How long can I spend outside the UK on a Spouse Visa?
Many UK visa types act as a route towards Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR), but if you intend to apply for ILR in the UK you usually need to meet the absence rules. The absence rule for most UK visas is that in order to qualify for ILR after 5 years you must not have spend more than 180 days outside the UK in any 12 months during the qualifying period.
However, there is no absence limit for Spouse Visa holders. Those in the UK on a family visa are exempt from the 180 day absence period rule, this includes the spouse, fiance or proposed civil partner of a British citizen as well other types of family members that qualify for this category.
It’s worth noting however that absences are still taken into account when a family visa holder is applying for British citizenship.
Although there is no written rule that states how long a Spouse Visa holder can spend outside the UK if applying for ILR, this does not mean that you will be able to obtain a Spouse Visa, spend little time in the UK and then be able to successfully apply for settlement here.
Intention to live together permanently in the UK
When making an initial application for a Spouse Visa, you must provide evidence that you and your partner intent to live together permanently in the UK. A Spouse Visa is only granted for an initial period of 33 months, but to be eligible for Indefinite Leave to Remain the applicant must have been living in the UK for at least 5 years.
This means that before qualifying for ILR, Spouse Visa holders will need to extend their visa so that they can meet the 5 year residency requirement. To be able to extend a Spouse Visa, the applicant must once again prove to the Home Office that they intend to live with their partner permanently in the UK.
This means that although the UK immigration rules on periods of absence don’t apply to Spouse Visa holders, you must still prove to the Home Office several times that you intend to make the UK your permanent home before you can be eligible for Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK.
Whilst normal periods of absences such as holidays or overseas visits to family and friends won’t be counted against you, substantial periods of absence could result in the Home Office questioning whether you meet the intentional permanent residency requirement and this could prevent you from being able to hold a Spouse Visa long enough to apply for ILR.
Other Indefinite Leave to Remain requirements for Spouse Visa holders
As well as having lived in the UK for at least 5 years, there are a number of other requirements that Spouse Visa holders must meet in order to qualify for ILR, they include:
- Passing the Life in the UK Test – this tests your knowledge of British culture and customs
- Demonstrating a knowledge of the English language – you must prove that you meet the B1 level of English as set out by the Common European Framework of Languages, unless you are from a country that is exempt from this requirement
- Proving that you have not breached UK immigration rules or have any criminal convictions
In some cases Spouse Visa holders may need to wait for 10 years until they can apply for ILR, this will depend on the circumstances of your initial Spouse Visa application.
How long can I stay in the UK on a Spouse Visa?
The Spouse Visa is granted for an initial period of 33 months if you have applied from outside the UK or 30 months if you have applied to switch to this visa from inside the UK. You can also apply for an extension of your Spouse Visa if you wish to stay in the UK after this time.
A Spouse Visa extension allows you to stay in the UK for another 30 months. To be eligible for an extension you must meet the original Spouse Visa requirements again. You should apply for you extension before your entry clearance expires.
After living in the UK for 5 years under a Spouse Visa you can apply for ILR if eligible. ILR is a form of settlement that will grant you permanent residence in the UK.
If you do not want to apply for ILR but wish to stay in the UK, you can apply for another extension.
How can IAS help?
If you have questions about the Spouse Visa, or need assistance with any other immigration issue, our lawyers are here to help. Understanding UK visas and the rules that come with them can be difficult, that’s why we offer professional legal advice sessions where you can ask one of our lawyers any questions you may have about an immigration related issue, such as how long you can spend outside the UK without risking your immigration status.
If you would like to make an application for permanent residence, our lawyers can also assist you with that. We can assess your eligibility for ILR and inform you of all the requirements you are expected to meet to be able to apply successfully. Our lawyers can also assist you with the application form, help you to gather all of your supporting documents and can write you a letter of representation to support your application.
For more information about any of our services book a free consultation today by calling 020 4502 8582.
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