Who is an eligible family member?
EU, EEA and Swiss citizens living in the UK by 31 December 2020 granted settled status or pre-settled status (or are exempted from applying), can sponsor eligible “close” family members to join them in the UK anytime in the future. These close family members are called Joining Family Members under the scheme. The eligible family relationships that are covered by the scheme are:
- spouse, civil partner, durable (unmarried) partners, where the relationship existed by 31 December 2020 (there are slightly different rules for Swiss citizens)
- parents and grandparents who are dependent
- children and grandchildren who are under 21
- children and grandchildren who are over 21 and are dependent
- future children born or adopted
Dependent parents and children applying as joining family members can be related to either the EU sponsor or their spouse or civil partner (if the marriage or civil partnership took place before 1 January 2021).
Is there a deadline for my family member(s) to apply by?
There was no need for your eligible family members to apply to the EU settlement scheme by 30 June 2021 as they can apply to come to the UK at any time in the future as long as the family relationship still exists when they apply. A joining family member can be an EU citizen or hold any other nationality. The EU citizen who is sponsoring the joining family member generally should hold pre-settled or settled status themselves to demonstrate that they are able to sponsor their joining family member(s). The family member who intends to join their EU sponsor in the UK in most cases must apply from outside the UK before they travel to join.
How do I know if my relationship is “durable” by 31 December 2020?
For those who are unmarried partners on 31 December 2020 (referred to as durable partners under the scheme), the Home Office will first look at whether the couple have been living together for two years by 31 December 2020. If the couple can show they have been cohabiting for two years at this date the Home Office will normally accept that they are durable partners (note that if this cohabitation took place in the UK, the applying durable partner must hold a document issued under the EEA Regulations, or be able to show that they were otherwise lawfully resident in the UK). Couples who have not lived together for two years can still qualify and as durable partners if there is strong evidence to show that they were in a serious unmarried relationship by 31 December 2020.
For example, a couple with a child together would normally be accepted as durable partners. There may be other situations where the Home Office will accept a couple are in a durable relationship by 31 December 2020. This will always depend on the facts of the relationship (for example how long the relationship has lasted, whether the couple have lived together at all, the reasons why the couple has been apart, etc), and so there is no definitive answer as to what a durable relationship is.
When trying to understand if your relationship might be considered durable by the Home Office, the first thing to consider is how long you have been together with your partner by 31 December 2020. The longer the relationship the more likely it will be accepted as durable but as set out above, the assessment will always be based on the couple’s specific situation. The more evidence you can put forward of your relationship together the stronger the chances it will be accepted as durable. This means providing evidence proving that you have lived together, travel that you have taken together, if you live or lived apart showing that you frequently travelled to see each other and evidence of how you communicate with each other (particularly in times when you are not together). You should also prepare a statement (either a joint statement or individual statements), confirming the history of your relationship and how it has developed and strengthened over the time that you have been together.
If you are unsure about whether your relationship may qualify it may be advisable to seek independent regulated immigration advice.
I was supposed to marry or have my civil partnership before 1 January 2021 but Covid-19 prevent the ceremony happening – what is my position?
Unfortunately, there is no concession in the EU settlement scheme that acknowledges many couples – through no fault of their own – had their weddings and civil partnerships postponed due to the health pandemic. This means that couples who were not able to hold their ceremonies by 31 December 2020 will be assessed under the durable partner rules set out in the above section. If you have now had your marriage or civil partnership ceremony you will still need to show the Home Office that you should be considered as durable partners by 31 December 2020. The fact that your relationship has progressed from an unmarried couple to married or civil partners will be a factor that the Home Office must take into account when assessing your relationship. It will be important in your application to inform the Home Office about your wedding or civil partnership plans that were postponed in 2020, as well as showing evidence that you have now become married or civil partners.
What happens if my spouse, civil partner or unmarried partner does not qualify for sponsorship under the EU settlement scheme?
If your partner cannot meet the criteria to be sponsored under the EU settlement scheme because the relationship did not exist by 31 December 2020 (for example if you have a new relationship that began in January 2021), there may be an alternative way of sponsoring them to join you in the UK where certain conditions are met.
You can sponsor a spouse, civil partner, fiance(e) or unmarried partner
to come and live with you in the UK under an immigration route called ‘Appendix FM of the Immigration Rules’. For applications under Appendix FM, the relationship must be genuine and exist at the date of application (in other words there is no need for the relationship to have existed by 31 December 2020 if it is genuine at the date of application). For those looking to apply as unmarried partners under Appendix FM, the Home Office requires two years of cohabitation by the date of application (the cohabitation does not need to be immediately before the application as long as the relationship is genuine and still exists when you apply).
The advantage of applying under the EU settlement scheme rather than Appendix FM is that the application is free under the EU settlement scheme. Applications under Appendix FM require payment of the visa fee and the Immigration Health Surcharge (a payment to the NHS) as well as fees to renew the visa once in the UK. There are also stricter criteria to when applying under Appendix FM as the sponsor must meet a financial requirement, must demonstrate there is adequate accommodation to live together and the joining partner must demonstrate they can speak English to an acceptable level.
Therefore, for EU, EEA and Swiss citizens with pre-settled or settled status (or are exempt from applying), who are considering sponsoring their partners to join them in the UK, it is strongly advisable to first consider the EU settlement scheme rules and only if the couple cannot meet these rules, then look to Appendix FM to see if this is an available route to sponsor the partner under.