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spouse visa UK

UK Spouse Visa

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Spouse visa as an immigration option

UK spouse visa, otherwise known as partner visa, is an immigration option for spouses, civil partners and unmarried partners of British citizens and qualified persons, mostly with permanent right of residence in the UK. It  is a family immigration option which leads to settlement (indefinite leave to remain) after 5 years. 

Spouse visa is granted initially for 33 months (if the application is made from outside the UK) or 30 months if the application is made from the UK.

Spouse visa has to be extended at least once for 30 months before an application can be made for indefinite leave to remain. There is no option to make the extension for a longer or shorter period.

Once indefinite leave to remain is granted the spouse of a British citizen can apply for naturalisation and become British. Unmarried partners of British citizens and partners of persons with a permanent right of residence have to wait for 12 months after the grant of ILR before they qualify for citizenship and British passport.

Who can act as the sponsor for UK spouse visa

The sponsor in the partner visa application is the British partner. It can also be a UK resident with one of the following permissions:

  • indefinite leave to remain in the UK,
  • EU nationals with settled or pre-settled status,
  • Irish citizens resident in the UK,
  • persons who have a Turkish Businessperson visa or Turkish Worker visa,
  • persons with protection status – refugee or humanitarian protection. 

The British spouse has to be resident in the UK at the time of application or be returning to the UK together with the applicant.

Spouse or partner of a person with limited leave to remain, such as Skilled Worker, student or any other type of residence with an expiry date attached to it, has to apply for a Dependant visa in the same category as the main visa holder.

Where to apply

The initial application for the spouse visa is normally made from outside the UK – from the country of nationality or the country of habitual residence of the applicant.

The application can be made from the UK if you already have permission to live in the UK in another immigration category, which would usually be related to work or study, or if you initially came to the UK with the fiance visa.

Visitors are not allowed to switch into the spouse or unmarried partner route and have to leave the UK and make the application from their country of residence.

Spouse visa requirements

It is a requirement for the spouse visa that the couple have the intention to live together in the UK permanently. Permanently doesn’t mean you will not be allowed to travel or keep other places of residence, but your main home is to be in the UK.

The couple have to meet the financial requirement which, in the initial applications made from overseas, is assessed primarily on the basis of the British partner’s income. In applications for leave to remain made in the UK, when non-British partner had the right to work at the time of applying, their income can also be taken into consideration.

The non-British partner has to meet a basic English language requirement at A1 level for the initial application or A2 level in the application for extension.

There are also suitability requirements aimed at excluding people with a history of criminal offences.

The application is made by completing an online application form and paying the government fees. After that you can book a biometric appointment. The purpose of the appointment is to have your picture and fingerprints taken. You will not be interviewed at the appointment – it is only to capture your biometric details.

You can also book a priority service (available overseas) or a super priority service available in the UK if you wish to expedite the application.

After you have submitted your application online and before you attend your biometric appointment, you have to upload your supporting documents to the government portal. All documents are now accepted in a digital format, but you may be asked for the original document if the Home Office has any concerns.

If you are applying for entry clearance (from outside the UK) you will receive a vignette or a sticker in your passport which will be valid for 90 days during which you can travel to the UK and collect your Biometric Residence Card from the nominated post office. You will have selected the most convenient post office as part of the visa application process.

If you are applying from within the UK, you will receive your biometric residence card in the post. The card will have the expiry date in December 2024 but your visa, or permission to remain in the UK, will be valid for 30 months. The discrepancy is due to the changes introduced by the Home Office in the documentation confirming the right of residence. It will not affect your right to remain.

The standard processing time for an entry clearance application (an application made from outside the UK) has been extended to 24 weeks due to a backlog and general delays with the Home Office.

The application made from outside the UK can be expedited by booking a priority service. Priority service is only available if the application is straightforward and meets all the standard requirements. Where priority service is selected, the application goes to a separate priority queue and the processing time will depend on how long the queue is at the time you applied. You may expect the decision in four to six weeks, but this is not guaranteed.

The standard processing time for applications made in the UK is  about 8 weeks. 

You can also expedite the application by booking a super priority service and receive the decision within 24 hours after submitting your biometrics.

If your first application is made from outside the UK, the visa will be granted for  33 months. You will be expected to extend this visa in the UK before it expires. When you apply for extension, you will receive permission to stay for for another 30 months (2.5 years). The earliest you can apply for extension is after 2.5 years of residence, the latest is the expiry date of your visa.

