If you’re looking to live in the UK on the basis of a family relationship, you will need to apply for some form of UK family visa. The following guide looks at UK family visas for adults and children, with the various different options available to applicants.
Is there a UK family visa?
When it comes to applying for permission to come to or stay in the UK as a foreign national related to someone already living in the UK, or a person planning to work or study in the UK, there is no dedicated family visa covering all possible familial scenarios.
However, the UK’s Immigration Rules make provision for different types of family visas for adults — including those for partners, parents and adult dependant relatives — as well as various dependant visas provided for under the UK’s sponsored immigration routes.
Those visas designed for relatives of British citizens or anyone permanently settled in the UK are broadly referred to under the rules as “family visas”, while those visas designed for the immediate relatives of individuals who will be or are already working or studying in the UK are commonly referred to as “points-based system” or “PBS dependant visas”.
UK family visas for adult applicants
When it comes to family visas for adults, you may be able to apply to enter or stay in the UK on the basis of family life as either the spouse or civil partner, the fiancé(e) or proposed civil partner, the parent of a child or a dependent relative of a British citizen or someone settled in the UK. However, what each visa will allow and the eligibility requirements that must be met will depend on the nature of your relationship with your UK sponsor.
UK partner visa
To apply as a spouse or partner, you and your UK sponsor must both be aged over 18, your relationship together must be genuine and subsisting, and you must intend to live together permanently in the UK on the successful grant of a visa. Your spouse/partner must also:
- be either a British or Irish citizen
- have settled in the UK where, for example, they have been granted indefinite leave to remain or have settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS)
- be from the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Liechtenstein or Iceland and have pre-settled status under the EUSS, where they must have started living in the UK by 31 December 2020
- have a Turkish Businessperson visa or a Turkish Worker visa
When applying as a partner, this includes where you are married or in a civil partnership, although this must be a union that is legally recognised in the UK. It also includes unmarried partners, including same-sex partners, provided you have been living in a relationship similar to a marriage or civil partnership for 2 or more years prior to applying.
Where looking to come to or stay in the UK as someone’s spouse or partner, in addition to meeting the relationship requirement, in most cases you must also meet both a financial and English language requirement. To satisfy the financial requirement, you will need to show that you and your partner can support yourselves without recourse to public funds. You can do this by proving that you have a combined income of at least £18,600, although you may be able to rely on savings instead of income.
To satisfy the English language requirement, you can provide evidence that either you are a national of a majority English-speaking country or that you have an English-taught academic qualification that is recognised as being equivalent to a UK bachelors or postgraduate degree. Alternatively, unless you are aged 65+ or otherwise exempt, you will need to pass an English language test with an approved test provider.
If you satisfy all the relevant requirements, you will be granted a spouse/partner visa for a period of 2 years 9 months if applying from overseas, and 2 years 6 months if applying to switch from in the UK. Prior to expiry of this visa, you can apply to extend your stay and, having lived in the UK for a certain amount of time, you may also be eligible to apply for indefinite leave to remain to allow you to settle in the UK on a permanent basis.
UK fiancé(e) visa
To apply as a fiancé(e) or proposed civil partner, similar requirements must be met as for spouse/partner visas. However, you must marry or enter into a civil partnership in the UK within 6 months, this being the maximum period you can be granted a visa on this basis.
If you have already lived together with your fiancé(e) or proposed civil partner for at least 2 years outside the UK, it may be best to use evidence of cohabitation as the basis for a family visa, where you will be granted an unmarried partner visa for 2 years and 9 months. On a partner visa you will also be allowed to work in the UK and will not have to submit a further visa application after getting married or entering into a civil partnership.
UK parent visa
To apply as a parent of a child living in the UK, your child must be under 18 and not living an independent life, for example, where they have married or had children of their own. Additionally, your child must be either a British/Irish citizen, settled in the UK or, where you are applying for leave to remain, they must have lived continuously in the UK for at least 7 years immediately before applying and it would not be reasonable for them to leave.
You will be required to show that you have parental responsibility for the child and that you currently play, and intend to continue to play, an active role in that child’s upbringing. You may also need to show that you are able to adequately maintain and accommodate both yourself and your child, as well as your ability to communicate in English.
If your application is successful, you can stay in the UK for 2 years and 9 months when applying from overseas, or 2 years and 6 months when applying from the UK. You can also apply to extend this visa and may be eligible for settlement having lived in the UK for a certain amount of time. Importantly, although you can apply to live in the UK to care for your child, if you are eligible to apply as a partner, you must apply on that basis instead.
