The U.K. immigration system has a distinct class of visas designed for foreign born family and dependents of those with British citizenship or settled status within the U.K. The family visas cover a range of relationships but in this article, we’re going to look at the U.K. Spouse Visa and how you can obtain one.
Understanding the UK Spouse Visa
The spouse visa, also known as a partner visa allows someone 18 or older to enter the U.K. in order to live with a partner who either holds British citizenship, has a settled status within the U.K. or is a refugee located there. It’s worth remembering that this visa applies to couples who are already married to their partner, although there are other visa routes available for those in civil partnerships, engaged to be married, or unmarried but in a relationship of more than 2 years.
The visa allows the partner to remain within the U.K. for an initial period of 30 months, and can be extended by a further 30 months at the end of that time.
Meeting the Eligibility Criteria
An existing marriage isn’t the only criteria you’ll have to meet to obtain a visa of this type. The Home Office will want to further investigate your relationship, your financial situation, accommodation and your proficiency with the English Language.
The Home Office is going to need evidence to determine that your marriage is based upon a genuine relationship, luckily there are lots of types of evidence that you can provide them to show this. Shared bank accounts, a tenancy agreement or mortgage agreement from a shared property or even evidence of any children you share such as a birth certificate should be acceptable in this regard.
In order to be financially eligible, the partner with U.K. citizenship or settled status must meet a minimum required income of £18,600 (pre-tax) in order to demonstrate that they are able to financially support their spouse. Any dependent children will require additional income of £3,800 for the first child and an additional £2,400 for any further dependent child. While this income does not need to come from one specific source, and may be made up from multiple employments/self-employed income streams, you will need to provide evidence that your various incomes meet the minimum.
Requirements for suitable accommodation will depend on the number of dependents you have within your marriage. You will need to provide evidence to the Home Office that you are able to pay for suitable accommodation, as well as proving that there are an adequate number of rooms for yourself, your partner and any children living at the premises. While technically, each person in the household must have their own room, there are a few exceptions. Couples are able to share a single bedroom and children under the age of 1 are exempt. Children between the ages of 1 and 9 are classified as 0.5 people and as such, can share a bedroom with another child. Additionally, when counting the number of bedrooms, it is acceptable to include a living room.
The partner applying for the spouse visa, must also prove they have a certain level of proficiency with the English language. This is a similar requirement on many U.K. visa pathways and uses the Secure English Language Testing (SELT) method. Currently, you’re able to obtain a proficiency test through Trinity College London or IELTS. There are some exceptions to this requirement, which would allow you to prove your level of proficiency through other means. Those born in countries in which England is the language spoken by the majority of residents, are under the age of 18 or over 65 or have a long term physical or mental health condition which would prevent them from testing are exempt. Additionally, if you hold a qualification which was taught or researched in the English language, you may be able use this as evidence of proficiency, though it is advisable to check your qualifications level with U.K. NARIC.
The application process for a U.K. spouse visa begins by filling in the relevant forms on the GOV.UK website. Once the process has begun, you’ll be notified about the documents you require in order for the application to progress. This will likely include, passports, marriage certificates, birth certificates for dependents, bank statements, employment contracts and the proof of accommodation and income we’ve previously mentioned. This list is not exhaustive however and may alter depending on your personal circumstances.
The application process does incur a fee of £1,538 if applying from outside the U.K. and £1,048 if applying from within. It’s also worth remembering that these fee’s apply to each person included in the application, so you’ll need to ensure that you have the funds available to cover fees for any dependent children also.
There are a lot of elements which go into obtaining a U.K. spouse visa, and the process is not always as straightforward as it might appear. While this guide details the general process and some of the evidence you may need to provide to the Home Office, your situation may cause you to face issues not covered in this article. As such, it is advisable to seek legal advice from professionals experienced in handling immigration issues. Remember however that this will incur a further cost and so you should ensure that you have the available funds should you decided to seek help in navigating the sometimes complex British immigration system.