On completion of five years of residence as a partner of a British citizen on a 5-year route, you can apply for indefinite leave to remain.

If you are on a 10-year route, you can only apply for ILR after 10 years of continuous residence. You can read about the difference between the 5-year route and the 10-year route below.

Once you are granted ILR, you will be entitled to apply for British citizenship and your first British passport.

Spouse visa requirements can be summarised as follows:

  • Relationship – recognised and subsisting marriage or civil partnership or durable partnership;
  • English language requirement;
  • Financial requirement – an annual income (£18,600) from specified sources or savings (£62,500) unless you are exempt (see below);
  • Adequate accommodation in the UK;
  • Intention to make the UK your home.

If you are applying from outside the UK you may need a TB test certificate for your application. TB test is required if you live or have lived in the six months prior to the application in one of the countries on the TB test list.

You are required to show income of at least £18,600 per year or savings of not less than £62,500.

Income and savings can be combined if neither savings nor income is sufficient in its own right. The formula for calculating the required savings is as follows: income deficiency x 2.5 + £16,000. For example, if the sponsor earns £18,000 a year and the shortfall is £600, the required amount of savings is £16000 + £600 x 2.5 = £17500.

If you have a dependent child who is not a British citizen, the minimum income is £22,400 and a further £2400 is added for the second dependent child and then for each child thereafter. Savings requirements also go up proportionately to the number of dependent children. For one dependent child the minimum savings requirement is £72,000. There is an additional £6000 for each child thereafter.

Sources of income

Only approved sources of income are taken into account, such as employment, self-employment, rental of property, income from dividends or investments, or pension.

If the applicant is outside the UK, their income from employment or self-employment cannot be taken into account. However, their income from property rental, pension or investments is accepted.

If the applicant is in the UK in a work permitting immigration category their income from employment in the UK can be taken into consideration when assessing the financial requirement. In this case, you can rely on employment of both the sponsor and the applicant, or either one of them.

Employment or self-employment income outside the UK

If at the time of application both partners are resident outside the UK and plan to relocate to the UK together, the British partner may rely on income from employment in the country of residence and a job offer in the UK with an appropriate salary.

If self-employed or running a business outside the UK, the British partner may rely on income from self-employment or business in the country of residence and evidence of intention to continue in the same trade in the UK. You will have to demonstrate that this arrangement is viable.

Income from employment or self-employment of non-British partner is not taken into account.

Income is assessed before tax and NI deductions.

Savings

Savings can belong to the British or non-British partner or both. Savings have to be held in a cash account with immediate access. You will have to demonstrate that you have owned the funds for at least six months, even if they were not in the cash account for the entire six-month period.

If you sold a property or assets and rely on the proceeds of sale, you will have to show that you owned the property or the assets for at least six months prior to the date of the application.

Evidence of income from employment

If the British sponsor has worked with the same employer for more than six months, they can provide evidence of their salary for the last six months. This should be not less than £9,300 gross (before tax) over the six-month period.

If the British citizen changed employment less than six months ago, they have two options – either demonstrate their total income over the last 12 months, or, if they are high earners and have earned more than £18,600 in the current employment in less than six months, they can rely on earnings during a shorter period.

You will need payslips and bank statements showing receipt of salary, and a letter from the employer confirming the details.

Income from self-employment

Self-employed persons have to rely on their net income before tax in the last completed financial year.

Sometimes, there may be an inconsistency between the requirements of HMRC and the Home Office as the financial year may be completed very recently and the accounts not yet be available. Immigration requirements, nevertheless cannot be met without the accounts for the last completed financial year even if these accounts have to be prepared months earlier than required by HMRC. 

If the income over the last financial year is insufficient, it is possible to rely on the average of the last two financial years.

Company directors

Company directors can rely on their income from the company drawn as either salary or dividends or both. You will have to show company accounts for the last completed financial year, as well as personal accounts, dividend vouchers and payslips. You will be required to have at least one completed financial year to qualify. And the relevant period will be the last completed financial year.

Employees of companies owned by other family members

If the sponsor is working for a company owned or partly owned by a family member, evidential requirements are similar to those related company directors. You will be required to produce company accounts and company bank statements in addition to your own bank statements and payslips. The requirements are set out fully in Appendix FM SE of the immigration rules.

