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Is is really possible for my civil (unmarried or same sex) partner to join me in the UK? | Immigration Matters

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Under Civil Partnership Act, which took effect last December, gay people have the same immigration rights as married people and could secure a full passport after two years in the country. Civil partners face less rigorous tests if they seek to gain British citizenship than through a heterosexual marriage. However, while marriages have to be consummated to qualify there is no such requirement on couples in a civil partnership. It is thus not illegal for two heterosexual friends to form a civil partnership and then to “divorce” after two years once the foreigner has gained British citizenship. In these circumstances the Home Office will allow a person to stay for two years on the basis of this partnership. In two years’ time they can apply for indefinite leave. They will need to prove that they are living together. Following a large number of enquiries we have recently received, Cynthia Barker sheds further light on the matter.

Is it really possible for my civil (unmarried or same sex) partner to join me in the UK? This is the question I recently get asked a lot and it might be beneficial for the readers to know more about this scheme. My answer is: ‘As long as you are either a British citizen or have some form of long-term status in the UK, you are likely to be able to bring a civil partner in to the country.’


The Civil Partnerships Act 2004 came into force on 5 December 2005. A civil partnership is a new legal relationship which can be registered by two opposite- or same-sex people who are unmarried. Civil partnerships give equality of treatment in a wide range of legal matters with couples who enter into a civil marriage. Civil partners will have rights, including recognition for immigration and nationality. New terms have been introduced to describe the relationships such as: ‘civil partnership home’; ‘former civil partner’; and ‘surviving civil partner’.


The partners must both be at least 16 years of age and must not already be in a civil partnership or lawfully married. People under the age of 18 may be required to obtain written consent. A civil partnership ceremony can take place in any register office or any premises already registered to conduct marriages. The civil partnership will be formed once the couple have signed the civil partnership document in the presence of a registrar and two witnesses.


The Act allows two people to register as civil partners of each other in certain countries or territories outside the UK in the presence of an officer of the British Diplomatic Service.


Some same-sex couples may have already secured legal recognition of their relationship outside the UK. A same-sex relationship which has been recognised in this way will in certain circumstances be treated as a civil partnership under the Act. The Home Office publishes a list of ‘overseas-recognised same-sex relationships which are to be treated as civil partnerships’.


Filipino same-sex civil partners are not on the ‘overseas-recognised’ list published by the Home Office. In other words, the relationship is not legally recognised in the Philippines so it is not on the list. However, if an overseas relationship is not included in the list it will still be recognised as a civil partnership if it meets certain conditions. Under the law of the country where the relationship was formed, the relationship must: ‘be exclusive in nature’; ‘indeterminate in duration’; and ‘result in the parties to the relationship being regarded as a couple or treated as married.’


Written permission of the Secretary of State is granted in the form of a Certificate of Approval, like that for a marriage. To qualify for a certificate of approval, applicants need to have been granted over six months leave in the UK with at least three months remaining.


Anyone involved in a civil partnership may wish to apply for this visa in order to come to the UK and then apply for permission to remain in the UK. A visa is necessary for anyone who is not British, settled in the UK, or an EEA or Swiss national. Those subject to immigration control must 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.

For more help, email

Cynthia Barker is Co Author of the book, “How 2 Come to the UK to Live Work Study or Visit”, which is available from, leading bookstores and from

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