What about my partner?
One of the most frequently asked questions posed to BIC by clients is how a non-EU partner can join them or stay with them in the UK. Fortunately, there are ways in which the UK Immigration system allows for non-EU citizens to join their partners in the UK. One of the ways for same-sex partners to stay together is by means of the civil partnership.
What is a Civil Partnership?
The Civil Partnership Act came into operation in December 2005 and allows people of the same sex to register as civil partners of each other.
It is a legal union that gives the relationship legal recognition and gives both parties to the partnership added legal rights and responsibilities. This enable them to receive the same legal treatment across a range of important matters, similar to that of a married couple, ranging from tax issues, employment and pension benefits, a duty to provide reasonable maintenance for the civil partner and any children of the family to recognition for immigration and nationality purposes.
Although it is not the same as a marriage, it allows for people of the same sex to register a legal union similar to marriage, although it is an entirely new legal concept.
Registering a civil partnership is a serious commitment and does not end when one of the parties walk away. In order to end a civil partnership, civil partners are required to go through a court based dissolution which addresses the same issues as a divorce settlement. A civil partnership can also end through annulment or upon the death of one of the parties.
How does one register a civil partnership?
Both the partners must give notice to register a civil partnership at a special register office. If you are subject to immigration control, before you will be allowed to give notice, you must:
• have been granted entry clearance to the UK specifically for the purpose of registering a civil partnership there, or
• have been issued with a certificate from the Immigration and Nationality Directorate (IND) giving you permission to register a civil partnership,
• or provide proof of your indefinite leave to remain status in the UK.
The registrar is required to report any civil partnership if he/she suspect that the parties are entering into the partnership as means of circumventing immigration control.
Fifteen days after giving notice of the civil partnership the civil partnership can be registered, which is done once the couple has signed the civil partnership document in the presence of a registrar and two witnesses.
How does a civil partnership affect one's Immigration Status?
If you are the civil partner of a person who is either a British citizen or who holds indefinite leave to remain in the UK (permanent residence), the civil partnership provisions are exactly the same as those in place for spouses of British citizens or spouses of persons settled in the UK. Under the Civil Partnership Act you will have similar immigration rights to married couples. There are no work restrictions on the civil partner of a British citizen or person settled in the UK. In such cases the civil partner will be able to apply for 30 months leave to remain in the UK. After the 30 months, an application can be lodged for another 30 months, which should take the applicant to the five-year qualifying period for Indefinite Leave to Remain.
Note that there are different qualifying periods for applications submitted before 9 July 2012.
If you are the civil partner of a person who is subject to immigration control in one of the permanent immigration categories such as a Tier 1 or Tier 2 category, you can apply to join him or her in the UK as a dependant for the same time as their leave to remain is granted. After you have obtained this dependant visa, you will be able to work in the UK without any restrictions, subject to your partner maintaining their status.
It is also possible to apply for leave to enter the UK as the civil partner of a person with a student visa, if the student visa is granted for longer than six months. The leave to remain will be granted for the same period as the student's. As this is a temporary immigration category it will not allow you to qualify for Indefinite Leave to Remain and both partners should leave the UK upon the expiry of the visa or look to switch to another immigration status.
Are there any alternatives to the civil partnership?
In some cases same-sex partners are not ready yet for such a serious commitment as the civil partnership, in order to stay together in the UK as partners. In such cases the unmarried partner visa can be considered, as this visa is available to persons in both heterosexual and same-sex relationships.
In order to qualify for this type of visa, you will need to prove that you have been living together in a relationship akin to marriage or a civil partnership, which has subsisted for two years or more.
Since 1 October 2012 the UK Home Office has the automatic right to refuse an application for further leave to remain under the UK Points Bases Immigration System, if someone overstayed on their visa for longer than 28 days on the date of their application.
However, if the person can proof that there were exceptional circumstances which prevented them from applying within the 28 days, it will be taken into consideration.
Exceptional circumstances will inter alia include; serious illness that prevented the applicant from submitting the application in time, the loss of documents due to fire or theft, travel or postal delays which meant that the applicant or representative were unable to submit the application on time etc. It is however important to note that proof will be required of such 'exceptional circumstances' and it will depend on the individual circumstances.
However, it is obviously never a good idea to overstay on any visa, and BIC strongly recommend that clients contact us before their visa expires. In cases where a person has overstayed it is also advisable to rather seek help from BIC rather than go into hiding, as there might be solutions.
The UK Home Secretary, Theresa May, has announced that the UK Border Agency (UKBA) is to be abolished, and will split into two new entities - an immigration and visa service and an immigration law enforcement organisation.
Ms May blamed the failure of the UKBA on the chaotic immigration system inherited from the previous Conservative government. She further said that the UKBA's problems are due to four main issues; conflicting cultures within the UKBA, the lack of transparency and accountability, its inadequate IT systems and the policy and legal framework within which it has to operate.
By splitting the UKBA into two new entities the UK government hope to achieve two distinct cultures; a service that makes decisions about who is able to come to the UK with a greater focus on customer satisfaction for those coming to the UK legally, and secondly an organisation with a focus on law enforcement for those persons breaking the UK immigration laws.
The two new entities will not have agency status, and will be based in the UK Home Office reporting to ministers.
Ms May further said that she intend to bring forward an Immigration Bill in the next session of Parliament to address some of the problems of the current UK immigration laws.
BIC hopes that these announcements will eventually result in improved service to clients and a better turn-around time of visa applications.
