I am currently applying for a marriage visitor visa for UK and am wondering if we could have our religious wedding (Church Blessing with a certified Minister who has already accepted to give us the blessing) in England more than 6 months after our civil wedding. I would be entering the country as a tourist (Brazilian national)for the religious blessing+celebration with family and friends then, since the marriage visa would have expired by then (post our civil wedding). Is this illegal, which I am trying to understand in order to avoid any breach of immigration law? Many thanks for your assistance,
A Marriage Visa is only required if you are getting married in a legal sense. If you are having a ceremony of blessing, which does not confer any legal status, then you do not need the visa. UK does not recognize a "service of blessing" as having any legal status, especially if you are already legally married in a civil ceremony. Hence you do not need a special visa for it.
To avoid confusion I would take extra care to always refer to the ceremony as something other than a wedding when dealing with UK immigration, or anyone they might be in contact with. This is especially true when arriving in the UK. Do not say you are here to be married, even if you privately consider the religious wedding to be the real one, and the legal wedding just a formality. I would also make sure you have a document with you that proves you are already legally married that you can show to immigration. Make sure when you apply for visa that you refer to each other as 'spouse'.
I am assuming that the civil ceremony has happened before the religious one, and that it is legally binding and recognized in UK law.
I'd like to post the outcome of my visa application on this thread in case it helps someone in the same circumstances - we received our Entry Clearance (Marriage Visitor Visa for 6 months - Brazilian citizen) 10 working days from my application date. I added plenty of evidence that our relationship is genuine, ie Engagement and Christmas cards, a letter from someone who's known us as a couple for a long time, my engagement ring invoice and certificate. Also letters/emails from the Registrar where we are planning to get married. Make sure you make it clear on a cover letter to the Immigration officer that you are not planning to settle in the UK after you get married and that you have enough ties to your country of residence - work, studies etc to go back to (letters of employment from your employer and your spouse's etc). Our Bank statements showed movement all year round and enough money to cover travel expenses stated in the application - be careful to not contradict yourself here, the bank statements must show you are able to fund your trip. We also added Savings account statements so worth adding if you have spare money somewhere other than your main income bank account. The most important is to cover all relevant areas for them to make a decision and leave no room for doubt regarding your statements to the UK Border on your cover letter. Make a summary of the documents you are submitting on an Excel spreadsheet and cross-check against the document list they send you once you finalize your application. Show it to someone who can find gaps you might have missed, that helped as well. Good Luck! We are on our way to giving notice of marriage very soon, wish anyone who's applying for this visa the same outcome, getting married is stressful in itself already :)