Spouse Visa Applications
in the UK in 2023
One of the most frequently asked questions in immigration is people asking how to bring their family members to the UK. There are different immigration routes available to bring family members to the UK depending on your immigration status, relationship with the family member, and personal circumstances.
Some of the most common family visas are:
- Spouse, Civil Partner or Unmarried Partner Visa: This visa is for partners of British citizens or settled persons who wish to join them in the UK.
- Parent Visa: This visa is for a parent or grandparent of a British citizen or settled person who may be eligible to apply for a visa to join them in the UK.
- Child Visa: This visa is for a child under 18 years old of a British citizen or settled person who may be eligible to join their parent(s) in the UK.
- Adult Dependent Relative Visa: This visa is for elderly or dependent relatives of British citizens or settled persons who require long-term care.
Applying as Dependants Instead
It is important to note that you cannot apply for the above-mentioned family visas for your family member if you are in the UK temporarily on a work visa or student visa. You can apply for them to stay in the UK as your dependants instead.
If you are an EU citizen with settled or pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme, your close family members may be eligible to apply for the EU Settlement Scheme family permit for free to join you in the UK.
However, bear in mind that each of these routes has specific eligibility criteria, fees, and conditions attached to the leave. A legal advisor may help you explore all your options and decide which route is best suited for your particular familial circumstances.
In this blog, we will take a closer look at the spouse visa application process in the UK. We will discuss eligibility criteria, financial requirements, and other important considerations to keep in mind when applying to join your partner in the UK.
Whether you’re just starting the application process or you’re looking for information to help you navigate your current application, we hope this article will provide valuable insights and guidance to help you on your journey.
To apply for Entry Clearance as a partner, your partner must first meet one of the following criteria:
1. They are a British or Irish citizen. It does not matter if they were born in the UK, are British by descent, or were naturalised. Further, they do not need to be settled or even physically present in the UK at the time of the application.
2. They are settled in the UK – for example, if they have indefinite leave to remain, settled status, or proof of permanent residence in the UK.
3. They are an EU national with pre-settled status, and they must have started living in the UK before 1 January 2021.
4. They have a Turkish Businessperson visa or Turkish Worker visa.
5. They have protection status in the UK (they are a refugee or a person with humanitarian protection).
Both you and your partner must also:
• be aged 18 or over, and
• not be close relatives, and
• have met in person.
For your application to be successful, that you will have to meet all 4 requirements under the Appendix FM of the Immigration Rules.
To meet the relationship requirement, you must show that you have been living with your unmarried partner in a relationship for at least 2 years when you apply.
Alternatively, you must be able to prove that you are in a civil partnership or marriage that is recognised in the UK.
If you are a fiancé(e) or proposed civil partner, you must show that you will marry or enter into a civil partnership in the UK within 6 months of arriving.
In all cases, you must also demonstrate that you are in a genuine and subsisting relationship with your partner at the time of the application and that all your previous relationships have permanently broken down. If you or your partner were previously married, it is necessary to provide divorce documentation before they can qualify for a fiancé(e) or spouse visa.
Finally, you and your partner must show that you intend to live together permanently in the UK after you apply.
* Fiancé(e)s and proposed civil partners *
If you are a fiancé(e) or proposed civil partner planning to get married in the UK, you can obtain a visa specifically for this purpose. If your application is successful, you will be granted six months’ leave to enter the UK. Once you are married, you can then apply for a partner visa under Appendix FM to remain in the UK for another 30 months.
This fiancé(e) route is valuable for couples who want to have their wedding or civil partnership in the UK or may not be able to marry in their country of origin, for example, because same-sex marriages are not permitted there. However, it is important to note that this route may incur additional costs and time, as it involves two separate applications.
Further, the six-month fiancé visa does not allow you to work or study in the UK, nor can you access NHS care without charge. These conditions will continue until you secure further leave to remain in the UK as a spouse following the marriage or civil partnership.
One of the trickiest parts of the application process is making sure you meet the financial requirement. Three financial tests that may apply, depending on your financial circumstances: the minimum income requirement, the minimum savings requirement, or adequate maintenance and accommodation.
