UK Spouse Visa Requirements And How To Apply – Work Visas – UK – Mondaq

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The UK Spouse Visa is for partners of British or Irish citizens, persons with indefinite leave to remain in the UK, refugee leave or humanitarian protection or limited leave to remain under Appendix EU or Appendix ECAA, who wish to join, or stay with, their husband or wife in the UK. You can also apply for a UK Spouse Visa if your Spouse is outside the UK, but is intending to return to the UK with you.
The UK Spouse Visa can lead to indefinite leave to remain or settlement in the UK after a period of 5 years.
In order to qualify for a UK Spouse Visa, you will need to satisfy UK Visas and Immigration that you meet the following requirements:
The exact requirements you will need to satisfy may vary depending on your personal circumstances. You may want to speak to an immigration lawyer for expert advice.
In order to qualify for a UK Spouse Visa, your partner must either:
A British Citizen in the UK includes a British Citizen who is coming to the UK with you as your partner. A person with indefinite leave to remain in the UK includes a person who is being admitted for settlement on the same occasion as you.
You and your partner must both be over the age of 18 on the date when you submit your Spouse Visa application.
The UK Spouse Visa relationship requirement has various elements to it:
In order to qualify for a UK Spouse Visa, you and your spouse must not be within a prohibited degree of relationship as defined in the Marriage Act 1949 and the Marriage (Prohibited Degrees of Relationship) Act 1986.
This means that you and your spouse must not be related in any of the following ways:
In this list 'sibling' means a brother, sister, half-brother or half-sister.
A marriage between a person and any person in the following list will not qualify for a spouse visa until both parties are aged 21 or over, and provided that the younger party has not at any time before attaining the age of 18 been a child of the family in relation to the other party:
You and your spouse must have met in person. The requirement to have 'met' means that you must be able to demonstrate a face-to-face meeting which resulted in the making of a mutual acquaintance. Simply coming face-to-face followed by telephone or written contact would not satisfy the requirements for a UK Spouse Visa.
In order to qualify for a UK Spouse Visa, you and your partner will need to be legally married in a marriage that is recognised in the UK.
To be recognised as valid, all marriages which take place in the UK must be monogamous and must be carried out in accordance with the requirements of the Marriage Act 1949 (as amended), the Marriage Act (Scotland) 1977 or the Marriage Order (Northern Ireland) 2003.
This means that any required notice of intention to marry must have been given, you must have been married at an authorised place of marriage and your marriage must have been conducted by, or in the presence of, a person authorised to register marriages. You and your spouse must also both have been at least 16 years old on the date when you married in order for your marriage to be recognised as valid.
A marriage in the UK must be evidenced by a marriage certificate.
An overseas marriage will be recognised in the UK if:
A marriage outside the UK must be evidenced by a reasonable equivalent to a marriage certificate, valid under the law in force in the relevant country.
In order to qualify for a UK Spouse Visa you will need to provide the Home Office with evidence that your relationship with your partner is a genuine and subsisting relationship.
Decisions on whether a relationship is genuine and subsisting are made on a case-by-case basis, taking into account all available evidence and individual circumstances.
Factors which may be considered by the Home Office when determining whether your relationship is genuine and subsisting include:
If the Home Office has doubts as to the genuine and subsisting nature of your relationship then it may undertake further checks, interview you and your spouse or arrange a home visit.
There are no mandatory documents required in order to demonstrate that a relationship is 'genuine and subsisting'. However, the Home Office will expect to see significant evidence of regular contact, signs of affection and companionship, emotional support, and an abiding interest in each other's welfare and wellbeing.
In addition to a marriage certificate, the Home Office will expect to see evidence of cohabitation. Official documents, for example from government authorities, banks, landlords, utility providers, or medical professionals are preferred.
Documents should be dated within the last few years and originate from a range of sources. Documents should ideally be in the name of you and your spouse jointly. Alternatively, it is possible to rely on documents addressed to you both individually at the same address.
If it is not possible to provide exclusively official documents then other documents proving cohabitation, such as receipts or invoices for orders addressed to one or both partners at their shared property, may also be submitted.
If you and your spouse have not lived together for very long, it is also possible to provide unofficial evidence of a relationship. This might include photographs taken throughout the course of your relationship and evidence of activities which you have enjoyed doing together, holidays taken together, time spent with family and friends, records of communication with each other or important moments in your relationship.
As mentioned above, the Home Office will expect to see significant evidence of a genuine and subsisting relationship. If the Home Office has doubts as to the genuine and subsisting nature of your relationship then it may undertake further checks, interview you and your spouse or arrange a home visit. If it has reasonable grounds to doubt that your relationship is genuine or subsisting then your Spouse Visa application will be refused.