Adult dependent relative visa
To apply as an adult dependent relative coming to be cared for by a family member living in the UK, that person must be over 18 and you must be either:
- a parent aged 18 years+
- a brother or sister aged 18 years+
- a son or daughter aged 18 years+
- a grandparent
Additionally, to be eligible as an adult dependent relative, you must require long-term personal care to be able to perform everyday tasks as a result of age, illness or disability. You must also be unable to obtain the required level of care in the country where you live because it is not available or affordable. Finally, you will need to show that you can be adequately accommodated and cared for in the UK by your UK sponsor.
If you are successfully granted a visa on this basis, how long you can stay in the UK will depend on the status of your UK sponsor. For example, if they are British, Irish or settled in the UK, your stay will be unlimited, where you will not need to apply to extend or settle. If your UK sponsor has pre-settled status under the EUSS, you can stay as long as they stay, where you will need to apply to extend or settle at the same time as they do.
PBS dependant visas for adults
The PBS dependant visa is a visa aimed at the spouse or partner of a prospective foreign worker or student who is planning to come to the UK for the purposes of employment or study, or someone already working or studying in the UK. In these cases, the principal applicant or primary visa-holder will be seeking or have already been granted permission on one of the many sponsored immigration routes under the UK’s points-based system. This could include, for example, the Skilled Worker route or the standard Student route.
Under the points-based immigration system, migrant workers coming to the UK must meet a specific set of requirements for which they will score points, where visas are then awarded to those who gain the minimum number of points required. In contrast, a PBS dependant is someone closely related to a person in the UK on a PBS visa, but who will be granted a visa on the basis of a qualifying relationship with the applicant or visa-holder.
To be eligible for a PBS dependant visa, you must be able to show that you are in a civil partnership or marriage that is recognised in the UK or, if unmarried, that you have been living together in a relationship for at least 2 years when you apply. You may also need to meet a financial requirement where, in addition to the lead applicant showing funds of £1,270, you would need to show an additional £285 in savings as a dependent partner.
If approved for a PBS dependant visa, your visa will usually expire at the same time as that of your spouse or partner where, provided you both continue to meet the relevant requirements, you may be able to extend your visas at the same time. On certain routes, you may also be able to apply to settle, for example, on the Skilled Worker route, or both apply to switch to a different route, such as from the Student to the Skilled Worker route.
How to apply for a UK family visa
When applying from overseas, whether you are applying for one of the family visas or a PBS dependant visa, you will need to make an online application for your visa and pay the relevant fee. As part of your application you will also need to attend an overseas visa application centre (VAC) to enrol your biometric information and submit your supporting documentation, including a valid passport or other travel document proving your identity.
Similarly, if you are applying to switch to a family or PBS dependant visa from within the UK, you will need to apply online, pay the relevant fee and, unless you are eligible to use the use the ‘UK Immigration: ID Check’ app to prove your identity, enrol your biometric information at a UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services (UKVCAS) service point.
Importantly, you can only apply for a fiancé(e) or adult dependent relative visa from outside the UK, unless you are applying to extend your stay as an adult dependant relative.
The cost of applying for UK family visas for adults can vary, depending on the basis upon which a visa is sought and whether applying from outside or inside the UK. For example, the cost to apply for a partner or parent visa from overseas is £1,538, while the cost to switch to this route from inside the UK is £1,048. In contrast, the cost to apply for a PBS dependent visa on the Student route from outside the UK is £363 and £490 from in the UK.
You will also be liable to pay an annual healthcare surcharge to access the UK’s NHS.
Other family visa options for adult applicants
In circumstances where you do not meet the requirements under the rules for a standard family visa or PBS dependant visa, there are various other visa options available to you. These include where your spouse or partner is currently in the UK as a refugee or with humanitarian protection, where you may be able to apply under the “family reunion” rules. This route is free and is far easier than applying for UK family visas for adults.
Alternatively, if you are already living in the UK and have done so for many years, you may be able to apply for a visa on the basis of “private life” or, if you are a Commonwealth citizen and any one of your grandparents was born in the UK, you may be able to apply on the basis of your ancestry. Finally, you may still be eligible to apply under the EUSS to join a family member in the UK with a view to seeking settled status. To further explore these and other visa options, advice should be sought from an immigration specialist.
UK family visas for children
As the parent of a child under the age of 18, where you would like that child to live in the UK on the basis of a family relationship, you will need to apply for some form of family visa.
There are various different scenarios in which you may want to apply for a UK visa on behalf of a child. This could be where you are looking to join your partner already living, working or studying in the UK, or where you are looking to come to the UK yourself to undertake work or study. It could also be where you, either on your own or together with your partner, are already living in the UK and your child was born there.
