Getting Married or Forming a Civil Partnership in the UK

Persons are often confused about the rules and regulations relating to marriage and civil partnerships in the UK, especially the rules about notice periods. Breytenbachs Immigration Consultants Ltd, or BIC for short, has thus compiled a short guidance in this regard.

Who is allowed to get married or form a civil partnership?

It is possible to get married or form a civil partnership in the UK, if you are free to do so – i.e. if you are single, divorced or widowed, and not closely related. Another requirement is that you have be older than 16 years old – if you are younger than 18 years of age, you will have to have the permission of your parents or legal guardians.

Only couples of the same sex are allowed to enter into a civil partnership. It is also possible to convert your civil partnership into a marriage in England, Scotland and Wales.

Notice Periods

The standard notice period for Civil Partnerships and Marriages in the UK is 28 days, and it applies to both British and non-British citizens, wanting to get married in the UK. You have to include details of where you intend to marry or form the civil partnership. This notice is then publicly displayed in the register office for the 28 days.

(If one of the parties to the Civil Partnership or Marriage is a non-EEA national, not exempt from immigration control, the matter may be referred to the UK Home Office. Please see further information below.)

After that, you may proceed to have a religious ceremony or civil ceremony at least 28 days after giving notice.
After giving notice, you have to get married or register your civil partnership within one year. If you are in Scotland, this period is three months.

Shorter Notice Periods

It is possible to apply for a shorter period of 15 days, but this is only permissible where all of the following criteria apply:

  • Either you or your partner are resident outside the UK,
  • You or your partner would not have the marriage or civil partnership referred to the UK Home Office,
  • You want to give notice and get married/form a civil partnership in one visit after March 2015,
  • You made arrangements for your marriage/civil partnership before 2 March 2015.

Documents needed

The register office would need proof of your name, age, nationality and proof of address. You will also need to pay the application fee.
If you are divorced, you will also need to take a decree absolute or final order. If you are widowed, you will need to bring the death certificate of your former partner.

Non-EEA Nationals

If any one of the parties is from outside the European Economic Area, and subject to immigration control, you have to give the standard 28 days’ notice at the Register office in England and Wales. You will only be able to give notice if you have both lived in England and/or Wales for at least seven days.

Your notice period can then be extended to 70 days if you or your partner:

  • Are non-EEA nationals;
  • Have limited or no immigration status in the UK;
  • You cannot provide the registrar with enough evidence to show that you are settled in the UK.

You will be informed within 28 days if your notice period will be extended. If your notice period is extended your proposed marriage or civil partnership will be referred to the UK Home Office. The Home Office may investigate to determine whether the proposed marriage or civil partnership is genuine.

The UK Home Office may decide to conduct an interview or request more information as part of their investigation. It is important to comply with the investigation, or you will not be allowed to get married or form the civil partnership.
The following persons are exempted from the referral to the UK Home Office;

  • British Citizens.
  • EEA Nationals.
  • Foreign Nationals not subject to UK Immigration Control.
  • Persons with settled status or UK Permanent Residence.
  • Persons with Entry Clearance to the UK as a Fiancé or Proposed Civil Partner.

If you are a non-EEA national, looking to enter into a Marriage or Civil Partnership, and need more information, or assistance with visas relating to this, please feel free to contact our dedicated team of consultants.

This article was first published in the South African Online Newspaper.