While there is no set UK Family Visa, there are many types of visas for family members that fall under different immigration categories. These are used by relatives and partners of British nationals and British residents, who want to join or accompany them in/to the UK.
These visas vary in length, cost, and processing time. They each have different requirements depending on the applicant’s background, relationship to their relative, and reason for joining them in the UK. Most Family Visas require the applicant to prove their relationship to their UK relative (usually called the ‘sponsor’).
To find out more about the different types of Family-based Visas and their requirements, call our team on 0203 411 1966. Our team of London and UK-based lawyers can help you understand your requirements, options and next steps for you to join and accompany your family in/to the UK.
UK Family Visa requirements
To be eligible for a Family Visa, you must be one of the following:
- A spouse, partner or close relative of a British citizen or settled person
- A dependant spouse, partner or close relative of a person who has valid entry clearance in the UK
- The granddaughter/grandson of a British citizen (who was born in the UK)
- The family member of a person based in the UK, if you are looking to visit for a temporary period
As part of the requirements for these kinds of visas, you must usually prove that your relationship with your family members is genuine. To do this you will need to supply marriage/birth certificates, photographic evidence, and other documentation. This can include proof of your correspondence, living together, or spending time with each other.
In the case where your entry clearance requires the UK-based family member to act as the visa sponsor, a letter of sponsorship may be required. This should include information on how you are related to/know the applicant, how long you have known them, and how often you see each other currently. It should also include evidence to show that you are who you say you are and that you are either a British citizen, settled person, or person with valid entry clearance.
Types of family-based visas
It is worth remembering that there is no set ‘Family Visa’ and, if you want to join or accompany your partner or relative to the UK, you must find the category which best suits you. These categories include:
- Spouse, unmarried partner, and civil partner
- Ancestry Visa
- Dependant children
- Dependant adults
- ‘Family Visit Visas’
- EEA Family Permit
Some of the family-based visa types are temporary, while others are permanent. For example, Spouse Visas last for two and a half years and can lead to ILR. On the other hand, Family Visitor Visas are temporary and allow the holder to visit their UK-based family member for a short, set period (up to six months) before returning home.
As well as this, each type falls under a different visa category, which means there are different eligibility requirements for each one. For example, most Dependant Child Visas have the same guidelines as the type of visa held by the parent. So, if a parent on a Tier 2 Work Visa wanted to bring their child with them to the UK, for instance, the child’s visa and its requirements would be tied to theirs.
Spouse and Partner Visas
There is a range of visas that allow people to join their long-term partners in the UK. These include:
- UK Fiance Visas/Proposed Civil Partner Visas: for those who want to join their engaged British/settled partner before marrying them in the UK
- Spouse Visas: for those who are married to someone with British citizenship or settled status
- Civil Partnership Visas: for those who are the civil partners of a British citizen or settled person
- Unmarried Partner Visas: for those who want to join their British or settled long-term partner in the UK
Partner Visa processing time
The average processing time for a Partner Visa is two to 12 weeks, although some applications can take longer to review if fraud is suspected or there is something complex or unusual about your case.
Partner Visa costs
All Partner Visas made under FLM cost £1,464 from inside the country and £1,523 from outside.
Partner Visa documents
- To prove that your relationship with your partner is genuine, you can include a range of documents. These include:
- Evidence of conversations you have had with your partner during your relationship (phone logs, emails, chat logs, texts, Skype sessions, etc)
- Photographs of you together
- Tickets from traveling to/with each other
- Tickets from events you have attended together
- Bank statements from shared bank accounts
- Receipts from meals out together
- Receipts from gifts you have bought each other
Ancestral Visas are used by people who have/had a grandparent who was a British citizen by birth. To be eligible, you need to be:
- A Commonwealth citizen
- Able to prove your relationship to your UK grandparent is real
- Planning to work once in the UK
- Applying from outside the UK
- Over the age of 17
A UK Ancestry Visa lasts for five years, and you can use this time as part of the qualifying period for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR).
Ancestry Visa processing time
The estimated processing time for this type of visa is three weeks. However, this time could vary depending on the complexity and where you are applying from.
Ancestry Visa costs
The application fee for this visa is £516.
Ancestry Visa documents
There are several documents you must provide to meet the UK ancestry requirements. You should include:
- Your passport
- Bank statements which prove you have enough money to support yourself in the UK
- Results of your Tuberculosis screening
- Your birth certificate
- The birth certificates of the parent and grandparent that your claim is based on
- The marriage certificates of your grandparents (if they were married)
- Evidence that you’re planning to work in the UK (for example, if you have any job offers or interviews lined up for when you arrive)
Adult Dependant Visas
Adult Dependant Visas are some of the hardest UK Family Visas to make an application for, and the refusal rate for them is very high.