However, before applying for a visa, or even before exploring the different family visas for children that may be available, it is important to establish whether a visa is actually needed. This is because if the child already has indefinite leave to remain or is otherwise settled in the UK, then they do not need to apply for a visa in order to enter or stay in the UK. A visa will also not be necessary if, under the rules, they are already classed as British.
A child might automatically have acquired British citizenship if they were born overseas but they have a British parent. They may also be classed as British if, for example, they are UK born and their birth took place after their parent(s) had settled in the UK. You can check how the Home Office decides if an individual is automatically a British citizen at GOV.UK.
If your child is already classed as a British citizen, you do not need to apply for a family visa for them to be able to come to the UK to either temporarily reside with family or even settle on a permanent basis. Equally, if they are already residing in the UK, they will be doing so lawfully, without the need for any Home Office application.
However, even if it seems likely that your child may already be a British citizen, it is strongly advised to seek clarification from an immigration specialist. In this way you can feel confident that you have safeguarded your child’s right to permanently live in the UK.
Types of UK family visas for children
When it comes to applying on behalf of a child to come to or stay in the UK with immediate family, there is no dedicated family visa covering all possible scenarios. However, the UK’s Immigration Rules make provision for various different types of family visas for children.
Below we set out the key options for children when coming to live in the UK, including the Child of a Partner or Parent visa and a PBS Child Dependant visa. We also look at other potential options for a child to be able to live in the UK, depending on their circumstances.
Child of a Partner or Parent visa
Under Appendix FM of the UK’s Immigration Rules, to be eligible for a Child of a Partner or Parent visa, one of the child’s parents must also be applying or have applied for a visa (or to extend their permission to stay) as either:
a partner, and the partner they are joining in the UK is the child’s other parent
a parent, and they have sole parental responsibility for the child’s upbringing, or
there are serious and compelling family or other considerations making exclusion of the child in question undesirable, and suitable arrangements have been made for their care.
The child must also satisfy the following requirements:
- they must be under 18 at the date of application
- they must not be married or in a civil partnership
- they must not have formed an independent family unit or be leading an independent life, for example, by cohabiting with their own partner
- they must be financially supported by their parent(s) without recourse to public funds.
The financial requirement for a Child of a Partner or Parent visa varies depending on whether the child is applying as a child of a partner or as a child of a parent.
Where the parent of the child has been granted a Partner visa, or is applying for or has already applied for a Partner visa, there may need to be evidence on the child’s behalf that their parent and/or their parent’s partner has a gross annual income of at least £18,600, plus £3,800 for a first child and £2,400 for each additional child.
In contrast, where the parent of the child has been granted a Parent of a Child visa, or is applying for or has already applied for a Parent of a Child visa, there may need to be evidence on the child’s behalf that that parent is able to adequately maintain and accommodate themselves, the child and any other dependents in the UK.
If all the relevant requirements are satisfied under Appendix FM for a Child of a Partner or Parent visa, the child will initially be granted a visa that will expire on the same date as their parent’s visa. Prior to expiry of this visa, a further application can be made to extend their stay for 2 years 6 months and, having lived in the UK for a certain amount of time, they may also be eligible to apply for indefinite leave to remain, also known as settlement.
PBS Child Dependant visa
The PBS Child Dependant visa is a visa aimed at the children of prospective foreign workers or students who are planning to come to the UK for the purposes of employment or study, or are already working or studying in the UK, as well as the children of partners of workers or students. In these cases, the principal applicant or primary visa-holder will be seeking or have already been granted permission on one of the many sponsored immigration routes under the UK’s points-based system, such as Appendix Skilled Worker or Appendix Student.
Under the points-based immigration system in the UK, migrant workers and students must meet a specific set of requirements for which they will score points, where visas are then awarded to those who gain the minimum number of points required. In contrast, a PBS child dependant is for the child of a person in the UK on a PBS visa, or the partner of someone on a PBS visa, but who will be granted their own visa on the basis of their qualifying relationship with either the lead applicant and/or that person’s partner.
When it comes to children from previous relationships, on certain PBS routes, such as the Skilled Worker route, any dependent children must be either jointly, with the lead applicant’s dependant partner, or solely the responsibility of the lead applicant. In other cases, such as on the Student route, the dependent partner can have sole responsibility.
In addition to these rules, to be eligible for a PBS Child Dependant visa, a financial requirement may also need to be met. This means that the lead applicant must not only show funds of £1,270, where applicable, but there must be proof of funds of £285 for a dependent partner, £315 for the first dependent child and £200 for each additional child.