Our immigration barristers regularly advise Spouse Visa applicants as to the documentary evidence that the Home Office will expect to see in order to be satisfied that their relationship is a real one, based on genuine affection and shared values, and that it is ongoing at the time of the application. We do not rely on templated lists of documents and only ever advise our clients on the documents needed to prove a genuine and subsisting relationship on the basis of their own personal circumstances.
In order to qualify for a Spouse Visa, UK Visas & Immigration will want to be satisfied that you and your spouse intend to live together permanently in the UK.
At the initial Spouse Visa application stage this will require a clear commitment from both of you that you will live together permanently in the UK immediately following the outcome of your Spouse Visa application or as soon as circumstances permit thereafter.
When you apply for further leave to remain or indefinite leave to remain as a spouse, the Home Office will expect any periods of time spent outside the UK to be limited, for good reason and consistent with an intention to live together permanently in the UK. Good reasons could include time spent overseas in connection with work, holidays, training or study.
If you or your spouse spend the majority of your time overseas, this could cause the Home Office to doubt your intention to live together permanently in the UK. The Home Office will consider the reasons for travel, length of absence and whether you and your spouse travelled and lived together during the time spent outside the UK.
The Home Office will want to be satisfied that neither you or your spouse are married to another person at the date of your application for entry clearance as a spouse.
If you or your spouse have been previously married then you will need to provide evidence that this marriage has ended. A divorce in the UK must be evidenced by a decree absolute from a civil court. A divorce outside the UK must be evidenced by a reasonable equivalent to a decree absolute certificate, valid under the law in force in the relevant country.
If you or your spouse have previously been married and this marriage has not been legally dissolved then you may still qualify for an Unmarried Partner Visa. You will need to provide evidence that the new relationship is genuine and subsisting and that the previous relationship has broken down permanently.
In order to demonstrate that you can be adequately maintained in the UK without recourse to public funds, you will need to satisfy the Spouse Visa financial requirement.
The financial requirement for a UK Spouse Visa application states that, unless exempt, you will need to demonstrate that your Spouse (or both of you jointly if you are in the UK with valid leave to remain) has a gross annual income of at least:
Different considerations will apply if your Spouse is in receipt of certain state benefits or entitlements, when the financial requirement for a UK Spouse Visa is that the sponsor can 'adequately maintain and accommodate' the family member being sponsored to enter or remain in the UK.
You will need to meet the financial requirement when you first apply to enter the UK as a spouse, when you apply to extend your stay as a spouse and when you apply for indefinite leave to remain as a spouse.
The Immigration Rules relating to the Spouse Visa financial requirement are complex and include mandatory documentary evidence requirements. The onus is on applicants to demonstrate that the financial requirement is met. One of the most common reasons for refusal of a Spouse Visa application is because mandatory financial evidence is not provided.
The UK Spouse Visa financial requirement can be satisfied in a variety of different ways, including by relying on:
In some circumstances it is possible to rely on a combination of the above sources of income to satisfy the financial requirement.
As mentioned above, different considerations will apply if your spouse is in receipt of certain state benefits or entitlements.
Also, Spouse Visa applicants relying on cash savings to satisfy the Spouse Visa financial requirement may wish to keep in mind that the level of cash savings required in an entry clearance and extension application is different from the level required when applying for indefinite leave to remain as a spouse.
In exceptional circumstances in which refusal of the Spouse Visa application could otherwise breach ECHR Article 8, other credible and reliable sources of income, financial support or funds available to the couple may be taken into account.
Our immigration barristers are experts in the Spouse Visa financial requirement rules and regularly assist UK Spouse Visa applicants to navigate the complex evidential requirements.
To discuss your UK Spouse Visa application with one of our immigration barristers, contact our UK Spouse visa lawyers on 0203 617 9173 or complete our enquiry form below.
Whether you are applying for entry clearance or for further leave to remain as a spouse, you will need to provide evidence that there will be adequate accommodation available to you and your spouse, without the need to rely on public funds, in accommodation which you own or occupy exclusively.
You will need to provide evidence as to the basis on which the property is owned or occupied, that you are legally and exclusively entitled to occupy the property and that the property will not be overcrowded or contravene public health regulations.
In order to meet the accommodation requirement for a Spouse Visa application as a property owner, you may produce a copy of the title deeds and evidence of the mortgage arrangements and confirmation that the obligations are being met.
In the case of a private tenancy, you may consider providing evidence of the tenancy agreement, a letter from the landlord or agency and confirmation that the full rent is paid on time each month.
