Civil partnership is a legal relationship

It gives same-sex couples the ability to obtain legal recognition of their relationship. Couples who form a civil partnership will have a legal status - that of a civil partner.

Same-sex couples who form a civil partnership will have parity (equal) of treatment in a wide range of legal matters with heterosexual couples who enter into a civil marriage.

How does civil partnership differ from marriage? 

Civil partnership is exclusively for same-sex couples and distinct from marriage. The government has sought to give civil partners parity of treatment with married heterosexual couples from the rights and responsibilities that come from forming a civil partnership. 

There are a small number of differences between civil partnership and marriage, for example, a civil partnership is formed when the second civil partner signs the relevant document and a civil marriage is formed when the couple exchange spoken words. Opposite sex couples can opt for a religious or civil marriage ceremony as they choose, whereas formation of a civil partnership will be an exclusively civil procedure.

Am I eligible to form a civil partnership?

In order to form a civil partnership in the UK, the couple must both be of the same sex, not already in a civil partnership or marriage, be 16 years of age or older and not within the prohibited degrees of relationship.

In England and Wales and Northern Ireland, individuals who are aged 16 and 17 will have to obtain the written consent of their parent(s) or legal guardian(s) before forming a civil partnership. In Scotland individuals aged 16 or over will be able to register their partnership without the need for parental consent. This is also the rule, in Scotland, for opposite sex couples who marry.

How do we go about forming a civil partnership? 

If you both live in Southwark, you will both need to visit the registration service to give formal notice in person of your intention to enter in a civil partnership. You will need to make an appointment to do this by calling us on 020 7525 7651  Download a map of our office. 

There will be a period of 15 days that will need to pass between giving this notice and being able to register as civil partners of each other. This will allow the registration service to make the proper checks to ensure that you both meet the eligibility requirements. Download a list of things you will need to bring with you. 

When you give notice of your intention to form a civil partnership, you will be asked where you want your civil partnership registration to take place.

A civil partnership is formed when the proposed civil partners sign the relevant document in the presence of a registration officer and two witnesses. 

There are special procedures for forming a civil partnership when one of the couple is seriously ill and not expected to recover, or is detained in a hospital or prison, or when one of the parties are subject to UK immigration control. Download information on what happens when you are subject to immigration control.

Can I have a ceremony? 

Of course you can! You will be able to arrange a ceremony in addition to the registration procedure if you wish, but if you choose not to, the Civil Partnership Act does not require a ceremony as part of the registration procedure.

Civil partnership registration is an entirely secular process and the Civil Partnership Act prevents any religious service from taking place during the statutory steps leading to the formation of a civil partnership.

You can work with the registrar to put together a ceremony that will be meaningful for you. We have lots of experience of ceremonies, so we are here to help.

How much will it cost?

To give notice of your intent to enter into a civil partnership costs £33.50 for each person

If you don't want a ceremony and just want to sign the relevant paperwork the statutory fee is £43.50

If you require a ceremony in the garden room, the fee is £141

If you require a ceremony with more than 50 guests, our approved venues are for you. View the list of fees for registrars to attend

All listed approved venues are licensed for both marriages and civil partnerships. See the approved venues.

Marriage registrations

At Southwark register office we want to make sure that your special day runs as smoothly and successfully as possible. Here you can find out what steps you need to take before you get married.

You are always welcome to contact us for further information, help or any advice you might need.

You can obtain a copy of a marriage certificate online.

Where can I get married?

You are able to get married in places that have been officially registered for marriages.

These are

a register office. Contact us for a booklet on Southwark's marriage suite

an approved building; in Southwark this includes several halls, historic venues and even ships. View the list of approved venues or pick up a copy from the register office

a place of religious worship in the borough where one of you lives

a place of religious worship outside the borough in which you both live but which one of you uses as a place of worship

Do I have to give notice that I want to get married?

Telling us that you intend to get married is a legal requirement.

First, you must decide on the venue where you would like to be married, before registering your intent to marry. If you want a civil ceremony, you must give notice to the registrar in both of the boroughs in which you and your partner live, unless one or both of you is subject to immigration control. Please phone to make an appointment to do this. You must do this at least 15 days but not more than 12 months before the wedding ceremony.

When you arrive to give notice of your wedding you will be greeted by one of our registrars who will ask you to sign an official, legal declaration confirming that the details in the notice are correct. If you sign your name to false information you may find yourself the subject of a legal investigation and possibly prosecution.

If you are getting married in a church, the Church of England and the Church of Wales are able to issue their own notification paperwork. People from other religions must come to the register office to give notice of their marriage.