GET AN EXPERT TO PREPARE YOUR SPOUSE VISA APPLICATION

Exemption from the financial requirement

Financial requirement is considered met if the British sponsor is in receipt of disability related benefits, such as

  • Carer’s allowance
  • Disability living allowance
  • Severe Disablement Allowance
  • Attendance Allowance
  • Personal Independence Payment

If you fall under this exemption, you will not be required to demonstrate an annual income of £18,600, but you will have to show that the family will be maintained without additional recourse to public funds and will be adequately accommodated.

English language requirement

For the partner visa application, English language test is required in speaking and listening components.

For the initial application, the required level is A1 (GESE Grade 2 or IELTS Life Skills A1), for extension application the required level is A2 (GESE Grade 3 or IELTS Life Skills A2), and for the ILR application the required level is B1 (GESE Grade 5 or IELTS Life Skills B1) also in speaking and listening only.

There are four approved language test providers in the UK:

Trinity College London is the most popular of the four as it has more exams locations and better availability than other providers.

The cost of the exam is approximately £150 depending on the provider.

If you are taking the test outside the UK, the test providers are:

You will need your identity document for the test. It would normally be your passport, but it can also be a UK biometric residence card, EEA national’s identity card or a Convention Travel Document.

When you have passed the test, you will be given a SELT unique reference number which must be used in your visa application. You will not need any paper documents.

The test is valid for 2 years from the date the test is awarded.

University degree as proof of knowledge of English

If you graduated from a UK university, this is sufficient proof of your knowledge of English.

If you graduated from a university overseas where the language of tuition or research was English, you can prove your knowledge of English by showing confirmation from Ecctis that the degree is recognised in the UK as equivalent of Bachelor’s degree or above and that tuition or research was in English. 

If the University is in one of the majority English speaking countries (except Canada), it is assumed that the language of tuition was English. For Canada you still need confirmation of the language of tuition, unless you are a citizen of Canada and meet the language requirement through your nationality.

Nationals of Majority English speaking countries do not have to take the test

  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Australia
  • The Bahamas
  • Barbados
  • Belize
  • Canada*
  • Dominica
  • Grenada
  • Guyana
  • Ireland
  • Jamaica
  • Malta
  • New Zealand
  • St Kitts and Nevis
  • St Lucia
  • St Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • USA

 

You don’t have to take the language test or prove knowledge of English if you are over 65.

If you are unable to meet the language requirement, you should seek legal advice. There may still be a way to qualify for the partner visa, but it will be under the 10-year route – in other words, it will delay your eligibility for ILR. 

The difference between the 5-year and the 10-year route is in the time it will take you to qualify for indefinite leave to remain.

Where all substantive requirements (financial, language, immigration status) and evidential requirements are met, UK spouse visa is granted under the 5-year route. This means that after five years you are eligible to apply for indefinite leave to remain.

If some of the requirements are not met but the refusal of the application would nevertheless be unfair and cause significant hardship, leave to remain is granted under the 10-year route. This makes you eligible for indefinite leave to remain after 10 years of residence with partner or parent visa, or under the private life route.

If you you previously held visa under the 5-year route but then had to switch into the 10-year route, the time spent under the 5-year route will count towards the qualifying 10-year period.

If you held permission to stay under the 10-year route but later switched into the 5-year route, the time spent under the 10-year route does not count towards the qualifying five years.  

You can switch from the 10-year route into the five-year route as soon as you meet the requirements. You do not have to wait until the end of your visa.

You will be eligible to apply for ILR once you have completed five years on the 5-year route, or 10 years in a combination of both.

Spouse visa application fees from 4 October 2023

If you are applying from outside the UK:

  • the visa fee is £1846,
  • the Immigration Health Surcharge is £3105 (from 6 February 2024),
  • optional priority service is £500

If you are applying in the UK:

  • the visa fee is £1048,
  • the Immigration Health Surcharge is £2587.50 (from 6 February 2024),
  • optional super-priority service – £1000

If you are applying with a dependent child:

  • the visa fee and priority fee for the child is the same as for the main applicant
  • the Immigration Health Surcharge is £776 per year, i.e.
    • £2328 in an entry clearance application
    • £1940 in applications for extension of stay

UK spouse visa FAQs

If you want confidence in the outcome and don’t want to take chances, legal representation will make a world of difference. Your legal representative will advise you on supporting documents that will show your case at its strongest and will address any issues that could potentially cause a problem. Representations made in support of the application explain to the decision-maker how the application meets the requirements of the rules, provide the background information and minimises the risk of any follow-up questions and delays. Concise and to the point representations will also minimise the risk of a mistake on the part of the Home Office and will give you the best prospect of success.

