If you are a UK visa holder living with your spouse or partner and you are looking to extend your stay in the UK, you will need to make an application for a spouse visa extension.
You will be eligible if you are the spouse, civil partner, unmarried or same-sex partner of either:
- a British citizen;
- someone who is present and settled in the UK, with either indefinite leave to remain or proof of permanent residence; or
- a person with refugee status or who has been granted humanitarian protection in the UK.
If you are applying as a spouse or civil partner, you must be able to prove that you are in a marriage or civil partnership that is recognised in the UK.
For unmarried partners, you will need to have been living in a relationship akin to a marriage or civil partnership for at least two years prior to the date of application for your spouse visa extension.
What are the requirements for a spouse visa extension?
When making an application for a spouse visa extension, both you and your spouse or partner must be aged 18 years or over, be present in the UK and intending to live together permanently.
In other words, the relationship must be genuine and subsisting. You must also satisfy the following English language and financial requirements.
The English language requirement
You can prove your knowledge of English if you have a degree or academic qualification that was taught or researched in English, and your qualification is recognised as being equivalent to a UK bachelor’s degree or higher.
You can also prove your knowledge of English by taking an approved English language test in speaking and listening.
You will be exempt from the English language requirement if you are aged 65 or over, or you have a physical or mental condition that prevents you from meeting this requirement.
As a national of a majority English-speaking country, for example, New Zealand or the USA, you will also be exempt.
The financial requirement
To satisfy the financial requirement when applying for a spouse visa extension, you and your spouse or partner will need to have a combined annual income of at least £18,600.
This minimum income threshold can be met either through your spouse or partner’s salaried or self-employed income, or your own income where you have permission to work in the UK.
You can combine income from different sources, including pension income. You can also use cash savings above £16,000 in lieu of income.
In the event that your spouse or civil partner is in receipt of a specified benefit or allowance, such as Disability Living Allowance, you will be exempt from meeting the financial requirement in the form of a minimum income threshold.
You will, however, need to show you have enough money to adequately support and accommodate yourselves.
How do I apply for a UK spouse visa extension?
When making an application for a spouse visa extension from within the UK you will need to use the online form FLR (M). This can be done at any time prior to the expiry of your existing UK spouse visa.
As part of the application process you will be required to provide details of your spouse or partner, including the nature of your relationship with them.
You will also be required to provide documentary evidence of your ability to meet the financial and English language requirements.
In circumstances where, for example, you have been unable to provide all the evidence that the Home Office needs, you may be invited for an interview.
Please note, if you are looking to extend your stay in the UK indefinitely, you cannot use form FLR (M). Applying to settle in the UK requires a different form with different requirements.
Typically, you can apply for indefinite leave to remain after you have lived in the UK continuously on a lawful basis for a period of 5 years.
What documents do I need for the application?
You will be required to submit various documents in support of your application for a spouse visa extension, including your existing and previous passports or travel documents, as well as any Biometric Residence Permit.
You will also need to provide documentary evidence of the following:
- your spouse or partner’s immigration status, such as proof of indefinite leave to remain.
- your relationship with your spouse or partner, such as your marriage certificate.
- your income, such as pay slips or bank statements.
- your knowledge of English, such as a degree certificate.
You may also need to provide additional documentation depending on your circumstances, for example, a divorce certificate to show that any previous marriages or civil partnerships have come to an end.
The documentation required can often be extensive, for example, when seeking to prove cohabitation over a period of two years. You may want to seek professional help here from an immigration expert in collating what is required well in advance.
Please note that although you can send photocopies of documents like bank statements or qualifications, you must provide your original passport, travel ID and any Biometric Residence Permit.
What is the cost of a spouse visa extension?
The fee for applying for a spouse visa extension is £1033 (at February 2019), with an additional handling fee for enrolling your biometric information. However, you may be eligible for a fee waiver if you are on a low income.
For those of you who want or need a decision quickly, you can pay an additional £610 (at February 2019) for the super priority service where you will get a decision within one working day.
Please note that unless you use the priority service, your application can often take several weeks, if not months, to process.
You may also be liable to pay what’s known as the Immigration Health Surcharge. This is a compulsory fee that provides you with access to the National Health Service for the duration of your UK spouse visa extension.
What if I don’t meet the requirements?
If you do not meet the requirements for a spouse visa extension, you may still be able to apply to extend your permission to stay in the UK in the following circumstances:
- there would be significant difficulties for you and your partner if you lived together as a couple outside the UK that could not be overcome.
- you have a child in the UK who is a British citizen or has lived in the UK for 7 years and it would be unreasonable for them to leave the UK.
- it would breach your human rights to make you leave the UK.
Take advice on your circumstances if you are concerned about your eligibility.
Do you have a question about the spouse visa extension?
DavidsonMorris is a law firm specialising in UK immigration. We help individuals with their UK immigration needs, and can guide and support you through any Home Office process, including applications to extend spouse visas. If you have a question about a spouse visa extension, please contact us.