If you will reside with a family member, you may consider providing a letter from the family member confirming the basis on which you can reside at the property.
If the property is rented from a local authority, you may produce evidence from the authority confirming the basis on which you may reside at the property.
The Housing Act 1985 generally governs the rules in respect of overcrowding.
Broadly speaking, children under 10 years can share a room, as can couples but other individuals should have separate rooms. Children under the age of 1 do not count for the purpose of this calculation.
When working out the available rooms, those that are bedrooms or are living rooms and could be used as a bedroom are therefore counted for these purposes, providing they are over the requisite size. Bathrooms and kitchens cannot be counted.
A house in multiple occupation (HMO) is defined as "a house which is occupied by persons who do not form a single household". This can cover accommodation such as hotels or hostels or houses. There are separate overcrowding provisions for HMOs.
A property inspection report by a Chartered Surveyor or local authority can assist with ensuring that all aspects of the Spouse Visa accommodation rules are met. An independently obtained assessment will provide full details of the accommodation, together with confirmation of the number of rooms and those in occupation at the property.
Unless exempt, as part of your Spouse Visa application you will need to satisfy the Home Office that you satisfy an English language requirement.
When applying for entry clearance or to switch into the Spouse Visa route you will need to demonstrate competence in the English language to at least CEFR level A1. When you apply for further leave to remain as a spouse you will need to demonstrate competence in the English language to at least CEFR level A2.
You can meet the Spouse Visa English language requirement by:
In order to be exempt from the English language requirement you will normally have to prove that either:
If you are not able to demonstrate that you meet the English language requirement (or are exempt), then your Spouse Visa application will be refused.
The most common reason for a Spouse Visa application to be refused is because the applicant fails to include sufficient documentary evidence in support of their application.
The Immigration Rules contain strict requirements in terms of the documents that must be submitted in support of a UK Spouse Visa application. Every case is different and the required supporting documents for a Spouse Visa application will vary from case to case.
Applicants should be very careful when using pre-prepared document checklists for Spouse Visa applications. Advice from an immigration lawyer will ensure that the documents listed are appropriate for individual circumstances.
At the same time, if a required document is not provided, is in the wrong format or does not contain all mandatory information then the application for a Spouse Visa may be refused. Appeals can take many months to be determined and the outcome may be uncertain. A fresh application will involve further cost and additional delay.
Our immigration barristers provide expert advice to Spouse Visa applicants in relation to the documents required for a successful Spouse Visa application and also check supporting documents for compliance with the Immigration Rules.
The Home Office application fee for a UK Spouse Visa application submitted outside the UK is currently £1,523. The Home Office application fee to switch into the spouse category from within the UK or extend stay as a spouse is currently £1,033.
The Home Office service standard for deciding a Spouse Visa application submitted outside the UK is 12 weeks (3 months). However, the Home Office is currently advising that applications for Spouse Visas submitted outside the UK may take up to 24 weeks (6 months) to process whilst it prioritises Ukraine Visa Scheme applications.
Applications to switch into or extend as a spouse submitted from within the UK should be decided within 8 weeks.
Priority and super priority visa services are currently temporarily suspended for new spouse visa applications submitted outside the UK whilst the Home Office prioritises Ukraine Visa Scheme applications. This suspension has been in place since 14 March 2022.
If your application for a UK Spouse Visa is successful, your spouse visa will be valid for 33 months initially. If you apply for leave to remain in the UK as a spouse then you will be granted leave valid for 30 months.
Before your initial grant of leave expires, you will need to apply to UK Visas and Immigration to extend your stay. If your application for further leave to remain as a spouse is successful then you will be granted further leave to remain for a period of 30 months.
After spending 5 years in the UK as the spouse, you will be eligible to apply for indefinite leave to remain.
An application for leave to remain as a spouse can be made from within the UK, unless you are in the UK as a visitor or, with few exceptions, with valid leave granted for a period of 6 months or less.
Visitors who wish to settle in the UK with their husband or wife should leave the UK and apply for entry clearance as a spouse from overseas.
If you are in the UK with permission as a fiancé(e) or were granted leave pending the outcome of family court or divorce proceedings then, exceptionally, you can apply for leave to remain as a spouse from within the UK.
Spouse Visa holders have a full right to work in the UK.
If your Spouse Visa application is successful, you will initially be granted permission to enter the UK for a period of two and a half years (plus an additional three months if applying for entry clearance). You will need to make an extension application before the expiry of your leave. If your spouse extension application is successful then you will be granted further leave for a period of two and a half years.