Yes, a spouse visa to the UK gives you the right to work without restrictions. You can prove your right to work to your employer with a share code which you can get online. You can be employed or self-employed and you can start your own business.

If you hold the spouse visa, you are not entitled to any benefits or tax credits. But this does not affect your partner’s right to benefits, including Child benefit, housing benefit and tax credits.

If you don’t meet the financial requirements, but refusal of the spouse visa would be unjustifiably harsh due to compassionate circumstances of your case, you may ask the Home Office to consider alternative sources of income – such as help from a third party or future income in the UK or anything else not specified in the rules. If your application is successful you will be granted entry clearance or leave to remain under the 10-year route.

You children under the age of 18 can apply for a child dependent visa later, but you will have to demonstrate that you have sole responsibility for their upbringing and that the responsibility transferred to other people while you were setting up your home in the UK was only a temporary arrangement. The longer this arrangement lasts the more challenging it will be to prove its temporary nature.

You will be asked when you are planning to travel to the UK when you apply for entry clearance and the start date of your visa will normally match your plans. The vignette in your passport will be valid for 30 days during which you can travel to the UK and collect your Biometric Residence Permit. There is no restriction on your right to travel once you have entered the UK and activated your visa.

No, there is no limit on your right to travel abroad but you will have to maintain your main home and family life in the UK.

If you spend more than six months outside the UK you may be asked for the reason of your absence.

If you spend more time outside the UK than in the UK, it may lead the Home Office to doubt your intention to make the UK your permanent home.

There is no restriction on your partner having to travel abroad for work or receiving income from employment overseas. However, when you extend your visa or apply for ILR you will need to show that you are living together in the UK and that you intend to live in the UK permanently.

If you are relying on cash savings, you will need £62,500 for the first application and the application for extension. When you are applying for indefinite leave to remain, you will need £34,600.

You will need more savings if you have dependent children who are not British citizens.

The Home Office is gradually rolling out a new digital system of immigration documents. It is expected that the transition to the digital system will be completed by the end of 2024 and plastic cards will no longer be used.

Your permission to remain in the UK remains valid beyond the expiry date on the card.

  • Appendix FM – part of the immigration rules dealing with family immigration, including spouse or partner visa
  • Appendix FM SE – part of the immigration rules which lists evidence which has to be provided with reference to financial requirement of the spouse visa
  • suitability – requirements related to the persons character, aimed at exclusion of persons with a history of criminal offences or immigration offences
  • eligibility requirements – substantive requirements for the application
  • sponsor – the British partner
  • period of grant – how long the visa is for
  • immigration health surcharge (IHS) – additional fee added to the visa application fee which covers permission to use the NHS. This fee is mandatory whether or not you intend to use the NHS
  • curtailment – when the visa termination date is brought forward by the Home Office, for example if the marriage breaks down the Home Office may curtail permission to stay
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How immigration solicitors can help with your application for a partner visa

An experienced immigration lawyer gives you confidence in the result you want to achieve. A professionally prepared application is usually processed quicker and if there are any follow-up questions from the caseworker, your lawyer will be best placed to respond. 

We recommend full legal representation as the most reliable way of getting the right outcome in the shortest possible time.

The way we prepare the application makes it easy for the caseworker to process and approve it without asking for more information or referring the matter to a senior member of staff.

We know which applications fall to the attention of senior caseworkers, and we mark our cover letter accordingly to make this clear.

Our services include full preparation of the application with legal representations in support of the case and any follow-up communications with the Home Office until a decision is made and you receive your visa and the biometric residence permit.

Our fees for representation in the partner visa application depend on the complexity of the application and the sources of income in meeting the financial requirement.

Before accepting your instructions, we will assess your case in a brief telephone discussion or a zoom meeting and will give you an accurate all-inclusive quote.

If you are relying on exceptional circumstances or not sure if you meet the requirements of the rules, we will recommend an initial consultation to address this.

 

Are you considering a spouse visa to the UK?

We have helped hundreds of clients in their journey from the initial entry clearance to British citizenship

Last updated on 16 October 2023

Last updated on 16 October 2023

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