Given what is at stake for you and your family, the UK spouse visa application process requires careful handling. We are on hand to guide you through every step.
Bringing your loved ones to the UK is life-changing. While the spouse visa UK application process can be complex and daunting, we understand you want to start the next chapter in your family life quickly and with minimal disruption and expense.
If you’re married or in a civil partnership with a British citizen or a person with UK settled status, you do not automatically acquire immigration rights or lawful status in the UK.
You will instead have to apply to the UK Home Office for permission to come to the UK to live with your spouse. As part of the application, you need to provide compelling evidence that you meet the Spouse Visa requirements.
The Home Office continues to take a tough stance when determining spouse visa applications, so it is important to ensure you follow the correct process and that your submission is comprehensive in evidencing your eligibility.
In this guide, we detail the spouse visa requirements and the process you need to follow to make your application.
The Spouse Visa UK is the permission granted by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) to a non-UK resident to come to the UK to live with their partner.
This category of visa is based on an individual’s right under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), namely the right to respect for one’s private and family life.
The UK spouse visa is open to foreign nationals who are married to, or in a civil partnership with, a British citizen or a person with indefinite leave to remain in the UK or settled status and no time limit on their stay in the UK.
To qualify for entry to the UK, you will need to be granted entry clearance prior to your arrival.
With a Spouse Visa, you can work or study in the UK. There are no restrictions on the type of work you’re allowed to do (unlike most work visas).
The Spouse visa also provides a path to UK settlement; after five years in the UK with a Spouse visa, you can become eligible to apply for indefinite leave to remain.
If you are applying as a fiancé(e) or proposed civil partner, you will only be permitted to come to the UK for a period of 6 months to enable you to get married. You will subsequently need to apply for a Spouse Visa on the basis of your recent marriage or civil partnership.
If you applying from outside the UK and your application for a Spouse Visa – and entry clearance – is successful, your visa will initially be granted for a period of 33 months.
If you are already in the UK and are applying for leave to remain as a spouse, then you will be granted leave as a spouse for 30 months.
You can apply to extend your spouse visa for a further two and a half years, to take your total stay as a spouse to five years (60 months). With five years under the spouse visa, you then become eligible to apply for indefinite leave to remain. With ILR, you will no longer be subject to immigration restrictions.
You can also make your application for British citizenship as soon as you are granted ILR, provided you meet the eligibility criteria to naturalise.
There are also a number of additional Spouse Visa UK requirements that, in most cases, must be strictly adhered to, not least because UKVI is continuously seeking to crack down on sham marriages.
You may be eligible to apply for a spouse visa if you can show the following requirements are met:
To apply for a Spouse Visa UK, you must either be the partner of a British citizen or, alternatively, the partner of someone with indefinite leave to remain or settled status, or the partner of an individual in the UK with a Turkish Businessperson visa or Turkish Worker visa or refugee status or humanitarian protection.
Your relationship must fall into one of the following categories:
However, the definition of partner is relatively wide in that it not only includes a spouse or civil partner, it also covers the fiancé(e) or proposed civil partner of a British citizen or someone with settled status in the UK.
That said, where you and your partner are engaged to be married, or plan to enter into a civil partnership, you must prove that you will marry or enter into a civil partnership within 6 months of arriving in the UK.
If you are not married, nor indeed planning to get married or enter into a civil partnership, in other words, you are applying as an unmarried partner or common-law spouse, you must have been living in a relationship akin to a marriage or civil partnership for at least 2 years.
Genuine relationship requirement
In practice, one of the more challenging criteria to prove is that you and your partner are in a ‘genuine and subsisting’ relationship.
Home Office guidance requires you to show that you have met your partner face to face at least once during your marriage.
If you are not married, you can apply as a partner by showing that you have been in a relationship for at least two years.
As part of your application, you will need to gather and submit extensive evidence to prove that you and your partner are committed and spend time together.
In cases where you are not yet living with your spouse, or if you have been apart for an extended period of time, you should be particularly thorough and extensive in proving your relationship is ongoing and genuine.
Supporting evidence typically includes details of any joint bank accounts, financial commitments or memberships; photographs and videos of you together from over the course of your relationship; details of holidays taken together; proof of cohabitation such as a mortgage statement or tenancy agreement and utility bills; and proof of communications between you both such as telephone records for any time spent apart; letters of support from family and friends.
Under the financial Spouse Visa requirements, you will need to show that youu and your partner can support each other and any dependent children you have without recourse to public funds.
The minimum income threshold is currently set at £18,600 per annum, increasing to £3,800 where you apply with one dependent child, and thereafter an extra £2,400 for each additional child.
