It was hard to miss the recent announcement of Prince Harry's engagement to Meghan Markle and the promise of another Royal wedding, set to take place in May 2018. Amongst all the details confirmed so far, Clyde & Co's Immigration team has been reading with interest press articles about Ms Markle's ability to apply for visas and even, according to some reports, quickly acquire British citizenship.
Taking a step back, as a non-European national, Ms Markle will require entry clearance, i.e. a visa, in order to enter the UK to tie the knot with Prince Harry. There are a few different UK visa categories which would allow her to do so – including as a fiancée for 6 months, during which time she could not work in the UK. Once married, she could then apply to vary her status to being a spouse of a British citizen.
For many applicants, satisfying the legal requirements for a fiancée / spousal visa is often not straightforward. Applicants must demonstrate their relationship is 'genuine', they meet certain financial/income requirements, that they satisfy English language requirements and have suitable accommodation in the UK – all presumably not an issue in Ms Markle's case! Plus, the Home Office must be satisfied that an applicant can support themselves in the UK without recourse to Public Funds (happily, any money granted to the Royal family by Parliament is not classed as a Public Fund).
If a spousal visa is granted, it is expected that Ms Markle will need to have held that visa for at least five years before becoming eligible for Indefinite Leave to Remain and then need to apply to naturalise as the spouse of a British citizen. She would have a few more hoops to jump through, including a 'Life in the UK Test' and an assessment of her absences from the UK. In some very exceptional cases, the Home Office may have discretion to grant citizenship outside of the ordinary rules – such as for example was the case for barefooted runner Zola Budd, which in itself generated something of a political furore. Regardless, no doubt the wedding will go ahead and we can all look forward to the big day.