply for a variation of your residence in the UK, will depend on your personal circumstances.
The Immigration Rules
The relationship requirements relating to an application for Leave to Remain as a parent are:
- The child of the applicant must be-
- under the age of 18 years at the date of application, or where the child has turned 18 years of age since the applicant was first granted entry clearance or leave to remain as a parent under this Appendix, must not have formed an independent family unit or be leading an independent life;
- living in the UK; and
- a British Citizen or settled in the UK; or
- has lived in the UK continuously for at least the 7 years immediately preceding the date of application.
- the applicant must have sole parental responsibility for the child or the child normally lives with the applicant and not their other parent (who is a British Citizen or settled in the UK), and the applicant must not be eligible to apply for leave to remain as a partner under this Appendix; or
- the parent or carer with whom the child normally lives must be-
- a British Citizen in the UK or settled in the UK;
- not the partner of the applicant (which here includes a person who has been in a relationship with the applicant for less than two years prior to the date of application); and
- the applicant must not be eligible to apply for leave to remain as a partner under this Appendix.
- The applicant must provide evidence that they have either-
- sole parental responsibility for the child, or that the child normally lives with them; or
- direct access (in person) to the child, as agreed with the parent or carer with whom the child normally lives or as ordered by a court in the UK; and
- The applicant must provide evidence that they are taking, and intend to continue to take, an active role in the child’s upbringing.
- If you have a British child or a child who is not a British Citizen, but has been living in UK for seven years continuously, then you will have a case and can apply for permission to continue living in the United Kingdom. You will be eligible to apply for Limited Leave to Remain as a parent if it can be shown that you have sole responsibility for your child; or you have access rights to the child.
- Your application to remain in the UK on the basis that you are a parent of either a British citizen child, or a child who has resided in the UK for seven continuous years, will either be considered and granted under the five year route to settlement, or under the 10 year route to settlement. The route you are placed on will depend on whether you meet the requirements of the Immigration Rules:-
- Five-year route to settlement: you must meet all of the requirements of the immigration rules.
- You have sole responsibility for the child or access rights to the child. If the child lives with the other parent, then that parent must also be British or have ILR. You must provide evidence of your sole responsibility or that you take an active role in the child’s upbringing
- You must have a valid visa, which was issued for more than six months, unless that leave was granted pending the outcome of family court or divorce proceedings;
- You must be able to adequately maintain and house yourself and your child
- You must meet the English language requirement
- You must meet the suitability requirements (i.e. you have no criminal convictions)
- Ten-year route to settlement: you will need to meet the following requirements:
- You have sole responsibility or access rights to the child. If the child lives with the other parent, then that parent must also be British or have ILR. You must provide evidence of your sole responsibility or that you take an active role in the child’s upbringing.
- You do not meet the English language requirement
- You must not be in the UK as a visitor or with leave granted for a period of six months or less; unless that leave was granted pending the outcome of family court or divorce proceedings; or
- You do not have valid leave to remain – you do not have permission to remain in the UK; or your visa has expired, and you are an overstayer.
For further details on the Immigration Rules relating to remaining in the UK as a parent of a child in the UK, click the link and then open the drop down on ‘Family life as a parent of a child in the UK’.
Decision on Application for Limited Leave to Remain as a Parent
If you meet the requirements for Limited Leave to Remain as a parent, you will be granted Limited Leave to Remain for a period not exceeding 30 months, and subject to a condition of no recourse to public funds.
You will be eligible to apply for settlement after a continuous period of at least 60 months and you will placed on the 5 year route to settlement.
However, if they do not meet all the requirements, for example, you do not meet the English language requirement, or you currently do not have valid leave, you will be granted leave to remain for a period not exceeding 30 months and subject to a condition of no recourse to public funds unless the Home Office considers, that you should not be subject to such a condition, and you will be eligible to apply for settlement after a continuous period of at least 120 months in the UK and placed on the 10 year route to settlement. You will therefore be eligible for settlement after completing 10 years lawful residence.
c. Not Lawfully Resident in the UK – Private Life route
In the alternative to the parent route, if you do not have lawful residence in the UK, but you have lived in the UK for 20 years, or if you are under 25 years of age and have lived in the UK for half of your life, you may be eligible to apply for Leave to Remain on the basis of your private life. Please contact NFF for advice regarding an application of this type. For full details of Private Life in the Immigration Rules , click here and then access the ‘Private Life’ section.