After spending 5 years (60 months) in the UK on the Spouse Visa route, you may be eligible to apply for indefinite leave to remain in the UK.
In order to qualify for indefinite leave to remain as a spouse you will need to demonstrate, in addition to the above requirements, that:
If you make an application for indefinite leave to remain as a spouse but do not satisfy the above requirements, UK Visas and Immigration will go on to consider if you meet the requirements for a further extension of stay as a spouse.
If you wish to travel to the UK to get married then there are two main immigration routes available: the Marriage Visit visa and the Fiance visa.
The Marriage Visit visa is designed for individuals who wish to visit the UK to marry, or give notice of a marriage, in the UK.
The Fiance visa is for engaged partners of British or Irish citizens, persons with indefinite leave to remain in the UK, refugee leave or humanitarian protection or limited leave to remain under Appendix EU or Appendix ECAA, who wish to enter the UK and marry within 6 months of their arrival.
If you are applying for a Spouse Visa from outside the UK then you should apply in the country where you are resident (otherwise than as a visitor). You do not need to be a citizen of the country.
If you are already in the UK and have been granted permission to stay for a period of more than six months then you can apply for leave to remain as a spouse from within the UK.
If you have been granted a period of leave of six months or less, such as a visitor, you will need to leave the UK and apply for entry clearance as a spouse from overseas. The concession which allowed visitors to apply from within the UK during the Covid-19 pandemic is no longer in force.
Spouse Visa applications are made using an online application form. There is a different application form, depending on whether the applicant is applying from inside the UK or overseas.
Before you apply for a UK Spouse Visa you should check the correct application form for your individual circumstances with an immigration lawyer.
You should prepare your supporting documents while you are preparing your Spouse Visa application form, as there are some specific document requirements which necessitate that your documents are dated before the date that you submit the online application form.
The current system allows individuals to upload scans of their spouse visa supporting documents for the Home Office to review. However, you should check the individual procedure for the country in which you intend to apply at the time when you are applying, as the Home Office changes this system from time to time.
The Home Office will recognise a marriage which has taken place outside the UK provided:
There are some additional requirements in relation to age and prohibited degrees of relationship and previous divorces, but in broad terms, if the country in which your marriage took place recognises you as validly married then so will the UK.
When you first enter the Spouse Visa category you will be granted a period of two and a half years (plus an additional three months if applying for Entry Clearance). You will then have to make an extension application before the expiry of this leave and will be granted a further two and a half years.
Most people in the Spouse Visa category are on a five year route to settlement. This means that after two grants of 30 months, they are eligible for Indefinite Leave to Remain.
Some people are on a ten year route to settlement, and they will need to have four grants of leave. If, after you enter the UK you switch from the five year route to the ten year route, then you can count both grants of leave towards the period you need for the ten year route.
Once you have obtained Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK, if you are married to a British national you can immediately apply to Naturalise as a British Citizen. If you are not married to a British national, you will need to wait a period of 12 months before you can apply.
If your application for a UK Spouse Visa is refused then you should have a right of appeal. This is because a spouse application is automatically deemed a human rights claim.
The appeal will be heard at the First-tier Tribunal (Immigration and Asylum Chamber) in the UK.
If you are in the UK, you and your spouse will be able to attend and give evidence before the Judge.
If you are outside of the UK, your spouse will be able to attend, but you can write a statement and provide evidence for the Tribunal to consider. Arrangements may be made for you to give evidence remotely if this is appropriate in your case.
Immigration appeal proceedings can take many months to be determined and the outcome may be uncertain. Again, we recommend seeking legal advice and representation from a specialist immigration lawyer before appealing against a decision to refuse a Spouse Visa application.
Our immigration barristers regularly assist foreign national Spouses to relocate to, and settle in, the UK with their British citizen or settled partners. We have assisted hundreds of foreign national spouses to prepare and submit successful UK Spouse Visa applications.
Whether you require expert advice on the requirements of the Immigration Rules for Spouse Visas, an independent assessment of your prospects of qualifying for a Spouse Visa or professional assistance with preparing a Spouse Visa application, our immigration barristers can help.
The financial requirement rules are particularly complex and include mandatory requirements in terms of the documentary evidence that must be provided to UK Visas and Immigration in order to demonstrate access to the relevant funds. Our immigration barristers specialise in assisting applicants with complex financial circumstances to secure successful outcomes in their Spouse Visa applications.
We pride ourselves on being approachable and proactive in understanding and meeting our clients' needs. We are a highly driven team of immigration barristers, dedicated to providing clear and reliable immigration advice to family members of British citizens and settled persons as part of a professional and friendly service.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.
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