We Should Get Married!!!
More than once this semester I have been out and met a Brit around my age, who after hearing that I am single and considering moving to London permanently, jokingly suggests that we should get married in order to obtain permanent residences in each other’s home countries. This would be great, but I have always dreamed of a more romantic proposal, so I think I’ll keep looking! However, this did prompt some questions about gay marriage in the U.K., visas, and immigration, so I did a little research and thought I would share my findings.
According to The Independent, the Civil Partnership Act of 2004 gave same-sex couples in the United Kingdom the ability to have the same rights as married heterosexual couples, including insurance and tax exemptions, social security benefits, ability to share custody of a child, and more. In March of 2014, same-sex marriage became legal in England and Wales (BBC). Scotland followed suit in December of that year (BBC). Northern Ireland has not yet legalized gay marriage.
In comparison, thirty-seven states in the U.S. currently allow gay marriage or civil partnerships, either by laws passed through the state legislatures or by judicial decision (NCSL). In 2004, Massachusetts was the only state where gay marriage was legal (CNN). Clearly, the U.K. was ahead of the game with same-sex marriage.
My new friends will be sad to know that, although I am allowed to marry a Brit while here on a student visa, this does not give us permanent residences in each other’s countries. Stonewall provides a good overview of information on British laws governing the immigration status of overseas spouses. If my British husband and I were married in the U.S., our marriage would be recognized in the U.K. as well. If my husband were a “settled” U.K. resident, I would have to apply for a U.K. family visa. (I assume that “settled” means that the spouse has consistently lived in the U.K., and is not a U.K. citizen that was living outside of the U.K. immediately prior to the wedding.) The first visa would last 30 months, and then I would have to apply for a five-year visa. Finally after the five-year visa, I could apply for permanent residence, known as “Indefinite Leave to Remain.” If we wanted to get married in the U.K., I could apply for a Fiancé Visa, which would allow me to stay here for six months, during which we would have to get married. After the ceremony, I would have to apply for a U.K. family visa in the manner I described above.
If we were to get married in the U.K. and then move to the U.S., I would have to file a Petition for Alien Resident and an Application to Register Permanent Resident or Adjust Status. My husband would have conditional resident status for two years, after which I would have to file a petition for his permanent resident status.
In conclusion, when I do find the right guy, if he happens to be British, it wouldn’t be difficult for me to establish permanent residence here or for my husband to establish permanent residence in the U.S. As for this scheme suggested by my London acquaintances, I think I will pass and keep my integrity!
Feel free to check out the links below for more information on gay marriage in the U.K. and U.S., as well as info on spousal visas.
*Photos courtesy of Talking People’s Memo, ABC Australia, National Conference of State Legislatures, and Pinterest