If you do not meet any of the above circumstances, then you are advised that you may find that your only option is to leave the United Kingdom and return to your home country.
However, there are other exceptional circumstances, which may need to be considered. Exceptional circumstances may include:
- What is deemed in the best interest of a child
- Length of time you have spent in the UK, including social, cultural and family ties
- Any compelling circumstances and whether returning to your country of origin would cause undue hardship and whether there are any insurmountable obstacles for your reintegration into your home country
Documentary Evidence Required
You will be required to lodge evidence to support an application for Leave to Remain. Please contact NFF for advice and guidance on the specific documentary evidence required to support your particular application.
Partners of HM Forces personnel whose marriage has broken down and you are the parent of either a British child or your child has lived in the UK for seven years or more. You will be eligible to apply for limited leave. If you are eligible, you will need to apply using the requisite online form. Please click here and follow the guidance as to which form you will be required to complete.
Fee Waivers on Destitution
Destitution means that you do not have adequate accommodation and/or you cannot meet your other essential living needs because you do not have sufficient income. If you claim destitution, you may be eligible for a waiver of the Home Office fee.
What you need to know before submitting your request
You will be eligible for a fee waiver if you cannot afford to pay the Home Office fee because you:
- do not have a place to live and you cannot afford one
- have a place to live but cannot afford your essential living costs like food or heating
- have a very low income and paying the fee would harm your child’s wellbeing
You will need to provide evidence that you are destitute. If you are still residing in Service Family Accommodation and the rent is being covered by the serving partner, or if you are in receipt of local authority support, but have limited income, you may still be eligible for a fee waiver. However, merely because you have limited income, does not automatically mean you will be considered as destitute by the Home Office.
Before you begin your request for a fee waiver, you should read the guidance which includes information about who is eligible for a fee waiver, what destitute means, how to request a fee waiver and the documents you must send in to support your request.
If you make a fee waiver request through the online service and you qualify, you must also apply for your leave to remain application online. You may start your leave to remain application online, but it should only be submitted after you have received a decision on your fee waiver request.
If you make a fee waiver request before your current leave expires, and then you make an application for leave to remain, the date of that application will be deemed the date you submitted the fee waiver request. If you make a fee waiver request and you have no leave or your current leave has expired and then submit an application for leave to remain, the date of application will be the date you submit that application for leave to remain, not the date you submitted the fee waiver request.
You must provide evidence that you qualify for a fee waiver. This will be different depending on your circumstances, but might include documents such as letters local authorities, or bank statements.
You will be asked for details and evidence about yourself, any dependants you plan to include in your application for Leave to Remain and anyone else in your household or who helps you with money, accommodation or meeting your essential living needs.
There is no charge for making a request for a fee waiver.
You can only make a fee waiver request if you are making an application to remain in the UK on the basis of family life or private life for the following routes:
- as a partner or spouse, under the 5 year route, where you do not need to meet the minimum income threshold because your partner is in receipt of one or more specified benefits
- as a parent, under the 5 year route
- as a partner, parent or dependant child based on your family life or private life in the UK, under the 10 year route
- on human rights grounds, including where you were previously refused under the family route but granted “Discretionary Leave” or “leave outside the Rules”
- to extend your leave as someone who was refused asylum or humanitarian protection and given “Discretionary Leave” instead
- to extend your leave as a person who was previously granted leave as a victim of trafficking or slavery.
To apply for a fee waiver of the Home Office fee, you must complete the online fee waiver request form.
What happens next
If you qualify for a fee waiver, you will be told by letter, which is now usually sent by email. This letter will include a personalised code that you enter in your application for leave to remain that shows which fee waiver you have qualified for when applying for your leave to remain application.
