December 11, 2023

Immigration Marriage

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UK Spouse Visa Requirements and How to Apply

Genuine and Subsisting Relationship Requirement

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 Considered by the Home Office When Deciding Whether a Relationship Is Genuine and Subsisting

Factors which may be considered by the Home Office when determining whether your relationship is genuine and subsisting include:

  • Whether you and your spouse are in a current, long-term relationship;
  • Whether you and your spouse have been or are now living together;
  • Whether you and your spouse have children together (biological, adopted or step-children) and shared responsibility for them;
  • Whether you and your spouse share financial responsibilities, for example a joint mortgage or tenancy agreement, a joint bank account, savings, utility bills in both of your names;
  • Whether you and your spouse have visited the other’s home country and family;
  • Whether you and your spouse have made definite plans concerning the practicalities of living together in the UK;

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.

Documents Required to Prove a Genuine and Subsisting Relationship

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.

Intention to Live Together Permanently in the UK

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.

Previous Relationship Broken Down Permanently

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.

 

UK Spouse Visa Financial Requirement

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:

  • £18,600; plus
  • £3,800 for a first child (who is not British, holds indefinite leave to remain in the UK, has pre-settled status or settled status or is an EEA national with a right to reside in the UK); plus
  • £2,400 for each additional child (who is not British, holds indefinite leave to remain in the UK, has pre-settled status or settled status or is an EEA national with a right to reside in the UK).

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.

How to Satisfy the UK Spouse Visa Financial Requirement

The UK Spouse Visa financial requirement can be satisfied in a variety of different ways, including by relying on:

  • Income from salaried or non-salaried employment of your spouse (and/or you if you are in the UK with permission to work);
  • Non-employment income, for example, income from property rental or dividends from shares;
  • Cash savings of your partner and/or yourself, above £16,000, held by your spouse and/or you for at least 6 months and under their / your control;
  • State (UK or foreign), occupational or private pension of your spouse and/or yourself;
  • Income from self-employment, and income as a director or employee of a specified limited company in the UK, of your spouse (and/or you if you are in the UK with permission to work).

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.

Spouse Visa Accommodation Requirement

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.

Exclusive ownership or occupation

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.

Overcrowding

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

Spouse Visa English Language Requirement

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:

  • Holding the nationality of a majority English speaking country;
  • Passing an approved English language test at or above the required CEFR level, with an approved provider as set out on Approved Secure English Language Tests and Test Centres; or
  • Having an academic qualification which is either a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree or PhD if awarded in the UK; or, if awarded outside the UK, is deemed by Ecctis (formerly UK NARIC) to meet or exceed the recognised standard of a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree or PhD in the UK, and Ecctis (formerly UK NARIC) has confirmed that the degree was taught or researched in English at or above the required CEFR level.

In order to be exempt from the English language requirement you will normally have to prove that either:

  • You are over the age of 65 at the date of application;
  • You have a physical or mental disability which prevents you from meeting the English language requirement;
  • There are exceptional circumstances which mean that you cannot satisfy the English language requirement before entering the UK.

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.

UK Spouse Visa Supporting Documents Checklists

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.

UK Spouse Visa Application Fee

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.

UK Spouse Visa Processing & Decision Waiting Times

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.

Duration of a UK Spouse Visa

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.

Switching Into the Spouse Visa Route From Within the UK

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.

Working in the UK on a Spouse Visa

Spouse Visa holders have a full right to work in the UK.

Indefinite Leave to Remain as a Spouse

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:

  • Since you have been in the spouse category you have lived together with your spouse in the UK or there is good reason, consistent with a continuing intention to live together permanently in the UK, for any period when you have not done so;
  • You meet the higher CEFR Level B2 English Language requirement that applies to settlement applications;
  • You have passed the Life in the UK test (unless exempt)..

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.

UK Spouse Visa Frequently Asked Questions

How Can I Get Married in the UK?

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.

Where Can I Apply for A UK Spouse Visa?

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.

How Do I Apply for a UK Spouse Visa?

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.

Will My Overseas Marriage Be Recognised by the Home Office?

The Home Office will recognise a marriage which has taken place outside the UK provided:

  • The type of marriage is recognised in the country in which it took place;
  • The marriage was properly conducted to satisfy the requirements of the law of the country in which it took place;
  • There is nothing in the laws of either person’s country of domicile at the time of the marriage which prevents the marriage or civil partnership being recognised;
  • Any previous marriages of the couple have broken down permanently

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 Can I Apply for a British Passport?

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.

What if My Spouse Visa Application Is Refused?

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.

This article was first published by Richmond Chambers and is reproduced with permission.

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