How does the Home Office judge a “genuine” relationship in immigration cases?

If you have made an application for entry to the UK or leave to remain under Appendix FM of the Immigration Rules, having that application refused is likely to be distressing. All the more so if the reasons you are given for the refusal include questions about whether your relationship is genuine.

It is a requirement of the Immigration Rules that your relationship is “genuine and subsisting”. The Home Office issues guidance to decision-makers setting out “factors which may be associated with a relationship that is genuine and subsisting” (and one which is not). The Home Office might investigate applicants in the UK if they suspect a sham or forced marriage.

In the case of Goudey (subsisting marriage – evidence) Sudan [2012] UKUT 00041(IAC), the Judge confirmed that there is no set requirement for the kinds of documents that should be produced to substantiate a partnership. Where there is no other evidence that would put the parties’ intentions in doubt, their relationship should be accepted.

However, decision-makers still find reasons to doubt those intentions, and factors that put you at risk of refusal include:

  • Your relationship is relatively short
  • You have only met a few times in person
  • Your wedding was attended by very few or no guests
  • There is a large age difference between you (especially if the woman is the older party)
  • You are married but you have been living in different countries for a long time
  • Your relationship does not match stereotypical patterns from your home country (for example, I have seen Indian applicants refused on the basis that parents had not approved the match because “culturally this is unusual”).

You might decide to appeal, or make a new application (or both): it is important to take advice about your options.

However, one way or another you are going to have to gather evidence about your relationship to persuade the Home Office that it is “genuine and subsisting”.

“Genuine and subsisting”: what evidence can you provide?

The kinds of evidence you might supply are not compulsory (or “specified” in Home Office parlance): they will depend very much on your individual circumstances.

In straightforward cases, the advice is usually for the sponsor to write a letter confirming background details about the relationship such as when and how you met; when you decided to get married or live together, and what plans you have made for your life together in the UK. This is further supported with documentary evidence of time spent living together such as jointly-addressed mail; or contact at a distance such as printed screenshots of online contact; tickets showing visits to one another or travel together, and photos labelled with times and dates.

If your relationship falls into any of the “non-standard” categories listed above, a detailed letter (or in an appeal, a witness statement) from the sponsor will be an important opportunity to describe when and how you met, and what is meaningful to you about your relationship. This is your chance to personalise your application and provide details about yourselves that persuade the decision-maker that your relationship is genuine.

Other kinds of evidence that can support your application might include evidence of shared responsibilities such as joint finances or financial support from one party to another, joint friends, and shared interests or hobbies.

If you need advice about a partner application or an appeal, please contact me.


There are 8 comments

  1. Laurence Hildesley

    We were rejected because we had not lived together continuously for 2 years the relationship was 2 years old, but there was a break of 3 months due to UK visa restrictions.

  2. kittyfalls

    I’m sorry to hear about your case, Laurence. I think it would be arguable on appeal that the rules do not require 2 years’ continuous cohabitation ending immediately before the application: there is at least one case from the Upper Tribunal that support this view (although that was a case where the couple had been together for 20 years altogether). What did you do in the end?

  3. kittyfalls

    Hi Martha. Yes, in general you will still need to provide evidence of your relationship, in order to convince an entry clearance officer that you genuinely intend to get married or enter a civil partnership within 6 months of arrival in the UK.

  4. Kay Tucker

    Me and my husband have been married for just over three years we supplied the evidence that home office wanted to prove our marriage is genuine and subsisting but they still don’t believe us. What can we do

  5. Sangita Hirani

    Hello my application was rejected on E-ECP. 2.6 & 2.10. Me and my husband have 11 years age gap. There were few guests present in the civil wedding, we didn’t go for Indian Hindu marriage because we both are divorce. I had came to UK on basis of spouse visa, the relationship broke down with in 4 months. I made an application on SET(DV) which failed. I got the divorce meanwhile I found another partner whom I married and made application for FLR(HRO) there and lived together for more than 4 months. I got 9 days for appeal. Shall I go for appeal or another spouse visa application? While this application would be successful or again it would be rejected.

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