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UK gives same sex couples new legal status

The UK's Civil Partnership Act 2004 will come into force on 5 December 2005. Civil partnerships are a new legal relationship which can be registered by two people of the same sex and give the couples legal recognition for their relationship. For several years, gay couples have been able to immigrate to the UK based on one partner's long-term status there; however, it is anticipated the changes will make the process easier.

Same-sex couples will now be able to register a civil partnership, and will have equality of treatment in a wide range of legal matters with those opposite-sex couples who enter into a civil marriage.

The rights and responsibilities civil partners will have will include recognition for immigration and nationality purposes.

At the same time as the Act comes into force, the Immigration Rules and other provisions will be amended to introduce a new category of "civil partner". Civil partners will be afforded the same provisions in the Rules that currently exist for spouses of persons present in the United Kingdom here in permanent and temporary categories.

This will mean that before a person subject to immigration control will be able to give notice of a civil partnership they will need to demonstrate to the registrars that they hold either:

  • Entry clearance granted to register a civil partnership; or
  • The written permission of the Secretary of State; or
  • Settled status in the UK;

The written permission of the Secretary of State will be granted in the form of a Certificate of Approval, such as those that already exist for marriage. In order to qualify for a certificate of approval applicants will need to have been granted over six months leave in the United Kingdom and at least three months of that leave must be remaining.

The Immigration and Nationality Directorate intends to allow applicants to apply for certificates of approval and entry clearance for registering a civil partnership before 5 December. This will allow prospective civil partners to give notice of their civil partnership at the earliest opportunity. Further information about how to go about this will be made available later.

Applications for leave to enter and remain

Once the relationship has been registered, the person subject to immigration control may be able to apply for leave to remain in the UK on the basis of their relationship.

Where their civil partner is a British citizen or has settled status in the UK they will be able to apply for two years in the first instance. At the end of this period - and provided the partnership is still subsisting and other criteria are met - an application for settlement (permission to reside in the UK permanently) can be made.

Civil partners of people with temporary leave in the UK, such as students and work permit holders, will be free to apply for leave in line with their civil partners. For example where the principal work permit holder has two years leave to remain in the UK, their civil partner will also be granted two years leave in line.

Civil partnership tourism

Two non-EEA citizens may register a civil partnership in the UK as long as they have been granted a 'civil partnership visit visa' in order to give notice. Registering a civil partnership will not affect their immigration status e.g. it will not allow them to stay in the UK any longer than normal and all usual immigration rules will apply.

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