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3 November 2023

How can I stay in the UK if I separate or divorce from my partner?

Here are some options for how to stay in the UK if your marriage or relationship breaks down, and you are a dependant on your partner’s visa.
Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
Stay in the UK after a marriage breakdown

If you are living in the UK as a dependant of a visa holder and go through a marriage breakdown, it can be difficult to know what to do next.

Unfortunately, if you separate from your partner you do not automatically keep the right to remain in the UK, even if you have children. However, there are several alternative visa routes you can apply for. This blog explains some of the most popular ways to stay in the UK, but please note that not everyone is eligible for each option. Applying for an alternative visa depends on your circumstances.

Your first step is to let the Home Office know of your relationship breakdown. You can inform the Home Office through the Government’s website.

This blog will discuss some of your options to stay in the UK, including:

  • Applying for a work visa
  • Applying for a family visa based on your private life or as a parent
  • If you are a victim of domestic violence, you can apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain instead.

Applying for a Work Visa after a marriage breakdown

Applying for a Work Visa is a guaranteed route to keep the right to live and work in the UK for up to 5 years. 

The most popular UK work visas are:


Both of these visas require you to hold a relevant job offer before you apply, with a salary that meets the minimum requirement of the ‘going rate’ in that industry.  

It is best to start looking for a job straight away on job sites such as Indeed, CV Library and Reed. You will also need to prove your knowledge of English through either a SELT test or a degree that was taught in English. 

Currently, the processing time is 8 weeks for a Skilled Worker Visa and 3 weeks for a Health and Care Worker Visa.

Once you have lived and worked in the UK for 5 years whilst on a work visa, you will then be eligible to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain. 

Applying based on your private life

The UK Family Visa offers several options to individuals and children to stay in the UK – one of which is applying to stay based on your private life. 

One of the following must apply to you to be eligible to apply:

  • You are between 18-24 and have lived in the UK for more than half of your life
  • You are 18 or over, have been in the UK for less than 20 years but are unable to return to your home country
  • You are 18 or over and have lived in the UK for 20 years or more


If you ‘switch’ to this visa you can live and work in the UK for 2 years and 6 months.

After 10 years of living in the UK and holding a visa based on your private life for one year, you can apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (Private Life) which allows you to continue to live and work in the UK visa-free.

Applying as a parent after a marriage breakdown

If your child is in the UK, regardless if they are a British citizen or not, you can apply to stay in the UK to be with them, so long as you play an active role in their life. 

To be eligible as a parent your child must be one of the following:

  • A British or Irish citizen
  • Settled in the UK
  • From the EU and lived in the UK before 1 Jan 2021
  • Living in the UK for at least 7 years and unable to return to their home country


Your child’s other parent must be either:

  • A British or Irish citizen
  • Settled in the UK
  • From the EU and lived in the UK before 1 Jan 2021


You can prove you take an active role in your child’s life by submitting evidence from the government, school, courts or medical professional that is less than 4 years old. 

Evidence can include:

  • Letters from school proving you do the school run, attend parents’ evenings, sports day etc 
  • Letters from the doctors or dentist that prove you take them to appointments 
  • A court order that proves you take an active role in their lives. Please note, you need permission to use court orders as evidence


Not including the above will significantly weaken your visa application and could lead to it being denied.

You can add other children who are under 18 and not married to your application. 

You can apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain after holding this visa for 5 years. 

It can take up to 12 months to get a decision on your application.

Applying as a Victim of Domestic Violence

You may be eligible to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain if you have been a victim of one of the following forms of abuse:

  • Emotional
  • Psychological
  • Physical
  • Sexual
  • Financial abuse


You should apply for this as soon as you separate from your partner. ILR gives you the right to stay living and working in the UK visa-free. 

You can include your children as part of your application if they meet the requirements:

Your child’s other parent must be one of the following:

  • Your ex-partner
  • Deceased
  • Not present at all


If they are under 18:

  • They must have been living with you and your ex-partner
  • They cannot be married
  • You must have the funds to look after them without public funds


If they are over 18:

  • All of the above must apply, plus
  • They must have been your dependant when you came to the UK as the partner of a British citizen or settled person
  • They may need to pass a life in the UK test and prove their English

Indefinite Leave to Remain

As stated above, if you have been living and/or working in the UK for 5 years or more you can apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR). However, if you have been living in the UK as a spouse or dependent, you cannot apply for ILR if you do not intend to live with your partner after it has been granted. 

You can only apply for ILR if you have:

  • Been a victim of domestic violence
  • Held a work or family visa for 5 years or more and lived in the UK the entire time

Contact us

Woodcock Law are immigration experts. We can help you with your application to stay in the UK after you separate from your partner by guiding you to the best visa route for your situation.

We are here to help you during this difficult time. Get in touch today to claim your FREE 10-minute consultation with a member of our team. 

Ready for assistance?

If you have any questions about the changes or want legal advice, contact
Woodcock Law & Notary Public today. Contact us by phone on +44 (0)20 7712 1705 or
by email at info@woodcocklaw.co.uk.

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