Divorce and my immigration status: can I remain in the UK?

Oct 3, 2020

Divorce and my immigration status: can I remain in the UK?

Does the end of your marriage mean the end of your leave to remain in the UK? It depends. We have answered some of the most common questions below.  Please note, we are a family law firm not an immigration firm. The information in this article does not replace legal advice. If you are separating or divorcing book your free 15 minute consultation with our team. For urgent advice call 01274 727373, we aim to offer same-day advice.  If your matter is more complex, we recommend requesting our 60 minute consultation for £250 (+VAT)

As family law specialists, we recognise divorce is difficult even when both parties agree. It can be even harder when you’re worrying about your immigration status.  Unfortunately many visa holders believe the end of their marriage signals the end of their life in the UK. That’s not always the case. If possible, speak to a legal professional before you separate or start divorce proceedings. Without the right advice you may find yourself having no legal right to live or work in the UK.

If I divorce will I be able to stay in the UK?

SHORT ANSWER: it depends on your immigration status.

  • Spouse Visa. If you entered the UK and have leave to remain on the basis of your marriage or civil partnership, then under UK immigration rules you can only remain in the UK for as long as that relationship lasts.  If your relationship ends before you apply for ILR, so does your leave to remain in the UK.  Your right to live and work in the UK on a spouse visa ends upon separation – not the divorce.  If the Home Office becomes aware of your separation or divorce, they may take steps to restrict your leave in the UK (revoking your visa). Remember, you may qualify for a different visa. Book your free 15 minute consultation to understand your options.
  • Citizenship or ILR (Indefinite Leave to Remain). If you have already submitted your nationality application or secured your ILR status, your decision to divorce or separate will not impact your immigration status. You will not be required to the leave the UK.
Do I need to inform the Home Office that I have separated or divorced?

Yes. You are required to inform the Home Office when you divorce or separate from your partner (note: your spouse may notify the Home Office).  If the Home Office becomes aware of your separation or divorce, they may take steps to restrict your leave in the UK (revoking your visa). Find more information here.

I left my partner because they were violent and abusive – what can I do?

You may be eligible to apply for settlement (‘indefinite leave to remain’) if you’ve experienced domestic violence as the partner of a British citizen or person settled in the UK. You will be required to prove that your relationship was genuine and ongoing when you were last given permission as a partner, and that “you were the victim of domestic violence from your partner, their family, or both, and this is why your relationship has broken down.”  Contact our legal team to book your free 15 minute consultation.

If you are experiencing domestic abuse and are in immediate danger, call 999. You may also find our domestic violence information sheet helpful.

Options to stay in the UK if you separate from your spouse

If your leave to remain in the UK is because of your relationship, then once that has ended you will need to apply for a visa in your own right to stay here. Switching to another visa can be a complex process, so we recommend speaking with a legal professional.  You might be able to apply for one of the following:

  1. ILR: if you have lived in Britain on a spouse visa for five years, you can apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR). You will need to meet certain requirements, including both the Life in the UK and English language tests.
  2. Domestic Violence / Abuse: see above
  3. Family Life: you may qualify for leave to remain on the basis that you are the parent of one or more British or settled children if:
    • (i) you have sole or shared responsibility for your child/children. You must be able to prove that you’re taking an active role in your child’s upbringing and you plan to continue after you apply. If the child lives with their other parent or carer, you must have access to the child in person, as agreed with the other parent or carer or by a court order; or
    • (ii) you are the parent of a child who has lived in the UK continuously for at least 7 years;
  4. Work Visa: subject to your occupation, an employer can sponsor your Tier 2 (General) visa. The laws around employment are challenging and changing. It is advisable that you and your employer speak with an immigration lawyer to get the best result.
  5. Private Life: you may be able to qualify for leave to remain based on your private life if you can prove:
    • (i) you are aged 25 or older and can prove you have lived in the UK for 20 or more years continuously;
    • (ii) you have lived in the UK for less than 20 years and you can demonstrate there are “very significant obstacles” to your ability to integrate into the country to which you would have to go if required to leave the UK.


Thank you for reading. We hope you’ve found this article helpful. SKB Law is a boutique family law firm. We advise and represent clients across England & Wales. The firm is led by Sarah Khan-Bashir MBE. If you’d like to book an appointment, please contact our office today. For urgent matters, we recommend calling 01274 727373.

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