UK spouse visa – who is it for?
If you are married to a British citizen or a person with a permanent right of residence, and you wish to make the UK your home, you may consider applying for entry clearance or for leave to remain as the partner of a person settled in the UK.
This type of visa is generally known as UK partner visa or spouse visa. It is also suitable for people who have lived together as unmarried partners for at least two years and intend to stay together permanently.
UK partner visa will give you the right to live in the UK, travel to and from the UK, take up employment and set up your own business.
This visa is initially issued for 33 months and has to be extended for another 2.5 years before it expires. After five years of residence in the UK you will be entitled to indefinite leave to remain and then British citizenship.
The spouse of a British citizen is entitled to apply for British citizenship immediately after they acquire a settled status (that is indefinite leave to remain or permanent right of residence) and do not have to spend 12 months in the UK becoming permanently resident in the UK. This means that in practice, the spouse of a British citizen can naturalise after having lived in the UK for five years. These five years are required to get a settled status.
Seven things to think about before applying for a spouse visa
#1 Do you meet financial requirements?
In most scenarios, it is your partner, or your “UK sponsor”, who has to meet financial requirements. Your income can only be taken into consideration if you are already resident in the UK (for example, as a Tier 2 migrant, a student, or in any other work-permitting category).
If you are applying from abroad, your partner has to satisfy a minimum income threshold of £18,600 per year. In most cases, this income comes from salaried employment or from self-employed activity, but it can also be from some other sources, for example, dividends, rental of property, interest on investments. The rules may become quite complex especially when relying on self-employed income, director’s remuneration or combined income from different sources.
Savings may be another way of meeting financial requirements. If you are relying on savings alone, you have to have £62,500 or its equivalent in a different currency.
#2 – Do you have adequate accommodation in the UK?
The Home Office will want to be sure you will be adequately accommodated. It does not mean you have to have a large private house. But you have to have a private room suitable for two people. It can be in a shared property, but the landlord would have to confirm permission.
If you have children or live with parents, the property should not be overcrowded by the UK standards.
#3 – Will you have proof of the required knowledge of English?
Initially, applicants for a spouse visa have to show knowledge of English to A1 level. If you come from a majority English speaking country or have studied at a UK university you will not have to take a test. But to do not forget to check which countries are classed as “English speaking” from the Home Office perspective. You may be surprised that South Africa, Nigeria or Sierra Leone are not on the list.
# 4 – How long it takes the Home Office to process the application for a spouse visa?
If you are applying for entry clearance from abroad, the standard processing time of spouse visa applications is approximately 12 weeks. There is an option of making a priority application at an extra cost, and the target processing time will be 2-4 weeks. The Home Office, however, does not guarantee this timescale.
If you are applying in-country, you have a choice of applying by a postal service, with an expected processing time of 8 weeks, or applying by premium service at a Public Enquiry Centre where your application will be decided on the day.
#5 – How much does it cost?
The Home Office fee for entry clearance application is equivalent to £1464 in local currency. In addition, there is an Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) in the amount of £600. Priority service costs approximately £550.
For in-country applications, the application fee for leave to remain is £993, IHS is £500, and premium service appointment at a PEO costs £590.
These fees are not expected to change until April 2018.
Legal fees are separate from the above government fees.
# 6 – What are the most common grounds for refusal of the spouse visa applications?
You may be surprised, that the majority of refusals are not related to failure to meet substantive requirements, such as minimum income, accommodation, or knowledge of English. The most common ground for refusal is failure to provide the right documents, described in the immigration rules as “specified evidence”.
Ironically, another reason for refusal is incompetence of the decision-makers. It is important not only to meet the requirements but also to explain, concisely and coherently, how both substantial and evidential requirements are met.
#7 – Can you afford a refusal?
Refusal of a spouse visa application is not only a loss of a substantial amount of money, it is also loss of time, frustration of your plans, and possibly, a forced separation from your partner.
Refusal of a spouse visa will give you the right of appeal against the decision, but appeals often take more than 12 months to be decided. If the application is made from abroad, you will not be allowed to enter the UK until the appeal process is completed. And if the appeal fails, you will have to start all over again…
That is why we recommend getting the application approved first time round. And this is something we can definitely help you with.
How do we keep our success rate close to 100%?
Well, we are very careful making sure that you meet the requirements, that we have the right evidence to demonstrate it, that it is thoroughly explained to the decision-maker so that they don’t get confused even if they are new to the job.
With 12 years of experience, we have seen many decisions and we know how the decision-maker’s mind works. This allows us to pre-empt any possible quibbles and address them even before they are raised.