(a) Minimum income requirement
The minimum income requirement for a couple is currently set at £18,600, but you may need to prove you have additional funds if you have children. The additional amount required is £3,800 for the first child and £2,400 for each subsequent child. However, this does not apply to children who are British/Irish, Settled in the UK, or in the UK with EU pre-settled status.
(b) Minimum savings requirement
If you fall short of the minimum income can make it up with savings. The calculation is as follows:
Minimum savings requirement = £16,000 + (2.5 x the difference between the actual gross annual income and the total gross annual income required).
Where you choose to rely solely on savings, the calculation is as follows:
£16,000 +(2.5 x £18,600) = £62,500.
(c) Adequate maintenance and accommodation
If your partner settled in the UK is receiving one or more of a list of specified disability-related public funds, you may rely on the ‘adequate maintenance’ test instead of proving you have the required gross minimum income or savings.
In this case, you will have to provide evidence that your partner is able to maintain and accommodate you and any children adequately in the UK without recourse to public funds. They must also provide you with adequate accommodation that is not overcrowded or contravenes public health regulations.
However, this is a more complex financial test, which examines your partner’s living costs and then considers whether you as a couple have sufficient income when compared to families of a similar size receiving income support. You are advised to ask for legal advice if you think this may apply to you.
To meet this requirement, you will need to demonstrate to the Entry Clearance Officer that you can join and reside with your partner in an accommodation that is adequate and spacious enough to accommodate your family without the risk of overcrowding.
English Language Requirement
Finally, you must demonstrate that you speak English at a minimum of level A1 on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). There are three main ways to meet this requirement:
The first is if you are a citizen of a majority English-speaking country, such as the US or Australia.
The second is to have an English-language academic qualification. However, if your degree was awarded outside the UK, it must be deemed acceptable by an organisation called Ecctis.
The third is passing an English language test in speaking and listening at the required level. The test is valid only if it was taken with a provider approved by the Home Office. For more details on the approved test providers, you can read our blog post dedicated to the English Language Requirement.
You will only be exempt from the English language requirement if you are over 65 or have (very) exceptional circumstances, such as a physical or mental condition that impairs you from learning English.
Home Office Fees and Processing Times
The standard processing time to get a decision is within 24 weeks once you attend the biometrics appointment at the visa application centre. However, some centres offer a Priority Service for an additional £573 to get a decision within 15 working days.
As of 13 April 2023, the Home Office application fees to join a partner from outside the UK are £1,538. You will also have to pay the Immigration Healthcare Surcharge as part of your application, which is calculated at £1,872 for 2 years and 9 months of leave.
If you cannot pay the fees, you may be eligible for a fee waiver in certain situations. However, you will have to provide ample evidence to prove that you would become destitute or your well-being would become disproportionately impacted if you were required to pay for the fees.
5 and 10-Year Routes to Settlement
If your application is successful, you can be granted leave under either the ‘5-year route’ or the ‘10-year route’, depending on whether you meet all the criteria discussed above.
Initial grants of entry clearance are usually for 33 months, irrespective of whether you were placed on the 5- or 10-year route to settlement. The five or ten years refer to the total length of time that it takes for you to settle in the UK, also known as obtaining Indefinite Leave to Remain.
To succeed on the 5-year route to settlement, your application must meet all of the suitability and eligibility requirements.
If your application does not meet all of the suitability and eligibility requirements, your application may still succeed under the 10-year route to settlement if there are exceptional circumstances in your case. For instance, you must prove that a refusal of your application would breach Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, leading to unjustifiably harsh consequences for the British partner and child.
However, this area of immigration law is more complex, and we plan to delve deeper into the legal framework surrounding exceptional circumstances in one of our future blogs.
In conclusion, the spouse visa application process in the UK can be a challenging undertaking, but with the right information and guidance, you can successfully navigate it and join your partner in the UK. Remember, seeking professional legal advice can also be beneficial in ensuring that you meet all the necessary requirements and increases your chances of a positive outcome.
- Immigration Rules Appendix FM: Family members
- Family visas: Apply, extend or switch
- Home Office Guidance: Family Migration: Appendix FM Section 1.7 Appendix Armed Forces Financial requirement – Version 8.0
- Home Office Guidance: Family Migration: Appendix FM Section 1.7A – Adequate maintenance and accommodation Version 10.0