To meet the relevant threshold, there are several different sources of income that can be relied on, including income from employment or self-employment, non-work income such as from property rentals, cash savings greater than £16,000, and maternity pay and/or pensions.
Further, in the event that your partner is in receipt of a specified benefit or allowance in the UK, you will be exempt from meeting the financial requirement in the form of the minimum income threshold. Rather, you will need to provide evidence of adequate maintenance and accommodation instead.
You need to meet the minimum financial threshold to become eligible for indefinite leave to remain after five years. Otherwise, if you don’t meet this requirement, you may be able to settle on the ten year route.
Spouse visa holders are expected to live with their partner permanently. This means the partner must be able to show they can offer and fund adequate accommodation for their spouse and any dependent children, without needing to claim benefits or state support.
Adequate accommodation could be in the form of owned, mortgaged or rented property.
The size and type of accommodation should be suitable for the number of people in the family. For each child you have that is over one year of age, you must have an additional bedroom.
English language requirement
Save except where you are a national of a majority English-speaking country, to qualify for a Spouse Visa you will need to provide evidence of having an academic qualification that was taught in English and is recognised as being equivalent to a UK bachelors degree, masters degree or PhD, or that you have passed an approved English language test.
However, you will be exempt from meeting the English language requirement in the following circumstances:
Children under the age of 18 are considered dependants. You will need to make a visa application for each child that will be joining you in the UK. Remember also that the minimum financial threshold is determined by how many dependent children you have.
Under UK immgiration rules, you can in some circumstances apply to change your visa category from within the UK. This is known as ‘switching’.
You will not be able to switch into the spouse visa if you are in the UK under a visitor visa or if your leave has been granted for less than 6 months – except for fiance visa holders who are granted leave of up to 6 months and during this time are allowed to switch to the spouse visa.
This means if you already hold a UK fiancé visa, work visa, or student visa valid for more than six months, you may be eligible to switch to a spouse visa UK.
To apply for a Spouse Visa, you will need to submit an online application with UKVI and pay the relevant fee. This is currently set at £1523 if applying from outside the UK and £1033 if applying from within the UK.
If you are applying to extend or switch in the UK, you will also need to pay £19.20 to have your biometric information enrolled. This includes a scan of your fingerprints and a digital photograph of your face.
You will be instructed on how and where to make an appointment to submit your biometric information when you apply. This will be at a visa application centre if applying from outside the UK, or a UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services (UKVCAS) service point when applying to switch or extend.
You may also be liable to pay a healthcare surcharge as part of your application to enable you to use the NHS while living in the UK.
If you apply from outside the UK a decision will usually be made within 12 weeks. From within the UK it should take around 8 weeks when using the standard service, although you may be able to pay an additional fee of £800 for the super priority service to get a faster decision.
If you are applying as a spouse or civil partner of a UK citizen or someone settled in the UK, in addition to a valid passport you will need to provide documentary evidence of your marriage or civil partnership. As previously indicated, this must be a marriage or union that is legally recognised under UK law.
Alternatively, if you are applying as an unmarried partner or common law spouse, you must provide evidence that you and your UK partner have lived with each other for at least 2 years prior to applying. This will need to include documents like a joint bank account, joint tenancy agreement or joint mortgage.
In either case, whether you are applying as a married or unmarried partner, you must provide evidence that your relationship is ‘genuine and subsisting’, in other words, that supports the sincerity of your relationship. This can include evidence of communication between you and your partner as a couple, such as texts or emails, as well as photographs of the two of your together and travel documents to prove any visits to one another.
If either you or your UK partner has been married or in a civil partnership in the past, you will also need to provide evidence of the permanent breakdown of the previous relationship, such as a divorce or dissolution order.
Finally, you will need documentation to support both the financial and English language requirements. This should include at least 6 months worth of pay slips for both you and/or your partner or evidence of self-employed earnings, a letter from your respective employers outlining your role and job security, as well as evidence of any savings and/or benefits upon which you rely.
For the English requirement you will need either a certificate of your academic qualification or having passed the necessary English language test.
Along with the application form, you will also have to compile and submit supporting documents to evidence your eligbility.
The docuemnts to submit will depend on your specific circumstances but in most cases, you would need to provide:
To apply for a Spouse Visa from inside the UK costs £1033. To apply from overseas, the application fee is £1523.
Spouse Visa application processing times can take between one to six months, depending on UKVI caseload, the quality of your submission and the complexity of the application.
You should expect to spend several weeks preparing your applcation and all of the supporting documents.
