Delivering Results through Excellence
Certificate of Approval
Complete information regarding Certificate of Approval (COA) for Marriage or Civil Partnership immigration applications.
1.1 You will need to obtain entry clearance
as a fiancé(e), or a proposed civil partner, or a marriage visitor or
civil partnership visitor.
1.2 You should apply for fiancé(e) or
proposed civil partner entry clearance if you are planning to travel to
marry or register your civil partnership with someone already in the UK
and you plan to stay in the country. You should apply for a marriage or
civil partnership visitor entry clearance if you only want to visit the
UK to get married or register your civil partnership, but do not plan to
stay for more than six months.
1.3 These rules apply, irrespective of
whether you are a visa national (a person who needs a visa in order to
gain entry to the UK for any purpose) or a non-visa national. You won't
be able to give to a registrar notice to marry or register your civil
partnership without the correct valid sticker in your passport or travel
1.4 You should apply for your entry
clearance at a British Embassy, Consulate, or High Commission in the
country overseas where you are normally resident.
1.5 A fee, currently £585, is payable for
fiancé(e) or proposed civil partner entry clearance.
1.6 A fee, currently £67, is payable for
marriage or civil partnership visitor entry clearance.
1.7 If you are applying for a fiancé(e) or
proposed civil partnership entry clearance, both parties to the marriage
or civil partnership must be over 18 years of age.
2.2 then you will not require a certificate
of approval for marriage or civil partnership in order to be able to
give to a registrar notice to marry or register your civil partnership.
2.3 If you do not fall into category (a) or
(b) or (c) at para. 2.1 above, you will need to apply for a certificate
of approval from the Home Office (unless you benefit from the present
exemption set out at section 5.1 of this note).
3.1 The original scheme required an applicant to have current leave to enter or remain in the UK for more than six months, and for at least three months of that leave to be remaining when the applicant made their COA application.
3.2. Following a judgement in the High
Court amendments to the scheme were introduced for applicants who
had insufficient leave to enter or remain in the UK to meet the
published certificate of approval (COA) criteria when applying.
[Insufficient leave originally meant that the person was granted six
months leave to enter/remain or less, and had less than three months
3.3 Under these new
procedures if you were a person who had
insufficient leave to enter or remain at the
time of applying for a COA, we may write
to you asking that you submit further
information in support of your application to
enable us to be satisfied that your proposed
marriage or civil partnership is genuine. Any
such letter from us will ask for information
3.6 It is important to note that, since the
above changes, the COA scheme has been revised further, and that
you need to read the following section in order to understand the
3.7 A judgement in the
Appeal on 23 May 2007 declared the pre-April 2006
original certificate of approval scheme unlawful. The Home Office
appealed to the House of Lords against the Court of Appeal judgement,
and the Lords gave their judgement on 30 July 2008. The Home Office
is in the process of considering the Lords’ judgement, and will update
this website with its conclusions.
3.8 Pending the result of its appeal to the
House of Lords, the Home Office further amended the certificate
of approval scheme in order to ensure that it complied fully with the
Court of Appeal judgement.
3.9 The following points summarise the
3.10 We can provide you with the current
application form for your application where we are acting for you
3.11 All applications have to be made by post, as you will not be able to apply in person at the Border and Immigration Agency’s Public Enquiry Offices for this service.
3.12 We recommend that applications are sent
by Royal Mail Recorded Delivery. You should allow between 20 and 70
working days for your application to be processed.
3.13 The certificate is valid for three
months from the date it is issued. You must give your notice to marry or
register your civil partnership within this time. The certificate allows
you to give notice to marry or register your civil partnership and does
not mean you will be guaranteed leave as a spouse or civil partner.
3.14 If both people getting married or
registering a civil partnership are subject to immigration control, they
both need to make separate applications for their certificates of
approval. The Home Office will not reissue a replacement certificate if
you lose the original. You will have to make a new application.
4.1 If you are a person subject to
immigration control, you and the person whom you plan to marry, or with
whom you plan to register your civil partnership, will need to give, at
a designated register office, notice to marry or register your civil
partnership. All the registration offices in Scotland and Northern
Ireland are designated registration offices and 76 register offices in
England and Wales have been selected as designated register offices. A
list of these 76 offices is available on the General Register Office
website and the UK Border Agency website. See section 6 for these
4.2 In England and Wales, both of you must
have at least seven days residence in a registration district before you
can give your notices to marry or register your civil partnership. Those
notices can be given at any designated register office, but both of you
must attend together.
4.3 You will need to bring evidence of your
names, addresses, ages, nationalities and, if either of you has been
married or registered a civil partnership before, proof that you are now
free to marry or register a civil partnership.
4.4 In Scotland and Northern Ireland, the
notice to marry or register a civil partnership can be given by post, so
you will not normally have to attend in person, but you may be asked to
attend the Registrar's Office before the wedding or the civil
4.5 You must surrender your certificate
of approval to the registrar when you give your notice to marry or
register your civil partnership. If you are planning to marry or
register your civil partnership in Scotland or Northern Ireland and you
are travelling from abroad, you will need to photocopy the sticker in
your passport and send the photocopy to the registrar along with your
marriage or civil partnership notice papers if you are giving notice by
4.6 After you have given notice to marry or
register your civil partnership, you have to wait 15 full days before
your wedding or registering of your civil partnership can take place (14
days in Scotland and Northern Ireland).
4.7 In England and Wales, once your notice
to marry or register your civil partnership has been accepted, the
wedding or civil partnership can take place at any register office or
approved premises. If you plan to marry at a church or religious
building registered for marriage it must be in the district of residence
where you or the person you plan to marry live.
4.8 The notice to marry or register your
civil partnership is valid for one year from the date on which it was
given in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and for three months in
Scotland. Your marriage or civil partnership must take place within this
time, or you will have to apply for another certificate of approval and
give notice to marry or register your civil partnership again.
4.9 Under section 24 of the Immigration
and Asylum Act 1999 the registrar is legally obliged to report to
the Secretary of State without delay if he has reasonable grounds for
suspecting that the marriage will be a sham marriage.
5.1 The rules on certificates of approval do
not currently apply if you plan to get married at an Anglican Church in
England or Wales, after marriage banns or an ecclesiastical licence. You
must contact a member of the clergy at the church where you plan to get
married to make the appropriate arrangements. However the policy of
excluding these religious ceremonies from the certificate of approval
scheme was declared unlawful by the High Court. The Government has
indicated it will change the rules to bring such marriages within the
scope of the scheme. The date of this change has not yet been
5.2 If you plan to marry in any other form
of religious ceremony, you will have to follow the procedures outlined
above before the marriage ceremony can take place.
For more information about certificates of approval write to:
For more information about visas, see:
ENGLAND AND WALES
Mansouri & Son Solicitors is an English firm of solicitors regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority
© Mansouri & Son Solicitors 2010. Principal Dr Cyrus Mansouri. Mansouri & Son Solicitors do not handle Legal Aid or Publicly Funded cases.