If you qualify for a fee waiver, you will also not have to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS).
Application for change of conditions of leave to allow access to public funds because your circumstances have changed
If you are granted Limited Leave to Remain under either the 5 Year or 10 Year Route to Settlement, you will be issued with a condition of ‘no recourse to public funds. Having no recourse to public funds means that you do not have access to a range of benefits that are given to people on a low income.
If so, it means you will not be able to claim most benefits, tax credits or housing assistance that are paid by the state.
However, there are exceptions for some benefits and if you are in any doubt, you should contact the department or agency that issues it. This will often be the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) or HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC).
Public funds include a range of benefits that are given to people on a low income, as well as housing support. These are:
- income-based jobseeker’s allowance
- income support
- child tax credit
- universal credit
- working tax credit
- a social fund payment
- child benefit
- housing benefit
- council tax benefit
- council tax reduction
- domestic rate relief (Northern Ireland)
- state pension credit
- attendance allowance
- severe disablement allowance
- personal independence payment
- carer’s allowance
- disability living allowance
- an allocation of local authority housing
- local authority homelessness assistance
If you can provide evidence that you are destitute or on serious financial difficulties, or where it can be shown that there are other compelling reasons relating to the welfare of your child and you require financial support, then you may apply to have your conditions of Leave to Remain varied.
To apply for a change of conditions of leave to allow access to public funds:
Click the link for the application form. If you already have leave granted on the basis of your family or private life and your financial circumstances have changed.
You can apply for a change to your conditions if:
- your financial circumstances have changed since being given permission to stay in the UK and you are no longer able to provide food or housing for yourself or your family
- your child is at risk because of your very low income
- you had financial problems when you first applied but you did not provide evidence of this and you now want to provide this evidence
You can only change the conditions of leave which will allow you to access public funds to which you may be entitled with this request.
Check your ability before you apply. You are eligible to apply for a change of conditions if:
- you have leave to remain under the 10 year partner, parent or private life route, where the applicant claims that refusal of that application for leave to remain would breach their rights (or the rights of other specified persons) under ECHR Article 8 (the right to respect for private and family life)
- you have leave to remain on the basis of other ECHR right
You can also be eligible to apply if you have leave to remain under the 5 year partner/parent route. If you are accepted, you would be considered to have moved on to the 10 year route to settlement and as such any future applications for leave will be considered under the 10 year route.
However, when you come to reapply, if you feel that you again meet the criteria under the 5 year route you should be aware that any leave you had previously accumulated under the 5 year route will not count towards your new 5 year period.
For example, if you previously had 4 years leave to remain under the 5 year route to settlement but applied for a change of condition code and were moved on to the 10 year route, when you next apply under the 5 year route you will need to complete a new period of 5 years in order to then apply for settlement.
You will qualify for an amendment to your conditions of leave only if:
- you are destitute
- there are particularly compelling reasons relating to the welfare of your child on account of your very low income
- there are exceptional circumstances in your case relating to your financial circumstances
- you are at risk of becoming destitute
A person is destitute if:
- they do not have adequate accommodation or any means of obtaining it (whether or not their other essential living needs are met)
- they have adequate accommodation or the means of obtaining it, but cannot meet their other essential living needs
- they are at risk of destitution if either or both of the above are imminent
If you are eligible to apply you will find guidance on how to complete your application and the evidence you need to provide within the online application. However, if you are in any doubt, please contact NFF for advice and assistance.
What happens next
If you meet the requirements for a change to the conditions of your leave to allow you to apply for public funds you will be told by letter or email. This may include a request that you give biometric information (fingerprints and photograph). You would need to do this at a Service & Support Centre (SSC). Information on how to do this will be provided in the decision. The Home Office will then issue you with a new biometric residence permit.
This application is free of charge.
General advice and support on Separation or divorce
The Naval Families Federation (NFF) has compiled a comprehensive information section on the website. This contains information on:
- General information on separation and divorce
- Domestic abuse and divorce
- Accommodation considerations
- Support for emotions and wellbeing
- Legal help and advice
- Financial advice
Click for a link on separation and divorce here.