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How to Become a European Resident Through Marriage

Question: How can a UK citizen marry a non EU citizen in Europe? Answer: Hello Chloe, It seems as if there is only one thing for you to do if you want to get married, stay together, and do everything as legally as possible: return to England and get married in your home country. Getting [...]

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Question: How can a UK citizen marry a non EU citizen in Europe?


Hello Chloe,

It seems as if there is only one thing for you to do if you want to get married, stay together, and do everything as legally as possible: return to England and get married in your home country. Getting residency after marriage is rarely every a cut and dry procedure: you don’t just marry someone one day and they can stay in Europe for as long as they want the next. Marriage with the intent of changing residency is  a long process, and, if your boyfriend is already over his Schengen tourist visa I suggest getting out of the region all together.

There are going to be lots of paper work, long waiting periods, a relatively extensive procedure to get through, and, when  it is all over, it is still up to some suit sitting behind a desk to decide if your husband can stay: just because you marry someone does not automatically grant them EU citizenship (or even residency).

But it is possible.

My only advice is to play by the rules, don’t overstay visas, and keep at it. As you are already in the Schengen Zone of Europe, and it seems as if your fiancée is already over his visa,  I would say check into getting him a fiancee visa. Try first in Spain, but if they won’t grant it, I say try to get one for the UK. I know that you can travel through Europe and live pretty much anywhere freely, but it seems to me (from getting a lot of mail about related topics) this may all be easier to do from your home country — the UK.

It seems as if he could get a fiancée visa for the UK without that much difficulty, and once he has this you can go through the other steps of the marriage process step by step without much worry. Within six months of entering the UK with a fiancée visa you need to be married and then he can apply for a two year residency and then make progress towards becoming a permanent resident.

Though there is a good chance that the fiancée visa needs to be applied for while outside of the country, or even in your fiancee’s home country, so this may be probably your biggest obstacle along with getting him through UK immigration with evidence of overstaying a Schengen Visa.

From the UK immigration website:

“When you are married or have registered a civil partnership, you can apply for a two-year extension to your visa and, if your application is granted, you will be allowed to work.”

From my research, it seems as each European country has slightly different rules on transforming a fiancée into a permanent resident, but it seems that he will need to have continuous residency in the country you apply for permanent status in for at least two or three years after being married. I am sure that you could probably do all of this while in Spain, but the fact that he is already not legal there could present problems — especially since many European visas need to be applied for outside of the region, often from the applicant’s home country.

So I suggest trying for a fiancée visa to the UK and see what happens from there. If this does not work, a trip to Venezuela could be in order.

Keep in mind that your fiancée could also be looking at a 3 year ban from the Schenen Zone and a potential fine for overstaying his visa.

Helpful articles:

Feel free to ask additional questions through the comment form below, and please let us know how your situation works out. Thanks.

Walk Slow,


Original question about marrying a non-EU citizen in Europe

hello, I am British and my Boyfriend is from Venezuela and holds a Venezuelan passport. We have been together for over a year and now want to get married in Spain where we have recently moved. In the last year we have traveled to many places (US,Venezuela,UK) We entered Zurich (the Schengen Zone) via the Uk in April this year and then spent some time in Germany and Austria. We decided that we wanted to live in Spain to settle there and that we wanted to get married. We did all the relevant paperwork required for marriage in Spain and those papers have been excepted by the registry office.only to find out that we would have to wait almost 6 months for a our wedding date. So we started looking at other countries where we could marry without such a long wait. On enquiring at Gibraltar registry office we were told that my partner has overstayed his Schengen Visa as his passport was stamped in Zurich in April and on entering Spain Via Girona airport noone was even there to check passports. They were concerned that if we married in Gibraltar that he could get stuck in Gibraltar when he trys to enter Spain again because Spain (the Schengen zone) may notice that he had overstayed prior to his wedding. That they may not let him enter even though he would have a marriage certificate to a European citizen in his hand. Now we are in a complete panic. We are very much in love and only want to reside happily together and are both living in fear of being seperated. Please could let us know what you think?

Many thanks,


Do you have a Schengen visa question?

If so, then take a look at our Schengen visa community forum. It’s a community just for people who have questions or concerns related to Europe’s Schengen immigration zone.
Filed under: England, Europe, Schengen Visas, Spain, Travel Help, Visas

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 91 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3703 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • sayat terziyan February 16, 2011, 7:23 am

    I,m a non EU citizen and I,ve been living in UK for 4 years. 3 years ago I met with my wife who is a French citizen and we married in London soon. I,m given 5 years visa and work permit. Last year we had some big troubles in the relation and my wife is talking about going back to France where I realy don,t like to live. I hope we can solve the problems somehow coming weeks, but I would like to know again :
    Do I have chance to get permanent residency in UK if we can not succeed in the relation and divorce?

    Thank you so much for any advice.