There is no single set of standard questions that you could be asked during your spouse visa interview. However, you should prepare well to answer questions about your relationship, your history together and future plans as a couple.
Examples could include:
f your application is approved, you will be granted 33 months (entry clearance) or 30 months (leave to remain) biometric residence permit(if you apply as a fiancé(e) or proposed civil partner, you will be give a 6-month visa to enable you to enter the UK to enable your marriage or civil partnership to take place here).
Where applying from overseas, your passport would initially be issued with a 30 day “vignette” which will allow you to travel to the United Kingdom. You will need to collect your biometric residence permit within 10 days of arrival to the UK from a Post Office you would have selected during the application process.
During the period of your visa, you will be able to live and work in the United Kingdom. You will not be able to access public funds whilst on a spouse visa but you will have access to the NHS, as you will have paid the Immigration Health Surcharge as part of your visa application. Although you are permitted to travel overseas, you will need to reside with your partner in the UK continuously to qualify for an extension of leave/ILR after 60 months. You should keep evidence of living together from the date your visa is granted, for example bills, bank statements and other official letters and correspondence addressed to you and your partner at your shared home.
Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for UKVI to refuse an application for a Spouse Visa. This is often due to a lack of documentation, not least where UKVI is not satisfied that the applicant and their UK partner have a “genuine and subsisting” relationship based on the documentary evidence submitted in support.
However, in the event that you are refused a Spouse Visa, there is a legal right of appeal to the first-tier tribunal. You will have 28 days to appeal after you get your decision from UKVI. It will cost you £80 to appeal without a hearing, although you are entitled to attend an oral hearing at a cost of £140.
In either case, it is always best to seek specialist legal advice from an expert in immigration law in advance of any hearing or appeal decision. These types of cases can be complex, with much at stake, so you will need to know exactly where you stand legally and what the best course of action is to take.
You can apply to extend your stay under a Spouse Visa, although you must do so prior to the expiry of your existing leave. You must also prove that you have been living together with your UK partner since your initial visa application and that you intend to continue to do so after you apply to extend your visa.
Additionally, you may be eligible to switch into the Spouse Visa category if you came to the UK under a different type of visa and you have been granted leave other than as a visitor for a period of more than 6 months.
In the event that you have been granted a visa for less than 6 months, typically you will need to leave the UK and apply for entry clearance as a spouse or civil partner. If you are applying from outside the UK you should apply in the country where you are ordinarily resident.
Having lived continuously in the UK for a period of 5 years, you may be eligible to apply for indefinite leave to remain (ILR). This means that you can settle in the UK on a permanent basis free from immigration restrictions. Most individuals who have a Spouse Visa UK are on the 5-year route to settlement.
Please note, you cannot count any permission to stay in the UK as a fiancé(e) or proposed civil partner.
When applying for ILR you will usually need to satisfy the KoLL requirement, namely your “knowledge of the English language and about life in the UK”. This means you must be able to demonstrate a commitment to respect the UK’s laws, values and traditions, whereby the ability to communicate in English and have knowledge of UK life forms an integral part of this commitment.
Unless you are exempt by reason of age or otherwise, you can satisfy the KoLL requirement by proving your knowledge of English and passing a ‘Life in the UK’ test at an approved test centre.
At DavidsonMorris we have the experience to advise you on the most appropriate category of visa for your circumstances and have the insight to make the process as smooth as possible.
As a team of immigration lawyers and former Home Office employees, we have an established reputation for effective and efficient management and processing of visa applications, and for providing expert visa-related advice.
We also understand the stresses involved with moving across the world, and take great pride in playing a supportive role to ease the pressure.
DavidsonMorris are experienced UK immigration specialists offering guidance and support to individuals in relation to UK immigration status and Home Office applications.
We can advise on the eligibility criteria you will need to evidence a UK spouse visa and the process you will need to follow for your application. We can also help where you have dependants applying with you or where you are looking to extend your visa. For specialist UK immigration advice, contact us.
Spouse visa applications can take up to 6 months to process.
To apply for a Spouse Visa from inside the UK costs £1033. To apply from overseas, the application fee is £1523.
Spouse visa eligibility requirements are strict and the application process is costly and stringent on applicants to prove that they qualify.
You are required to show that: -You are in a legallly recognised marriage, or have been cohabiting for 2 years or more, or are a fiance and will get married within 6 months of arriving in the UK. -Your partner qualifies. -You and your partner are 18 years old or over. -Your relationship must be genuine and subsisting. -You must intend to live together permanently in the UK with adequate accommodation. -Financial requirements are met. -You can speak and understand English to the requisite level.