The government recently announced changes to the Immigration Rules which apply to applications based on ‘Private Life’, partners and other family members submitted after 19 June 2022.
Among these changes was the introduction of three new ‘appendices’ to the Immigration Rules:
- Appendix Private Life
- Appendix Settlement Family Life
- Appendix Relationship with a Partner
So, what do these new appendices mean? Generally, they bring liberalising measures into routes that have generally been left out of recent efforts to modernise the immigration system.
Below, we explain what the new appendices are and how they will affect family and partner applications going forward.
Appendix Private Life
This appendix offers new options for those applying for permission to stay based on their private life, although some of the ‘suitability’ requirements have become stricter. Suitability requirements cover matters like:
- Criminal or immigration offending
- Deception in a previous application
- Non-payment of NHS charges or litigation debt
A major change introduced by this new appendix is that children who were born in the UK and have been continuously resident in the UK for 7 years can be eligible for settlement immediately. It is important to note that, in addition to the 7 years’ residence, the applicant must prove that it would not be reasonable to expect them to leave the UK.
Changes for children and young adults
A further welcome change is an accelerated route to settlement for young adults aged between 18 and 25 years old who have spent at least half their life continuously resident in the UK. This new route allows for settlement after 5 years and demonstrates a significant improvement from the previous requirement of 10 years.
In addition, applicants who are children or young adults (aged 18-25), who previously could only be granted 30 months permission to stay, can now choose whether to apply for 30- or 60-months. This represents a significant change for qualifying young adults. Previously, young adults would need to complete 10 years in the Private Life category and make 4 applications before being eligible for settlement, whereas now they can make a single 60-month permission to stay application and then apply for settlement.
Adults applying for settlement based on their private life can also qualify under this new appendix. Applicants can combine time with permission on other routes (such as Appendix FM) in order to meet the qualifying period of 10 years. If an applicant does not have dependants, it remains to be seen what benefit this new change offers, given that an individual can qualify for settlement under Long Residence rules. The Long Residence rules essentially allow an individual to qualify based on 10-years continuous leave in any mix of categories.
Children born in the UK
Finally, there is another Private Life provision which covers children born in the UK to a parent on the Private Life route. As a result, a qualifying child will be granted permission to stay for the same duration as their parent.
Our assessment of the new Private Life appendix
What this new appendix allows is for someone on the Private Life route to effectively sponsor eligible family members.
Now, whilst these changes all seem positive, there are some downsides to consider. For example, if an applicant has had a prison sentence of at least 12 months, they will be ineligible for indefinite leave to remain. In addition, if an applicant does not meet the suitability requirements for other reasons such as being involved in a sham marriage, any child or young adult making an application involving them will not be able to use the accelerated 5-year route to obtain settlement.
Appendix Settlement Family Life
This new appendix aims to simplify the path to settlement for people on the ‘10-year route’ who have also been granted permission to stay in the UK as a partner or parent under Appendix FM.
As with Appendix Private Life, applicants can combine time with permission on other routes (such as Appendix FM) in order to meet the qualifying period of 10 years. However, the applicant must not have entered the UK illegally and they must have held permission as a partner or parent under Appendix FM for at least 1 year.
The aforementioned stricter suitability requirements also come into play for applications for settlement based on family life.
The ‘continous residence’ requirement
New provisions in the Settlement Family Life appendix arguably make it more difficult for applicants to meet the requirements to settle in the UK. For example, an applicant must not have spent more than 180 days outside of the UK in any 12-month period.
This new ‘continuous residence’ requirement presents a challenge for those who, for various reasons, have not been living in the UK for long periods of time.
There are, however, exceptions to this rule, as absences due to work commitments, studying, or from supporting family overseas do not count towards the total days absent. This is so long as, whilst absent from the UK, the applicant maintained a family life in the UK, and it remained their place of permanent residence.
In addition, absences which occurred before the new appendix was introduced will be disregarded if the applicant was subsequently granted permission to stay on the basis of their private or family life.
Appendix Relationship with a Partner
Finally, there is Appendix Relationship with a Partner, which currently only applies to applicants under the Ukraine scheme or Appendix Settlement Family Life.
On the whole, Appendix Relationship with a Partner remains very similar to the relationship requirements featured in Appendix FM, although some interesting changes have been made.
Relaxed requirements for a ‘durable’ relationship
A major change that will have an impact on partner applications is that it is no longer a strict requirement for unmarried partners to have lived together for 2 years to demonstrate that their relationship is ‘durable’. Whilst previously the Home Office has deemed that a durable relationship must involve 2 years’ cohabitation, this new appendix loosens that requirement.
Home Office guidance now states that as long as partners have been in a relationship that is similar to marriage or a civil partnership for at least 2 years prior to the application, they can prove that the relationship is ‘durable’ and ‘subsisting’ using evidence other than proof of cohabitation.
An example of this is when there is a ‘reasonable explanation’ for why a couple is living apart, such as work commitments or when one partner is studying in another country. In these circumstances, other evidence can be provided such as regular communication between the couple and evidence of trips, visits and financial support.
In addition, whilst a couple may not live together at the time of application, they may have lived together previously or intend to do so in the future. Evidence of this can be used to prove that their relationship is ‘durable’ and ‘subsisting’.
Wider application in future
Finally, whilst Appendix Relationship with a Partner currently only applies to settlement based on family life applications and applications under the Ukraine scheme, the government has indicated that this guidance will be extended to other routes in the future. It will be therefore interesting to see how this new appendix will affect other applications going forward.