Following our continuous warnings about ongoing UK immigration scams, we have to yet again warn our clients about a new way in which immigration scammers are operating.
Some of our clients have received sham calls from immigration scammers pretending that they are from the UK Border Agency (UKBA). They were told that they are being fined a certain amount, and asked to pay the 'fine'. They were also provided with a false name and return phone number of the 'contact person at the UKBA'.
Please note that these calls appear to be genuine and very convincing, and the scammers will ask you to pay the fine as soon as possible to avoid deportation etc.
Please do not make any payments to these persons, and do not provide anyone with your bank account or card details.
If you are unsure or wary for any reason, please feel free to contact Breytenbachs Immigration Consultants to check out the situation for you.
You can also report any such sham calls or suspicious activity online at www.actionfraud.police.uk or call the Action Fraud line in the UK on 0300 123 2040.
This immigration category allows non-EEA graduates, identified by UK higher education institutions as persons who have developed world class innovative ideas or entrepreneurial skills, to stay on in the UK after their graduation with the view to establish a business in the UK.
How to qualify
In order to qualify you must be a non-EEA citizen and graduated from one of the UK higher education institutions.
You must also be identified by a UK higher education institution (HEI), participating to the scheme, as a person with world class innovative ideas or entrepreneurial skills and want to establish a business in the UK. You will also have to fulfill an English language and a maintenance fund requirement.
The annual allocation for places on the Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) scheme is as follows for 2013 -2014;
- 900 places are allocated to HEI's for the purpose of endorsing graduates in any subject;
- 1,000 places are allocated to HEI's for endorsing of MBA graduates; and
- 100 places will be allocated to the UKTI for the purpose of endorsing overseas graduates.
Length of stay and right to work
You will be granted an initial leave to remain for a period of one year, after which you will be able to apply for an extension of another year. The maximum period allow under this category is two years.
After two years in this category you may be eligible to apply as a Tier 1 (Entrepreneur).
You may take up no other employment for more than 20 hours per week, except for the business or businesses that you have established. You are not allowed employment as a doctor or dentist in training or as a professional sportsperson.
As this is a temporary visa it does not lead to permanent residence. In addition time spent in this category does not count towards eligibility for Indefinite Leave to Remain.
When preparing an application for the admission of children to join parents in the UK one previously had to carefully consider the 'sole responsibility' and 'serious and compelling family or other considerations which make exclusion of the child undesirable' tests.
Recently the law and the interpretation thereof have changed and a more child centred approach in immigration law has to be followed. This means not only putting the best interests of the child front and centre, but also making sure that the voice of the child is heard. Sole responsibility test becomes less important and lawyers can now argue the best interests of the children in Entry Clearance cases.
Did you know that if you are a victim of domestic violence, you need not stay in the abusive relationship in order to remain in the UK?
In order to qualify under the domestic violence rule you have to inter alia fulfill the following requirements;
• You must be the spouse/civil partner/unmarried partner of a British citizen or someone settled (someone with indefinite leave to remain) in the UK;
• Your relationship must have subsisted at the time the visa was granted; and
• You must prove that you are a victim of domestic violence and that it was the cause of the breakdown of your relationship before you qualified for settlement.
You do not need to wait until your current leave in the UK expires before you apply under this rule, and the UK Home Office recommends that you apply as early as possible so that they can deal with recent or up to date evidence. It is also important to keep in mind that you have to apply from within the UK.
The UK Home Office defines domestic violence as follows;
"Domestic violence is any threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between adults who are or have been in a relationship, or between family members. It can affect anybody, regardless of their gender or sexuality. The violence can be psychological, physical, sexual or emotional."
In July 2012 the UK Home Office introduced stringent new immigration measures that impacted adversely on the lives of many families and couples, both British and foreign.
This rule change introduced a minimum income threshold of £18,600 to sponsor the settlement of a non-EEA spouse, partner, fiancé or proposed civil partner. The threshold increases for any children sponsored.
The Administrative Division of the High Court in Birmingham heard the challenge to the new family migration rules (MM and Others v Secretary of State for the Home Department) on 5 February - 9 February 2013.
We are now awaiting a decision by the High Court and will keep clients posted as soon as more information is available.
Following our recent warning to clients about a new online immigration scam, we have been inundated by persons who fell victim to these ruthless scammers.
Following our conversation with some of these victims, we can add the following to our list of caveats,
Scammers tell people that they need to courier their passports to them, together with a visa fee, as they will apply for the visa on their behalf. They either pose as the supposed new employer or the agent of the employer.
Always keep in mind that nobody can apply on your behalf for a visa at the UK Border Agency / UK High Commission. You will always need to apply in person, as you have to provide them with your fingerprints. If you are being asked to do this, you are being scammed!
To read our previous warning on immigration scams, please follow this link - http://www.bic-immigration.com/m/immigration-news/item/110-new-uk-immigration-scam
BIC Limited, based in London (EC), is looking for an experienced telephonist/receptionist.
Ideal candidates will be responsible and motivated individuals who will take the necessary initiative to provide a world class service to our clients. As many of our clients are from South Africa you should preferably have a South African background and be able to understand and speak Afrikaans in order to relate to them and understand their needs.
You will furthermore be a friendly individual who takes pride in remembering names and faces, and enjoy interacting with people. You will also be well spoken, and have the ability to deal pleasantly with people at all levels.
Salary according to experience.
Closing date for applications is 4 February 2013.