UK Spouse Visa
British citizens and persons with indefinite leave to remain can bring their spouse, civil partner or durable unmarried partner to the UK.
Below is an overview of the associated requirements and procedures.
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Overview of the requirements for UK spouse visa
Spouse visa requirements can be summarised as follows:
- Relationship – recognised and subsisting marriage, civil partnership or, if you are applying as unmarried partners, evidence of cohabitation for at least two years;
- English language – unless you meet the language requirement by being a national of a majority English speaking country or by having graduated from a recognised University where tuition was in English, or unless you are exempt from meeting the requirement – you have to take a test at A1 level (speaking and listening);
- You have to have adequate accommodation in the UK;
- Financial requirements – income (£18,600) from specified sources or savings (£62,500) unless you are exempt;
- Some requirements related to character – the so-called “suitability” requirements;
- Intention to make the UK your home.
Financial requirements for the spouse visa
In order to sponsor your spouse or partner, you need an annual income of at least £18,600 or savings of £62,500.
If you have a dependent child who is not a British citizen, the minimum income is £22,400 and addition £2400 applies for the second dependent child and all other children.
Sources of income
If you are relying on income, it has to come from the approved sources, such as employment, self-employment, rental of property, income from dividends or investments, or pension.
If non-British partner is outside the UK, their income from employment or self-employment is not taken into account. However, their income from property rental, pension or investments are recognised.
Savings can belong to the British or non-British partner or both. They have to be held in a cash account with immediate access. You will have to demonstrate that you owned the funds for at least six months, even if they were not in the cash account for the entire six month period. For example, if you sold property or assets and rely on the proceeds of the sale as your savings, you will have to trace the assets to six months prior to the date of the application.
Combination of savings and income
It is possible to rely on a combination of savings and income, but the calculation is not straightforward. You will have to have an initial amount of £16,000 and the shortfall of your income multiplied by 2.5. 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.
The required evidence of income is strictly specified and depends on the source of income and other circumstances, like duration of your employment or self-employment. Full details are set out in Appendix FM SE of the Immigration Rules.
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.
Income from self-employment
Self-employed persons have to rely on their net income before tax in the last completed financial year. Sometimes, there is a clash as the financial year may be completed very recently and the accounts not yet available and not yet required by HMRC. Immigration requirements, nevertheless cannot be met without the accounts for the last completed financial year.
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 can rely on their income from the company but the rules are similar to self-employment. You will have to show company accounts for the last completed financial year, as well as personal accounts, dividend vouchers and payslips if the director is an employee of the business. You will be required to have at least one completed financial year to qualify.
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.
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The difference between the 5-year and the 10-year partner route
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 will qualify to apply for indefinite leave to remain.
If some of the requirements are not met but due to special circumstances a refusal would be unfair and cause significant hardship, the visa is granted under the 10-year route.
The 10-year route visa holder qualifies for indefinite leave to remain after 10 years of residence. This means there will be three applications for extension of visa before you can apply for indefinite leave to remain.
You can switch from the 10-year route to the five-year route as soon as you meet all the requirements. You do not have to wait for the expiry date of your visa. However, you will be paying the Immigration Health Surcharge second time if you have a valid stretch of the previous visa.
Switching into spouse visa
If you are in the UK in any long-term immigration category, you can switch to spouse visa in country without leaving the UK.
It may be worth noting that if you have another visa which leads to settlement after five years, your qualifying period for ILR will roll back if you switch into the spouse visa route. This is because your five-year qualifying period cannot be shared between the partner route and any other immigration category.
If you are switching, the Immigration Health Surcharge you paid with your previous visa application is not refundable.
UK spouse visa extension
The requirements for the extension of the spouse visa are very similar to the initial entry clearance requirements. You will need to demonstrate adequate income, accommodation, knowledge of English (at A2 level this time) and genuineness of your relationship.
For the extension application, you do not have to rely on the employment income of the sponsor. It can be the applicant’s income, or the sponsor’s, or joint income of both.
If your circumstances change or the marriage breaks down you have to be proactive and seek legal advice as soon as possible.
Indefinite leave to remain and citizenship
If you are applying for ILR as the partner of a British citizen or a person settled in the UK relying on the 5-year route, you have to complete a five-year period of residence with the partner visa. It cannot be combined with any other immigration category leading to citizenship.
The ten-year route includes every type of lawful stay in the UK and can be a combination of all sorts of visas, including visitor visa.
Applicants for ILR are required to take the Life in the UK test. This applies to all, including people coming from a majority English speaking country.
English language requirement applies as well. If you met it through studying in a University or you come from a majority English speaking country, the language requirement is considered met. Applicants who have to take the English language test have to pass it at B1 level.
British citizenship for spouses of British citizens
If you are married to a British citizen, you will be entitled to apply for naturalisation immediately after you are granted ILR. There are restrictions on your absences from the UK in the three years prior to the application for citizenship. You should be in the country three years before the date of the application and should not have been absent for more than 270 days in the last three years or 90 days in the last 12 months before the date of the application.
British citizenship for unmarried partners
If you are not married to a British citizen, you will have to wait for 12 months after the grant of ILR before you can apply for naturalisation.
Restrictions on absences from the UK cover the five-year period before the application. You should have been in the UK five years before the date of the application and shouldn’t have
If you are based abroad, you will need to apply for entry clearance from your country of origin or the country where you normally live. The type of application is called settlement.
You can make an application for leave to remain as the spouse inside the UK, if you are living in the UK in another immigration category.
The applications are made online and the supporting documents are uploaded on the government portal.
You will book a biometric appointment after submitting the application and will choose the appointment centre that suits you best.
The application fee depends on whether the application is made from abroad or from the UK.
For an application made from outside the UK, the visa fee is £1523, the Immigration Health Surcharge is £1872, priority service is £573.
If you are applying in the UK, the visa fee is £1033, the Immigration Health Surcharge is £1560, and super-priority service – if you want a decision within 24 hours – is £800.
If the sponsor is in receipt of disability-related benefits the minimum income requirement may be considered met.
In exceptional circumstances, where refusal of the application would cause significant hardship you may be able to rely on third-party support or other sources of income. And in most exceptional circumstances you may get a waiver of the financial requirement. If that’s the case, the visa will be issued under the 10-year route. All cases requiring the decision-maker to exercise discretion are complex and an experienced immigration solicitor will maximise your chances of success.
Yes, absolutely. The spouse visa, unlike fiance(e) visa, gives you the right to take up employment, set up your own business, work as a freelance, or study. You will have to pay international students fee, though, until you have indefinite leave to remain.
If you are a sponsored worker switching into the spouse visa route, you can continue working for your employer.
Standard processing time of a spouse visa entry clearance application is three months. More complex applications can take up to six months.
The processing time can be expedited by paying an additional fee. Priority applications are expected to be processed within three weeks, but this is not guaranteed.
Sometimes, the processing time may be longer than expected even if the priority fee has been paid. This may be due to a previous refusal of a similar application, or if the applicant relies on exceptional circumstances, or if some of the documents required in support of the application are missing.
Applications made within the UK by standard service also take around three months. By paying for a super-priority service you can expedite the processing time to 24 hours. Again, applications which need the attention of a senior caseworker may not be suitable for priority service.
Applicants over 65 years of age are exempt from the language and knowledge of life tests. For others these tests are mandatory. If you are unable to pass the test you may get an exemption after 15 years of residence. In the meantime, you will have to continue to extend your visa every 2.5 years.
How immigration solicitors can help with your application for a partner visa
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 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.
Last updated on 9 June 2021
Last updated on 9 June 2021