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Staying in the UK on a visa without your partner

This advice applies to Scotland

Generalist advisers can give clients the information on this page, but must refer clients to a specialist immigration adviser for further help - this is OISC level 2 advice.

Find out more about how immigration advice is regulated by the OISC and what to do if your client needs level 2 advice.

If you're in the UK as a dependant on your partner's visa, your visa status could change when you separate or divorce. It's worth getting help from a specialist legal adviser who can advise you on your individual circumstances. You can:

You should go straight to a legal adviser if your partner is from the European Economic Area (EEA) or in the UK under EEA regulations. There are special rules in this situation.

Otherwise, you’ll need to check your eligibility to stay in the UK and apply for a new visa if you can.

You and your partner both need to tell the Home Office that you’re separating or divorcing. Visa applications you make in the future could be affected if you don’t.

Settle in the UK by yourself

You can check if you’re eligible to settle in the UK (also known as getting ‘indefinite leave to remain’) on GOV.UK.

If you can settle in the UK yourself, then this is probably the best option to take. If you’re eligible, you’ll be able to stay in the UK independently from your partner.

If you have children in the UK

One option for staying in the UK is called the ‘parent route’ - you might be eligible if you have children who live in the UK. This is a common way for parents to be able to live in the UK after they’re separated or divorced.

There are various conditions that you’ll have to meet to be able to stay in the UK as a parent. If you want to know more about the detail, read the eligibility of parent routes and how to apply at GOV.UK.

A specialist legal adviser can help with your application.

Switch to a work visa if you’re employed

It might be possible to get a work visa through your employer - the actual category is a ‘Tier 2 (General)’ visa. Your job will have to be on the ‘shortage occupation list’, which you can check on GOV.UK.

This can be a complex process but it’s a possible route to staying in the UK, especially if you work for a large organisation. The best thing to do is talk to your employer to see if they will sponsor you.

Read more about Tier 2 (General) visas at GOV.UK.

You'll have to remain in your job to keep this visa. It will also be 5 years before you can settle by yourself. So it’s best to check if you’re eligible to settle before you try to get a visa through your employer.

Other ways of staying

There are other ways of getting a visa if you’ve been living in the UK for a long time. These routes are called ‘private life in the UK’, for example if:

  • you’ve lived continuously in the UK for at least 20 years
  • you’re under 18 and have lived continuously in the UK for at least 7 years
  • you’re between 18 and 24, and have spent at least half your life living continuously in the UK
  • you’re over 18 and have no ties with the country that you’d have to return to - this means you need to have no social, cultural or family ties with that country

Any time you’ve spent in prison won’t count towards the above amounts.

This is complicated, so you should talk to a specialist immigration adviser about staying in the UK.

Read more about ‘private life in the UK’ visas at GOV.UK.

If you've experienced domestic abuse

There are ways for you to stay in the UK if you're the partner of a migrant or refugee and your relationship has broken down because of domestic abuse.

Get help from an immigration lawyer as soon as you can - they’ll be able to tell you what to do next. You might be entitled to legal aid (free legal advice).

A lawyer will help you decide whether to:

  • apply for an initial 3-month extension to your current visa - this can help you keep getting benefits while you make an application for settlement
  • apply for indefinite leave to remain - if you have permission to stay in the UK as the partner of a British national, settled person or a refugee and your relationship has broken down because of domestic violence
  • apply for a family visa - if you have a child under 18 who lives in the UK and has permission to stay
  • claim asylum in the UK if you can't go back to your home country because you fear persecution and want to stay in the UK as a refugee

You must tell the Home Office as soon as you separate if you're a dependant on your partner's visa - explain your circumstances and that you've experienced domestic abuse. The Home Office might end your permission to stay as a partner, so it's important to make another application to stay as soon as possible. You should get advice from a specialist lawyer.

Find out what help and support you can get if you've experienced domestic abuse.

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