Since we published our article on "The interactions of non-domiciled status and British citizenship by naturalisation", we have been engaged in many discussions with clients and fellow practitioners on this hot topic. However, the lesser-known but potentially more fatal interaction of domicile and UK immigration is related to the Partner Visa route under Appendix FM of the Immigration Rules.
The Partner Visa is available to those who are either a spouse, civil partner or an unmarried partner of a British citizen or someone who is settled in the UK. One of the relationship requirements is that "The applicant and partner must intend to live together permanently in the UK" (E-ECP.2.10 of the Immigration Rules). The Home Office guidance further provides that "If the applicant, their partner or both have spent the majority of the period overseas, there may be reason to doubt that the couple intend to live together permanently in the UK. Each case must be judged on its merits, taking into account reasons for travel, length of absence and whether the applicant and partner travelled and lived together during the time spent outside the UK."
"Do you intend to live with your partner permanently in the United Kingdom?" is one of the questions on the online application form for the Partner Visa. Although answering "I do" to this question does not necessarily mean that the applicant will acquire a UK domicile of choice automatically, the risk and potential consequences are not insignificant.
The question of domicile is often more relevant to high or ultra-high net worth individuals. If acquiring a domicile of choice in the UK (and therefore paying UK tax on the arising basis and being liable to UK Inheritance Tax at up to 40% on the individual’s worldwide estate) will cause concern to the applicant, then expert advice should be sought and other visa routes (e.g. Tier 1 (Investor)) should be explored.