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UK Spouse visas: divorce and polygamous relationships

This blog forms part of a series of blogs on spouse visas. In particular, this blog looks at relationships that have permanently broken down as well as polygamous relationships.

Do you meet the requirements?

Appendix FM of the Immigration Rules have eligibility requirements which must be met by every applicant. If your client, or if you as the Applicant or Sponsor, has previously been married or are still married to a person other than the sponsor or applicant then you must consider whether this eligibility requirement is met:

E-ECP.2.9. (i) Any previous relationship of the applicant or their partner must have broken down permanently unless it is a relationship which falls within paragraph 278(i) of these Rules; and

(ii) If the applicant is a fiancé(e) or proposed civil partner, neither the applicant nor their partner can be married to, or in a civil partnership with, another person at the date of application.

What evidence do I need to provide?

It is important that anyone that has previously been in a marriage or civil partnership provides evidence that marriage or civil partnership has apparently broken down. Details of the evidence that needs to be provided are contained within FM-SE of the Immigration Rules.

FM-SE states:

  1. A divorce in the United Kingdom must be evidenced by a decree absolute from a civil court.
  2. A civil partnership in the United Kingdom must be evidenced by a civil partnership certificate.
  3. The dissolution of a civil partnership in the UK must be evidenced by a final order of civil partnership dissolution from a civil court.
  4. Marriages, civil partnerships or evidence of divorce or dissolution from outside the UK must be evidenced by a reasonable equivalent to the evidence detailed in paragraphs 22 to 25, valid under the law in force in the relevant country.

These are mandatory documents where an applicant’s spouse has previously been in a relationship. Therefore, a failure to provide these documents is likely to mean that the application is refused.

What if my previous marriage isn’t dissolved?

The Home Office guidance entitled family life as a partner or as a parent and where there are exceptional circumstances.

It states that where a marriage or civil partnership has not been legally dissolved, however, they can demonstrate that the previous relationship has permanently broken down, then provided the criteria for partner is met at GEN.1.2 of the Immigration Rules, that is that they have been living in a relationship akin to a marriage for at least two years with the Applicant or Sponsor, then it may be possible to make an application under the Rules that govern partners rather than spouses. This is likely to be in very limited circumstances, and it would be best practice to wait where possible for the legal dissolution of the marriage prior to application. The application would be much stronger if the dissolution of the previous marriage can be properly evidenced.

What if I am in a polygamous relationship?

It is also possible under the Immigration Rules for persons in a polygamous relationship to come to the UK. In these circumstances, it is not necessary to show that the other relationships have broken down. However, it is not possible for a person to bring more than one spouse into the UK whilst their polygamous marriages continue to exist. So, a sponsor who sponsors their spouse to come to the UK cannot then sponsor the second spouse into the UK. Notably, the order in which the marriages were conducted outside the UK is not relevant, if one spouse has been granted entry clearance to the UK, then further applications for other spouses will not meet the requirements of the Immigration Rules. There are other requirements in respect of polygamous marriages, notably that the marriage must be lawfully conducted in the country where it took place.

Are you hoping to bring a loved one over?

Westkin Associates has a specialist family law team which has supported close to 3,000 spouses visa applications.

For expert legal consultation call: 020 7118 4546 or email at:

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