    (Additional info: She,s been living and working in UK for 8 years legaly and given UK nationality in 2009. She is still working and intend to work here at least one more year because of her contrat . I.m working for a big company for more than a year. )

    • Ethan February 20, 2011, 10:03 am

      Once you attain the right to live and work in a EU country nbecause your spouse has EU-rights derived from being a EU citizen, then you as a spouse cannot loose the right to live and work in a country, even if you become divorced. This means that you can remain in the UK and continue to work even if your spouse deserts you to return to France. This has been tested in the EU courts and the right for continued residence of deserted spouses has been upheld. You must be able to support yourself through work or own wealth. After 5 years residence in any EU land then under EU rules you can request permanent residency. This period of 5 years is shorter if you are retired or your spouse dies. Note however, if you leave the UK permanently (ie. move overseas from the UK) before attaining permanent residence in the UK, then you would loose the right to return to live and work in the UK as you no longer have a spouse (you can though have a short holiday from the UK).

      So sit tight, continue to work in the UK, and in a year you can make your permanent residency application, and: good luck with your relationship.

    • Raj April 22, 2012, 1:19 pm


      I am non EU citizen living in UK from past 3 years and working here with rights to live and work. My fiance is french national as working there full time in France. we have plan to marry in couple of months and live together in UK.
      I am completely unaware, what to do next or what will be the best option for us.
      1. should we resister our marriage in UK or in France?
      She never lived in UK & i never lived in France for long (less then month).
      2. she can live and work in UK as french national but can i get dependent visa in UK as our plan is to live here in UK?
      i really don’t wanna live in France as i m on permanent job in UK.

      Thnak you so much for any advice

  • Joanna February 26, 2011, 10:09 pm

    Hiya, hope someone can help.

    I’m a British citizen in south america with plans to take my Argentine boyfriend of 2 years to Europe to live with me there, at least for a few years. We have plans to marry, however, I am in the middle of a divorce right now (separated over 2 years).

    I guess my question is, if I can’t get my divorce sorted out in time, is there any other way to get my boyfriend time in Europe so we can be together until I can divorce my current spouse? We just want to be together and I’m really missing home. We just don’t have the money to fly back and forth and on a regular visa I heard he can only stay in Europe for 3-6 months of each year!

    If I get my divorce and take my boyfriend to the UK on a fiance visa, does anyone know the likely waiting time for a marriage? Also, is there any problem with marrying in another European country?

    All info and suggestions would be greatly appreciated! 🙂

  • amjad September 1, 2011, 4:41 pm

    I,m a non EU citizen i wanna marry my girl friend that she is from Sweden, can i do that even my resident permit have been expired? note i am from Palestine and if i go back its too hard to come back Europe!!

  • Amanda Kirwan October 28, 2011, 11:45 am

    Hi im Irish and my husband is turkish.. we are married just 9 weeks and we have applyed for his visa long stay.. im just a bit worried about all the paper work they ask for.. i work partime as i have 5 children aged from 21to10 yrs.. I get public funds as iv got teh children and im worried they will stop the visa because of this.. i dont have much savings but i have a steedy income for the past 8 years … my husband has some savings to bring to ireland just untill he can find work here.. i would be greatfull if you could help me with some answers.. … Amanda…

    • Wade Shepard October 30, 2011, 6:17 pm

      If your question is whether or not your husband can be denied a visa because of you being on public support and are not able to show adequate funds the short answer is more than likely yes. I would advise you to speak with an immigration lawyer about this and to the Irish immigration department directly. Many countries — including those in Europe — are very strict about not providing citizen tract residency permits to the spouses of their citizens who can not show the proper amount of wealth. In many countries, you cannot be receiving any sort of public assistance to bring a foreign spouse into the country. This are just general rules and I am not sure if they apply to Ireland, so I would check to see what the minimum requirements are or just carry on how you are by applying for his visa — as there does not seem to be much else you can do.

  • Oksana November 4, 2011, 9:27 am

    HI. I am Ukrainian and i have got permanent residency in the UK after working here for 5 years. I been married to Italian citizen month ago and i am due to apply for UK citizen in a few month..does my marriage to EU change anything ? Can i still apply for British citizen?

  • lynn November 6, 2011, 4:20 am

    Hi i have been with my partner for 10 year now we both live in Spain i have lived here for 11 years he has lived here for 20 years. i am from England he is from Argentina we would like to get married. but i would like to go to England to get married there where my familey are what papers ect would my boyfriend need for us to get married

  • Kyle November 6, 2011, 3:45 pm

    Hello quick question. I was recently banned from entering Spain but me (american) and my gf (spainard) want to make a civil marriage. If i get back in the country some how and marry her will it go through? Thank You for all your help

    • Wade Shepard November 11, 2011, 4:56 pm

      That is not the way to go about it. Applying for a fiance visa from your home country is your best bet.

  • Mike November 6, 2011, 4:45 pm

    Hello quick question,
    Im banned from entering spain but me (american) and my gf (spainish) want to get a civil marriage. If i can get back into spain with no questions ask will i be able to marry her?

    • Wade Shepard November 11, 2011, 4:59 pm

      Maybe????? I mean, it is possible. But MANY foreigners have found it easier to apply for fiance/ residency permits from their home countries — many even leave the country of the person that they are marrying just to apply for the appropriate visa. The fact that you are banned may have a big impact on if you will be able to get the visa, but there is probably not much you can do other than try it or wait out the ban.

