Entering the UK As a Partner
When a couple decide to make a visa application for the foreign partner to enter the UK, the stress of overcoming the immigration hurdles will generally result in their placing complete trust and submission to any legal advice they receive. In that state of stress and anxiety (during what is invariably an intense time), many immigration lawyers will request that “the Applicant” (Foreign spouse) and “the Sponsor” (British spouse) hand over copies of their personal email and text messages to satisfy the Home Office’s non-negotiable requirement that they have a “genuine and subsisting relationship”.
Genuine and Subsisting Relationship
Admittedly, with sham marriages being a reality, the Home Office will want to ensure that the relationship is authentic and that the immigration system is not being abused. This in theory is totally reasonable. What is not entirely reasonable or accurate, however, is the assumption that to prove that the marriage is not a sham, one must expose the communications of the early relationship which had never been drafted in contemplation of public consumption.
It is fair to say that most people, including those very lawyers making that stony request, would balk at the thought of exposing bare their own personal life and no matter how clinical the process is made, it isn’t the most comfortable request. The internet is awash with Google results all asserting that emails and text messages should be submitted to prove the relationship is “genuine and subsisting”. So, when the Applicant and Sponsor are asked to do this, it simply echoes the results of their own independent research and they willingly, but reluctantly, oblige.
Nevertheless, the fact is that, in most cases, this request is completely unnecessary and despite a lawyer’s best intentions, there are a plethora of different routes in which the Applicant can prove that their relationship is “genuine and subsisting”. There may be a few cases where the overall evidence is so scant that it may well be worth submitting those personal exchanges, but to state this as a blanket demand is unnecessary and quite frankly, the couple’s dignity can easily be spared.
Evidence required for a Genuine and Subsisting Relationship
In the event that the clients do have to provide emails and text messages, it is far too simplistic to request that they submit those of an intimate, personal or sexual nature which tends to be the case when lawyers make an unconsidered, blanket request without really reflecting on the specifics of that particular Application.
It could be argued that messages with sexual content could in theory be sent to and received from any random individual but an argument or (usually incoherent) rant on the other hand, would really only be had with someone with whom you were in “genuine and subsisting relationship”. Boring exchanges containing shopping lists or reminders to take out the rubbish must carry more weight than the more prosaic, romantic or indeed racy kind, as by implication they demonstrate domestic union and co-dependency, the real test of a “genuine and subsisting relationship”.
If after all that, your own exchanges do not rise to the threshold required by the Home Office then perhaps consider including that venomous text message from your mother-in-law, which would be authentic words that you would only ever receive in the context of a “genuine and subsisting relationship”.
Other helpful types of evidence that can be submitted to prove a “genuine and subsisting relationship” include evidence of travel together, whether that be flight confirmation, accommodation bookings or holiday photos. Utility bills, bank statements and letters in both partners’ names, as well online purchases to the same address, are also very useful. For those couples who do not live together before marriage, photos with friends and family are useful, as well as statements from third parties who can vouch for the authenticity of the relationship.
Submission of a UK Spouse Visa does have to be supported with a substantial number of documents that carry strong evidential weight. Proving that the relationship between the Applicant and Sponsor is genuine and subsisting, is one of the areas that the Home Office will scrutinise carefully. Ultimately, however, the evidential burden will be one which is finely balanced and which should be neither “too much information” nor “too little”. Understanding where this balance lies can be challenging especially when the Applicant has little previous experience with the Home Office. Advising as to the appropriate evidence that will maximise an applicant’s chance of success is something that we at Burlingtons can assist with.