To be eligible for an Adult Dependant Relative Visa, you must be in need of long-term care from a family member in the UK. This person can be a child, grandchild, parent or sibling, but they must be living permanently in the UK. They can be a British citizen or have settled status.
To meet the requirements for this visa, you need to demonstrate the following:
- You need care and help to complete everyday tasks, including personal and household tasks because of disability, illness, or age
- You are unable to receive this care in the country you live in because it is either unavailable or unaffordable
- The person you want to join in the UK can support you, care for you, and accommodate you for at least five years without claiming public funds
- You are over the age of 18
This route is a permanent family-based visa. This means that your stay is unlimited – you do not need to extend your visa or apply for settled status. This is one of the reasons the route is so competitive and complex. There is a significantly high refusal rate for applications for adult dependants. When this is factored into the cost of this category of application, it is highly advised that you seek the help of an immigration professional, like a solicitor or lawyer who specialises in family visa law, who can help prepare you to prepare you application.
Adult Dependant Visa processing time
This visa takes approximately 12 weeks to be processed by UKVI, although, as it is a complex visa category, this can often be extended.
Adult Dependant Visa costs
According to Home Office guidelines, adults applying to be looked after by their relatives must pay a fee of £3,250
Adult Dependant Visa documents
The applicant must first be able to prove that they need long-term care. Documents to show this can include the following:
- Medical evidence showing that they have a physical or mental condition that prohibits them from completing everyday tasks. This must be from a doctor or health professional.
- Evidence which shows they cannot get this care in their home country. This needs to be from either a local health authority; a local authority; or a doctor/health professional.
- Evidence to show that the UK sponsor is able to provide them with the care they need. This can include bank statements, proof of a steady income (such as a job contract)
- Proof that the UK sponsor is either British or settled in the UK. Passports, birth certificates and relevant immigration documents (such as proof they hold Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK) can be used.
Child Dependant Visas
If you are coming to the UK on a points-based-visa, your partner and children can apply to accompany you.
This process is called a Dependant Visa application. You are eligible to do this if you have/are applying for entry clearance under the Tier 1 (highly skilled workers and businesspeople), Tier 2 (skilled workers) Tier 4 (students), or Tier 5 (temporary workers) visa categories.
To apply for this type of visa, you need to show that you have enough money to support all your family members without claiming public funds. This can include your prospective salary (if applying as a worker) but you must also have enough saved to ensure that you can support yourself and all dependants before you receive your first paycheque.
A ‘dependant’ is any of the following:
- Your wife, husband, civil partner, or long-term (two years or more) unmarried partner
- Your child under the age of 18
- Your child over the age of 18 (if they are already living in the UK as your dependant*)
*This is valid when applying for a visa extension after finishing your period of living in the UK with your initial visa. For example, if you have lived in the UK with your family on a Tier 2 Work for two and a half years and, during this time, your child passes their 18th birthday.
Child Dependant Visa processing time
Family members of UK visa-holders must apply online for their visas. Once they have done this, their visa should take approximately 30 days to process. Dependant Visa applications are often relatively straightforward
Child Dependant Visa costs
The Family Dependant Visa costs per applicant are as follows:
- Tier 1 dependants: £608 for family members of exceptionally talented people, £1,878 for family members of entrepreneurs, £1,623 for family members of investors
- Tier 2 dependants: £610 (or £464 if the Tier 2 Visa is issued for a shortage occupation)
- Tier 4 dependants: £475
- Tier 5 dependants: £244
Child Dependant Visa documents
If you want to bring your family with you when living in the UK with a visa, you will need to provide several documents to support your application. These include:
- The applicant’s passport
- A photo for a UK visa, printed in colour
- Original birth certificates
- Proof of a Tuberculosis screening
- Previous passports (to show travel history)
- Proof of income (to show that the dependant will be supported during their time in the UK)
EEA Family Permits & EEA Settlement Scheme Family Permits
If you’re a national from a country outside of the European Economic Area (EEA) and you have an EEA family member who is living in the UK, you may be able to join them using an EEA Family Permit.
To be eligible for this, you can be a close or extended relative of an EEA national (not including British) who is currently living in the UK. These are defined as: brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, daughters, sons, uncles, aunts, cousins, nephews or nieces.
The EEA Settlement Scheme Family Permit functions in a very similar way to the EEA Family Permit. However, you can only apply for this if you are a ‘close’ family member. This includes brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, daughters, and sons. Both are valid for six months.