  • Hayat December 16, 2011, 8:01 am

    I am living in pakistan and my wife is in germany almost for nine years she was married with a german after she got divorced legally and she got permission from the governament to get marry we got married here in pakistan but she is not a german national she had the permanent residency permit and bassicaly she is from phillpines and she had a regular work and enough money to support me as well as my bank balance is sounds good. so my question is that will it be possible that i can got to her on Spousal visa Help me on this please.
    Thanks alot !

  • Simon December 29, 2011, 2:35 pm

    I am British and want to divorce my Australian wife, whom I married in France. We live in France and own property, despite her not being legal to be here. She does not have a eu passport but has been here under the radar for many years. We dont get on any more and i dont want to help her get a visa. What is the easiest way to go about this?

    • Wade Shepard January 14, 2012, 4:12 pm

      I would say go through the normal divorce proceedings and get the property issues straightened out legally.

  • Janett January 21, 2012, 8:03 am

    Hi there.

    Me european and my husband non-european have now been married for 4,5 years – we married in Albania – but all the papers where dealed with in the british embassy downthere. I now moved to Denmark, and my husband are still living in UK(where hes visa is obtained), and we have been talking about divorcing. So my question is, if we divorce what will then happen to him, after we now have been married for such a long time? Does he have any rights to stay in UK, have rights to work etc.? And would it still be possible for him to apply for either permanent stay or british passport/citizenship?

    Looking forward for any advice and answers – thanx very much in advance.

  • Jane March 13, 2012, 2:18 am

    HI. I am Chinese and my BF is English.I have got 2 years residency in Portuga and we both live there.May I ask you can we go to Gibraltar,get married there,then I can apply 2 years UK residency in Gibraltar?

    Many thanks!

  • sauwn March 13, 2012, 9:43 am

    Hi i am from south africa and have a Portuguese pasport i been living in the uk now 4 years i getting maried to my gilfriend in philippines and would like to bring her into the uk to live with me and work here .what would be the easiest way to get her to live with me and work here for 2 years. Please let me know thank you.

  • Sami April 8, 2012, 4:51 pm


    I’m Sami and im from India(Indian Citizen)and I have a relationship with the Slovak girl for more than 4 years, I have been to Slovakia with Schengen visa twice and now we wanted to get together and get married and I wanted to shift to Slovak and work there itself .
    How should we proceed, what is the possibility to get Slovak residency (EU residency).
    Where you want us to get married and how.
    Please suggest me

  • Eviste April 18, 2012, 4:53 am

    My girl friend is a European from Belgium but she still schooling but will graduate in 2 years ,and me i am From Benin.. We both are planning to get engaged next year.. we would like to settle in Canada. I never travelled to Europe or Canada before. i want to ask if i would get any benefit from her European citizenship? # How to get the citizenship of her home country first. Which will be better place for getting engaged is it Europe or Benin .. ????
    # Can we apply for Canada resident permits and how long is its procedure?
    Thank you

  • Tim Radford April 21, 2012, 8:38 am

    Hi , i am a uk citizen living in France, is it possible for me to bring my Thia fiance here to france and marry her? then would she be able to stay here after all the paperwork i know would ensue ?
    Thanks Tim

    • Wade Shepard April 21, 2012, 8:51 pm

      It’s my impression that you need to bring her to the UK first on a fiance visa, live there together for at least two years, then you can apply for permanent leave status, then after another year apply for citizenship. Then you can move back to France.

  • Micheal Yass May 2, 2012, 7:29 am

    I am an Australian living in the UK on a work permit. I got married last year to an Eu-citizen. Can i now work for a different company in the UK? The work permit i’m currently on expires next year. What are my options? Thanks

    • Wade Shepard May 2, 2012, 8:33 am

      Your marriage to an EU citizen means nothing unless you’ve already went through the residency procedure and received and EU passport. If you don’t have this it looks like you’ll need to apply for a new work permit.

  • Shaik May 6, 2012, 3:13 am


    I’m Sami and im from India(Indian Citizen)and I have a relationship with the Slovak girl for more than 4 years, I have been to Slovakia with Schengen visa twice and now we wanted to get together and get married and I wanted to shift to Slovak and work there itself .
    How should we proceed, what is the possibility to get Slovak residency (EU residency).
    Where you want us to get married and how.
    Please suggest me

  • Caleb May 11, 2012, 5:05 pm

    Hi, I am a Nigerian studying in the UK for my Masters degree. I have a girlfriend who is a UK citizen and we have decided to get married. Please, must we get married before my Visa expires and if we get married, will I have permit to work here in the UK. I am on a student Visa which will expire by January, 2013.
    Thank you.
    Mr. Wade Shepard, I just want to say that you are really doing a great job with this website. Keep it up.

    • Wade Shepard May 11, 2012, 8:19 pm

      Most people need to exit the region, have their previous visa canceled, apply for a fiance visa, return, cohabitate for at least 2 years with their new spouse, then apply for permanent leave to stay which leads to residency and eventually citizenship.

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