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Unmarried partners


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An interesting case is circulating amongst immigration lawyers at the moment but has not been officially reported.

The Asylum and Immigration Tribunal reporting process is somewhat opaque, to put it mildly. Back in The Day, the tribunal used to send copies of all determinations to various organisations, and then lawyers could publicise or report whichever decisions they chose. Decisions that were influential were usually written by respected judges and there was a sort of Darwinian survival of the fittest element to the whole thing. Admittedly some lawyers did try citing daft decisions sometimes.

The process was given a distinctly Creationist make-over a few years ago. The tribunal decided that it only wanted lawyers and judges reading the decisions that it chose. A panel seems to have been set up that selects its favourite decisions. There is a widespread perception amongst immigration lawyers that it only seems to select decisions that are adverse to immigrants. I couldn’t possibly comment on that.

The decision this post is about is an unusually liberal one. It finally and belatedly puts married and unmarried partners on a par. The Home Office had been insisting that a policy called DP3/96 did not not apply to unmarried partners. It doesn’t, the tribunal found, but the Home Office introduced an almost exactly equivalent one back in 1999, they put it in their guidance to their caseworkers and they should jolly well start applying it.

Bottom line: if you have been in the UK living with someone for two years before the Home Office started enforcement action against you, some or all of that time you have had no immigration status and it is not reasonable for your partner to relocate with you to your home country (watch out, this requires something more than mere hardship), then you should be granted three years of Discretionary Leave. Enforcement action includes notifying you that you are an overstayer and that you are liable to removal. The people most likely to benefit are therefore overstayers rather than asylum seekers, as most asylum seekers have enforcement action started against them fairly early on.

Why hasn’t this decision been reported? Good question. Perhaps it will be, but there seems to be no hurry.

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The Free Movement blog was founded in 2007 by Colin Yeo, a barrister at Garden Court Chambers specialising in immigration law. The blog provides updates and commentary on immigration and asylum law by a variety of authors.


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