What documents do I need to bring to complete the notice?

You must bring originals of the following (photocopies are not acceptable):

proof of identity - this should be passports for you and your partner or birth certificates (only if you are British nationals)

proof of residence - a bank statement, credit card bill, full driver's licence or medical card or council tax statement for yourself and your intended. Utility bills are not acceptable

if you have been married before, bring a document to show that the marriage has ended: a death certificate and previous marriage certificate if you are a widower or widow, or a decree absolute if you are divorced

if any documents are in a language other than English, you need to get these translated before giving them to the registrar. They will be submitted to the registrar general for verification

Immigration control

From 1 February 2005, the Asylum and Immigration Act 2005 states that if you or the person you wish to marry are subject to immigration control, you can only give your notices at a special designated register office (ie, Southwark register office) that you must attend together. Find out further information on giving notice if you are subject to immigration control.

Certificate of non-impediment

For information about a certificate of non-impediment, which is issued to a British citizen who is marrying a non-British citizen abroad, please contact the register office directly for more information on 020 7525 7651.

When do I give notice?

If you and your partner have both lived in Southwark for at least the past seven days you must give notice to Southwark register office. The notice is displayed for 15 days, after which you may marry. The marriage must take place within a year of giving notice.

If your partner lives in another borough then notice must be made in each borough and the notice collected from the other borough after 16 days and returned to the Southwark office. Remember to do this before you get married. If one person lives abroad, they must live in the borough at least seven days before the notice can be given.

The above procedure is also known as 'marriage by certificate'. Until January 2001 it was also possible to get married by special licence that involved only one of the couple giving notice of marriage; this option is no longer available as the law has been changed.

Appointments and walk-in service

As of Monday 2 February 2009, we will be offering a full appointment service. Customers wishing to give their notice of marriage or civil partnership will need an appointment to do so. Please contact us on 020 7525 7651 Monday to Friday 9.30am to 4pm.

Appointments are also now available for saturday mornings.

Who can conduct the ceremony?

The ceremony must be conducted by

the superintendent registrar and registrar of marriage or

an authorised person (a priest, vicar) who will register the marriage and issue you with a marriage certificate

How much does it cost?

Ceremony services

The following costs are effective from 6 April 2010:

notice fee (per person), £33.50

ceremony at register office - Monday to Thursday, £40

ceremony at register office - Friday and Saturday, £141

copy certificate at the time of registration, £3.50

marriage in church £83.50

Attendance of the registrars at an approved building

Monday to Thursday £265

Friday or Saturday £385

Sunday/Bank Holiday £410

These charges must be paid in cash, or by cheque supported by a cheque guarantee card or by credit or debit card. Please make cheques payable to the London Borough of Southwark. Please ensure that you include a daytime contact number with any correspondence.

Southwark register office

Monday to Friday: 9.30am to 4pm

Address: 34 Peckham Road

LONDON

SE5 8QA

Tel: 020 7525 7651

Fax: 020 7525 7652

registrars@southwark.gov

.uk

Giving notice if you are subject to immigration control

Giving notice to marry if you are subject to immigration control

If you do not have settled status in the United Kingdom then you are subject to immigration control and you must apply for a Certificate of Approval (COA) from the Home Office before you can give notice to marry or register your civil partnership. If both of you are subject to immigration control, each of you must apply for a Certificate of Approval.

Application form and guidance can be downloaded from the UKBA. The Home Office has suspended the application fee for Certificates of Approval (COA) since 9 April 2009. This means there is no fee for this application at the moment.

You will receive a Certificate of Approval (COA) from the Home Office when your application has been approved. This certificate is valid for three months from the date it is issued and must be used before it expires.

You must surrender your Certificate of Approval (COA) to us when you give notice to marry or register your civil partnership.

Immigration service

Southwark Council is the first council in the UK to offer wider immigration services. We offer applications for

the Home Office and British posts abroad

all categories under the points based system (Tiers 1, 2, 4 &, 5)

further leave to remain, initial and extension or switching

indefinite leave to enter or indefinite leave to remain

marriage and civil partnership

certificate of approval (COA)

unmarried and same sex partner

dependant applications

visitor applications

registration certificates

residence cards and family member residence stamps

worker registration scheme

british citizenship (naturalisation & registration)

We also offer a Nationality Checking Service for those applying for British Citizenship. All of the above services are not restricted to Southwark residents.