If approved for a PBS Child Dependant visa, the child’s permission will usually expire at the same time as that of their parent(s) where, provided the relevant requirements continue to be met, you may be able to extend the child’s visa at the same time. On certain routes, you may also be able to apply for a child to settle in the UK, for example, on the Skilled Worker route, or to switch to a different route, such as from the Student to Skilled Worker route.
Other family visa options for children
If a child is not eligible as a dependent child of a PBS migrant, or if the parent of the child does not hold, and is not being granted, leave as a partner or parent under Appendix FM of the Immigration Rules, but holds some other form of permission, then an application may be possible under the family life provisions of Part 8 of the Rules. Under these rules, additional family visas for children may potentially be available in circumstances where a parent holds, or is being granted, limited leave to enter or remain on a route to settlement, or a parent or relative is present and settled in the UK, or is being admitted for settlement.
Other potential options available for children to live in the UK will depend on their unique circumstances, and whether they are applying from outside or inside the UK, but include applying under the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) or on the basis of their private life.
Even though the deadline for most applications to the EUSS was 30 June 2021, if a parent has settled or pre-settled status, a child may still be able to apply under the scheme. In the context of private life applications, leave to remain may be granted where, for example, the child is already living in the UK and they have lived in the UK continuously for at least 7 years and it would be unreasonable to expect them to depart. However, as with all family visas for children, the rules can be complex and advice from an immigration specialist experienced in dealing with applications on behalf of children must be sought.
How to apply for a UK family visa for a child
When applying for UK family visas for children, the process to do this will not only depend on whether the application is being made from overseas or inside the UK, but also the basis upon which permission to come to or stay in the UK is sought on behalf of the child.
In some cases, an application can be made at the same time as the child’s parent(s) while, in others, a separate application may be needed for the child. In all cases, this will necessitate an online application, although a paper form may also be required.
Additionally, as part of the visa application process, the child may need to attend an appointment to enrol their biometric information, and to prove their identity and nationality. If applying from overseas, an appointment will need to be scheduled at an overseas Visa Application Centre (VAC). If applying from the UK, the appointment will take place at a UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services (UKVCAS) service point. For children under the age of 16, they must attend their appointment with a responsible adult.
The requirements for biometric enrolment are also subject to the following age limits:
- under 6 years old: children under 5 are exempt from having to provide a scan of their fingerprints, but they must provide a digitised image of their face
- 6 to 16 years old: children must provide both a photograph and fingerprints
- above 16 years old: children must provide a photo, fingerprints and their signature.
The cost of applying for UK family visas for children can vary, again depending on the basis upon which a visa is sought, and whether an application is made from outside or inside the UK. For example, the cost to apply for a Child of a Partner or Parent visa is £1,538 from outside the UK and £1,048 from inside the UK. In contrast, the cost to apply for a PBS Child Dependant visa on the Student route from outside the UK is £363 and £490 from inside the UK. An additional fee of £470 per year, known as a healthcare surcharge, will also be payable to enable the child to access the UK’s National Health Service during their stay.
UK settlement visas for children
Your child may be eligible to settle in the UK, also known as indefinite leave to remain, in a number of circumstances. This could be if they have both a family visa as a child and a parent who is a British citizen or otherwise settled in the UK. It could also be where they are a dependant on a parent’s work visa, where the parent is also applying to settle.
However, if neither of these scenarios applies to the child’s circumstances, they may qualify for settlement if any of the following are true:
- they are under 18 and were born in the UK before their parent settled here, regardless of the child’s immigration status, including if they have never had a visa
- they have ever been a dependant on a relative’s visa, where that relative has had refugee status or humanitarian protection before settling in the UK
- they have a parent who is applying for indefinite leave to remain as a partner or parent on the 10 year route.
Importantly, when looking for ways for a child to live in the UK on either a temporary or permanent basis, it is strongly advised to seek expert advice from an immigration specialist.
Do you have a question about a UK family visa?
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 an application to live with a loved one in the UK. If you have a question about a Family Visa, please contact us.
UK family visa FAQs
Who is eligible for family visa in UK?
There are different types of family visa available in the UK, including a partner and a parent visa, where eligibility largely depends on having a qualifying relationship with a British citizen or someone otherwise settled in the UK.
What is a UK family visa?
A UK family visa is a visa that allows an overseas national to come to the UK to live with an immediate family member, such as the spouse or partner of someone settled in the UK.
How long is the family visa for the UK?
The length of a family visa will depend on the type of visa sought and where the application is made. For example, when applying from overseas, a partner visa will be granted for 2 years and 9 months.
Is family visa available in UK?
It is possible to switch to certain family visas from inside the UK, provided you meet the qualifying relationship requirement, such as being the spouse or partner of someone settled in the UK, together with the other eligibility requirements.
Last updated: 21 August 2023