EEA Family Permit processing time
The reported processing time for this route is 15 days.
EEA Family Permit costs
Both routes are free.
EEA Family Permit documents
With your application, you should include:
- Your passport
- Proof of your relationship to your EEA family member (e.g a birth certificate)
- Proof that you have enough funds to support yourself during your time in the UK without the need for public funds
Visas for visiting family members
If you want to visit your family for a short period of time, you can apply for a UK Family Visit Visa. This route falls under the Standard Visitor Visa category.
This is a temporary visa that allows you to enter the UK for a limited amount of time (up to six months) to visit a family member. During this visit, you are not permitted to work or conduct business, and you must return once your visit has elapsed.
Family Visitor Visa processing time
The average processing time for this type of Family Visa is between 15 and 30 days.
Family Visitor Visa costs
A Visitor Visa costs £95.
In some circumstances, such as if you are visiting for medical purposes, the length of a Visit Visa can be extended up to 10 years, although visitors are required not to stay in the UK for more than six months at each visit during this extended period. The costs of the extended Visitor Visas are £361 for two years or more; £655 for five years or more; and £822 for ten years or more.
Family Visitor Visa documents
You should include the following documents in any Visitor Visa application:
- A valid travel document (like a passport)
- Financial documents which show you have funds to support yourself (like bank statements, or employment details)
- Proof that you have a credible reason for the return to the UK once your visa has expired. This could be proof of an existing job, study course, partnership, family, etc.
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Certain types of family-based visas allow you to work during your time in the UK. For example, if you are in the UK as the spouse or partner of a British or settled person, you can take on employment.
Dependant visas allow the holder to take on employment as long as their parent is in the UK with valid entry clearance. There are, however, a few restrictions. Dependants are not allowed to work as a doctor or dentist in training, or a sportsperson or coach.
You can bring a parent to the UK in certain circumstances.
The first is if they need long-term care for a disability or illness that only you can provide. In this case they can apply for an Adult Dependant Relative Visa.
Otherwise, you can also bring a parent to the UK with you if you are an EEA citizen living in the UK under free movement laws, and they are a non-EEA national living overseas. To do this, they will need to apply for either an EEA Family Permit or an EEA Settlement Scheme Family Permit. The latter is recommended to ensure full protection after Brexit. Both applications are free and generally quick to process.
This can vary massively but is generally between one and three months. In cases where the processing period takes more time, this is usually when there is something especially complex about a case. For example, if you are applying for a Partner Visa, and the UKVI are uncertain about whether or not the ‘genuine relationship’ criteria is met, the review process can take much longer.
You can apply for a visa for the UK as a family unit by using Dependant Visas. These allow you to bring your partners and children with you if you have valid entry clearance under the points-based visa system. In this scenario, your family can apply to accompany you to the UK for the duration of your stay, as your dependants.
According to the UK’s immigration and asylum laws, your partner or child is able to join you in the UK if:
- You have refugee status, or five years’ humanitarian protection or settlement in the UK on protective grounds
- You were part of a family before you were formed to flee to the UK
Your family member is not eligible to join you if either of the following apply:
- You are under the age of 18
- You are still awaiting the decision of your asylum claim
The only family members who can join you under the Refugee Family Reunion category are children and long-term partners.
To qualify as a partner, a person must be:
- Married to you
- In a civil partnership with you
- Your long-term partner, who has lived with you in a committed relationship for at least two years
To book a visa appointment you should contact your nearest visa application centre through the Government website.
If you applied for a visa on behalf of your family member – like your foreign spouse for example — you cannot attend the centre for them. The applicant themselves must attend.
At the appointment, you will be asked to submit documents that prove you are eligible for the UK Family Visa application you are making. To prepare for this, you can use the document checklist in your application.
If you are making a visa appointment for your whole family (for example, if they are applying as your dependants) you can all go together. However, each applicant must attend a separate meeting.
Family Visas is a broad term that spans a range of different immigration routes. Because of this, there is no specific tier for family-based visas.
Usually, visas for relatives and partners fall under family immigration law – which is not part of the five-tier visa system. However, some visas, such as Dependant Visas, do.
For example, if a Tier 2 Visa applicant wants to bring his/her family with them to the UK, the visa held by their child or partner would technically also fall under the Tier 2 category. The same would be said for Tier 1, 4, or 5.
For that reason, there is no one answer to the question ‘What tier is a Family Visa?’. The answer depends on circumstances and the category of visa which is needed to meet the applicant’s goal.