Fees

£61 for a single application

£109 for a couple application

£27 for any additional minors

All fees include VAT. Our fees may be paid by cheque (with a guarantee card), made out to the London Borough of Southwark, or by debit/credit card or cash. Please note that these fees are in addition to the normal fee payable to the Home Office for processing your application.

To use this service, please telephone 020 7525 7651 and a non refundable £20 deposit will be taken to secure an  appointment. See FAQs for our cancellation policy. 

Our service standards

We are committed to providing excellent service. We will

assess your immigration matters thoroughly and provide confidential immigration advice that will best meet your specific immigration requirements

ensure that you supply all the correct documents in support of your application

ensure you use the correct application form(s) and pay the correct Home Office fee(s) to avoid delay

submit your application on time and liaise with the Home Office if there are any outstanding issues concerning your supporting documents or application

keep you informed regularly of the progress of your application and its outcome

If you want to compliment us or make a comment, tell a member of staff or the service manager. Alternatively, please fill in the the compliment, complaint and comment form.

If for any reason we are unable to resolve the problem between us, or you do not wish to make your complaint through Southwark Council you may make a complaint, at any time, to the Commissioner directly. The complaint should be sent to the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner.

We are licensed by the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC). We are also a member of the Immigration Law Practitioner's Association (ILPA).

Changes to the certificate of approval scheme

26 July 2010

The government has today announced its intention to abolish the 'certificate of approval' scheme. A Remedial Order under the Human Rights Act 1998 has been laid in Parliament to achieve this aim.

At present, any migrant who is already in the UK and is subject to immigration control must apply for a certificate of approval before they can get married or register a civil partnership in this country (unless they are getting married within the Anglican Church).

The government is now seeking to remedy the declaration by the UK courts that the scheme is incompatible with Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights (read with Article 12). Additionally, changes made following rulings from the courts have weakened the scheme, and it is no longer an effective method of preventing sham marriage.

Do I still need to apply for a certificate of approval if I want to get married or register a civil partnership?

Yes, if you are subject to immigration control. The certificate of approval scheme remains in operation until the Remedial Order comes into force. Applicants will need to follow the current process until further notice.

When will the scheme be abolished?

We expect the scheme to end in late 2010 or early 2011, subject to Parliamentary scrutiny.

We do not know how long it will take for the process of parliamentary scrutiny to be completed. When we know the exact date for the abolition of the scheme, we will announce it on this website.

Can I still apply for a repayment of my certificate of approval fee?

Yes. Since 31 July 2009, migrants who applied for a certificate of approval between 2005 and 2009 have been able to apply for their fee to be repaid. They must show that paying the fee caused them real financial hardship at the time of payment.

The formal repayment scheme comes to an end on 31 July 2010. This date has been advertised since the start of the repayment scheme. All requests for repayment received by 31 July 2010 will be processed under the terms of the scheme.

After 31 July 2010, any enquiries about the repayment of the fee should be addressed to:

UK Border Agency,

COA Repayment Scheme,

NCC1,

Lunar House (9th floor),

40 Wellesley Road,

Croydon

CR9 2BY

When the scheme is abolished, will I still need to give notice of my marriage or civil partnership in a designated register office?

Yes. The requirement to give notice in a designated register office is not affected by the proposed abolition of the certificate of approval scheme. The requirement will remain in force when the scheme is abolished.

Applying in the UK - certificate of approval

If you are already in the UK, before giving a registrar notice to marry or register your civil partnership you will need to:

have settled status in the UK; or

get a certificate of approval.

You do not currently need a certificate of approval if you are getting married within the Anglican Church in England and Wales.

If you think you may need to apply for a certificate of approval, you should read the Important information regarding certificate of approval for marriage or civil partnership applications (PDF 432K opens in new window) before you make your application.

You can download the application form for a certificate of approval, and the related guidance, from the right side of this page. Note that you cannot apply for a certificate of approval from outside the UK.

Our service standards set out how quickly we aim to decide applications for certificates of approval. The service standard is that we will decide 65 per cent of applications within four weeks.

If you have sent any documents with your application for a certificate of approval and you would like them returned to you, please fill in the return of document request form for certificate of approval applications and email it to: COA.RODRequests-@UKBA.gsi.gov.uk.  You can download the return of document request form under 'related documents' on the right side of this page.  Once we have received your request form it can take up to twenty working days for your documents to be returned.

With effect from 9 April 2009, we have suspended the application fee for certificates of approval. This means that you do not need to pay a fee if you are applying for a certificate of approval.

The fee has been suspended in order to comply with the House of Lords' judgment in the case of Baiai v the Secretary of State for the Home Department.