Foreign gays get same right to stay in UK as straight partners

FOREIGNERS IN gay relationships with British nationals are be given new rights to live permanently in the UK.

Home Office ministers have decided to relax the rules on citizenship for homosexuals to bring them closer into line with the law for heterosexual married couples.

They want to halve the amount of time that a gay couple must have been together in order for the foreign partner to gain residency rights.

The move, which comes after months of behind-the-scenes wrangling in Whitehall, is certain to infuriate "family values" campaigners, including Baroness Young, the Conservative peer who led the successful move in the Lords to block the Government's attempt to lower the age of consent for homosexuals.

The change would be the most concrete recognition yet by the Government of the status of gay relationships. It is understood that an announcement about the change to the law has been delayed because Downing Street fears it will provoke a row.

Under the current rules, gay couples must prove that they have lived together for four years before the foreign partner can qualify for a British passport. However, gay rights campaigners argue that this puts them in a "Catch-22" situation because it is impossible for them to spend enough time legally in the same country.

Mike O'Brien, the Immigration Minister, intends to cut the time requirement. He believes that the non-British partner should then be able to apply for "probationary" leave to stay after this initial period before qualifying for full citizenship after four years.

The change would also apply to cohabiting heterosexuals, but only if they can demonstrate a reason they cannot get married.

Home Office ministers are determined to press ahead with the change because they believe that the existing rules are too tough and could leave the Government open to legal challenge. Last week, a Malaysian man refused the right to stay with his partner in Britain was granted leave to apply for a judicial review. Lawyers believe that he stands a good chance of winning because it would have been impossible for the couple to build up four years together in Malaysia where homosexuality is illegal. Another gay couple is challenging the four year rule in the European Court of Human Rights on the grounds that it is discriminatory and impossible to fulfil.

Mr O'Brien met several couples who face being split up at a reception organised by the gay rights lobbying group Stonewall. Although the four year rule was only introduced 18 months ago, the Home Office launched a review of it in December. Only a quarter of the 200 people who applied for residency in the UK to stay with their gay partner last year were successful.

Mark Watson, communications director for Stonewall, said the current rules were "ridiculous". "It is impossible for couples to build up the four years they need to get residency rights because they are not allowed to stay in the same country for that length of time," he said.

Mick Chatwin, the legal director of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants also supports the change. "There is great difficulty for couples to show the kind of evidence they are expected to show at the moment," he said.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
An iceberg in Ilulissat, Greenland; researchers have been studying the phenomena of the melting glaciers and their long-term ramifications for the rest of the world (Getty)
news
Environment
environment
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Jackman bears his claws and loses the plot in X-Men movie 'The Wolverine'
film
Arts and Entertainment
'Knowledge is power': Angelina Jolie has written about her preventive surgery
film
News
Zayn has become the first member to leave One Direction. 'I have to do what feels right in my heart,' he said
peopleWe wince at anguish of fans, but his 1D departure shows the perils of fame in the social media age
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing