What is a Spouse Visa?
This visa category is used by married couples who want to live together in the UK, when one is a British national and another is from a country outside of the European Economic Area (EEA).
This type of UK visa allows the non-EEA spouse to enter the UK as the partner of a British or settled person. It lasts for up 33 months and can be extended and used as qualifying time for permanent settled status. You need to meet certain requirements to be eligible for a Spouse Visa for the UK. These include passing the ‘genuine relationship test’ and meeting financial requirements.
To find out more about whether you or your partner is eligible for this visa category, call 020 3883 6530. One of our London lawyers would be happy to assist with advice, application, or appeal services.
Spouse Visa requirements
Before sending an application for this visa category, you should ensure that you meet all the requirements. These are as follows (applying to the applicant, the non-EEA partner):
- You are in a ‘genuine and subsisting’ relationship with a British citizen or settled person in the UK
- You are married to them
- You have physically met your partner at least once
- You can prove your marriage is not for convenience or fraudulent, by demonstrating that your relationship is a genuine one
- You can show evidence of the above requirements by providing proof of correspondence, time spent together, your marriage licence, gifts, and money exchanged, etc.
- You meet the financial requirements
- You meet the accommodation requirements
- You meet the English language requirements
Spouse Visa document checklist
Partner Visa applications require the most extensive amounts of supporting evidence, as you need to prove you meet every requirement to be eligible. A few examples of the types of documents you should submit with a Spouse Visa application are:
- Proof that your relationship is real: Phone conversations, emails, messages, Skype sessions
- Proof of your income: Job contracts, your P60, your bank statements
- Proof that you meet the accommodation requirement: House lease, letting contract, proof of booked temporary accommodation
- Proof that you meet the English language requirement: IELTS test results, an English-taught degree, proof that you are a national of an English-speaking country
There are many different types of documents you can use for a Spouse visa application. Proving that your relationship is genuine is subjective, and it depends on the nature of your lives together and communication with each other. As a result, there is no limit to the evidence you can submit to prove this.
The ‘Genuine Relationship’ test
Part of the review process for a Spouse Visa application is assessing whether you meet the ‘genuine relationship’ criteria.
This is set out by UKVI and is designed to tell whether the applicant’s relationship to their British sponsor is real and long-lasting. The exact terminology used by UKVI is “genuine and subsisting”, and these are the traits that they will judge you on.
There are several types of documents you can use to prove this, and this will depend on the type of relationship you have and what works for you. For example, if you have frequent Skype calls with your partner then evidence of this could work in your favour. Equally, if you have attended lots of events together then tickets showing this would work well to support your application. Examples of documents you can use include:
- Evidence of a shared bank account and/or savings
- A joint tenancy agreement or mortgage
- Text messages or social media chats
- Evidence of gifts bought for one another or money exchanged
- Evidence of children you have had together (school records, or a birth certificate)
If you fail to provide enough supporting evidence, it is likely that your application will be refused. Likewise, if you provide too much and UKVI decide your application looks manipulative, you will not pass the genuine relationship test.
As part of the Spouse Visa requirements, you must show that there is adequate accommodation set up for when you arrive in the UK, which you must share with your partner.
This accommodation must meet the UK living standards, and you must be able to show this. To show that you meet this requirement, you can submit:
- An official description of the property (for example, from a letting agent/letting website)
- Evidence that you have enough rooms to accommodate yourself and your partner, as well as any dependent children you have*
- Proof that you/your partner have either paid/can afford to pay for this accommodation
*To meet UK living standards, there must be:
- One bedroom per couple and baby under one-year-old
- A further bedroom per each child over the age of 10 (children between one and nine can share one bedroom, but this must be separate from the couple).
You must provide proof that the accommodation adheres to these standards for a Marriage Visa application to be granted. If you do not have adequate accommodation set up in the UK, or the means to fund this, you will not be eligible. Because of this, it is advisable that you make sure you have this before you send an application.
Meeting the Spouse Visa financial requirements
The financial requirements for a Spousal Visa are as follows:
- You must earn a couple’s income of at least £18,600 (gross annual income)
- For each dependent child applying with you, this increases to £2,400 – this applies to any non-EEA child who isn’t a British citizen or settled person
- This money can be made of yours and/or your partner’s income
- This income can come from employment, self-employment, or ownership of a business
- Income from non-employment, like property rentals, investments, stocks, and shares can also be used
- You can also use savings if they amount to more than £16,000 and are combined with another means of income and have been held by yourself or your partner by six months or more.
If your UK partner receives certain benefits in the UK (such as disability allowance, carer’s allowance, police injury pension, or industrial injuries disablement benefit) you will be exempt from the financial criteria for a Partner Visa.
Meeting the English language requirement
To be eligible to join your partner in the UK, you will also need to meet the Spouse Visa English language requirement.
In most cases*, you must pass an English language test. This is to prove that you have enough knowledge of speaking, reading, writing, and understanding English.
Your test must be sat before you make your visa application. Once passed, it will last two years, after which you will be required to sit it again.
The test must be done through a registered provider – called a Secure English Language Testing (SELT) provider.
*You are exempt from taking the English language test if you:
- Are a national of a majority English-speaking country (like Australia, Canada, or the USA)
- Are under the age of 18 or over the age of 65
- Have a disability which prevents you from being able to take the test
- Have a degree which was taught in English
The Spouse Visa application process can vary in length and can take anywhere between 30 days and six months. Gathering your evidence, completing your forms, and submitting your case can often take weeks in itself.
Once your application has been received, UKVI will process it, and assess whether you meet all the requirements. Once the assessing official has made a decision on your case, they will get back to you with a decision. This whole process can take a while, especially if there is something especially complex about your case and/or you apply with dependents.
The costs of applying for a Spousal Visa (in 2019) are as follows:
Visa fee: £1,033 if made from inside the UK, £1,523 if made from outside the UK
English language test: £150
Immigration Health surcharge: £1,000 if inside the UK, £1,200 if outside the UK
Tuberculosis test: £65-110
Housing report: £80- £120
Spouse Visa refusals
Visas under the Spouse and Partner categories are often refused on the basis that they are thought to involve a fraudulent or ‘sham’ marriage.
This usually happens when couples are seen to be manipulating the ‘genuine relationship’ requirement. It is also common when couples do not submit enough evidence to prove their relationship is real.
Common reasons for having a Spouse Visa refused include:
- Providing insufficient evidence to prove that your relationship is genuine
- Providing too much/unbelievable evidence to prove the relationship is genuine (which is seen as manipulative)
- Providing incorrect information
- Failing to provide a housing report
- Failing to provide proof of an English language test
- Failing to show that the financial requirements are met
How to appeal a refusal
If a Partner Visa is refused, you can either appeal (if you have grounds) or make a fresh application.
To lodge an appeal, you can present your case to an immigration judge. You are eligible to appeal if you feel the decision was genuinely unfair, or that your visa was refused because a mistake was made by a legal representative.
An appeal can be made on paper, or in person. In both cases, an independent immigration judge will review your case and decide whether to overturn or agree with the original decision. In the latter, your case will be heard at a Tribunal hearing, which you will likely need to attend.
If you do not have grounds for appeal – as is the case if you make a mistake in your form yourself, or UKVI judges your application to have insufficient evidence – you can make a fresh application instead. Many immigration lawyers will recommend this over an appeal if there aren’t clear grounds, as it is often the faster and less expensive option.
How to apply for a Spouse Visa extension
You can apply to extend a Marriage Visa once your visa has expired. This will allow you to stay in the UK for a further two and a half years.
To be eligible for a Spouse Visa extension, you must:
- Apply within 28 days of your visa’s expiry date
- Demonstrate that you have continued to live with your partner and that your relationship remains ‘genuine and subsisting’
- Provide evidence to show that you still have adequate accommodation for yourselves and any children accompanying you
- Show that you still meet the Spouse Visa financial requirements of £18,600 per annum
How to apply for ILR after a Spouse Visa
After living in the UK for five years with a Partner Visa, you become eligible to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR).
ILR grants you unrestricted access to work, study, movement, and property.
You can apply for ILR as a non-EEA spouse if:
- You have lived in the UK continuously for five years with a Spouse Visa
- During the last 12 months of your time in the UK, you have not been absent from the country for more than 180 days
- You have passed the Life in the UK test
- You meet the ILR English requirements
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According to the Home Office’s official guidelines, there is nowhere in the Rules which means you must stay in the UK for the entire period of a Spousal Visa.
However, it does say that if a person chooses to spend “the majority” of their time outside the UK, they may be judged on this when making an extension or settlement application.
As it stands, each case is judged on its individual merits, and it would be likely that the Home Office would take the reasons for your leave into account when considering this in further applications.
It is worth mentioning that if you are absent from the UK for more than 180 days in the last 12 months of your time spent in the UK, you will not qualify for ILR. In this case, you would need to wait another 12 months to apply.
If you want to make an application on behalf of your non-EEA partner, you can do this. You can gather the evidence, complete the forms and pay the fee. When completing the application however, ensure you fill out your overseas spouses’ name and details.
Visas for partners and spouses do not fall under the five-tier system. Instead, they fall under the ‘family’ category. Because of this, they are not points-based, as is the case with Work (Tier 2 & 5) and Study (Tier 4) Visas.
As a spouse/partner in the family route, you need to show that you are skilled in speaking and listening to English.
To be eligible for a visa, you need to score 4.0 or above in both areas in your IELTS for UKVI test.
If you are the UK-based sponsor in an application for a Spouse or Partner Visa, you are usually required to write a sponsorship letter.
This should outline your position in the UK (i.e a British citizen who has lived in the UK since birth) as well as your current income and where this comes from (i.e £20,000 per annum from a role as a teacher at a primary school).
You should also briefly discuss your relationship with the applicant, by describing how you met and decided to become married. You should give separate dates as to when you:
- Began your relationship
- Became married
You should also enclose information about your accommodation situation (i.e if your partner is on the tenancy agreement at your home).
Your sponsor letter should include documents to back up everything you say, including:
- An employment contract
- Employer letter
- Latest P60
- Marriage certificate
- Bank statements
- Your passport
The UK Decision Making branch of the Home Office state that they “aim to process non-settlement applications within 15 working days”. This is unless you opt for a priority processing service.
However, in certain cases, this target can be extended or delayed. This happens quite often and is not always because the application has issues or is particularly complex. Sometimes, it can just mean that applications have been especially high and so it is taking longer for them to be reviewed.
You and your partner’s annual income must amount to at least £18,600. This can be made up by employment wages, self-employment, investments, property-rentals, or savings (up to the amount of £16,000).
A Spousal Visa lasts for two and a half years. After this time, it can be extended for a further two and a half years. After the holder has been in the UK for five years they can apply for settlement.
You can’t move straight from a Spouse Visa to British citizenship, but you can use your time spent in the UK to qualify for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR).
If your application is approved, you can then naturalise as a British citizen once you have held Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) for 12 months.
You can bring your unmarried partner to the UK through two main routes. These are:
- A Fiance Visa UK: this category lets you bring your partner to the UK on the basis that you will be married there. You can switch to a Spouse Visa from this category
- An Unmarried Partner Visa: this is for long-term couples who have been living together in a relationship for at least two years. It functions in the same way as a Spouse Visa but you are not required to be married for it.
If you are in a civil partnership rather than being married to a British citizen, you can apply for a Spouse Visa. The rules are the same for couples in an existing civil partnership, only instead of a marriage certificate, they need to send proof of their registration as a Civil Partner.
You are eligible to take up work while living in the UK with a Spouse Visa. This means you can take on employment at a UK company, be self-employed, or earn an income via property or stock investments.
You cannot, however, claim any kinds of benefits on a Spousal Visa as you have no recourse to public funds.
If your relationship ends while on a Spouse or Partner Visa, and you seek a divorce or separation, your visa becomes curtailed.
This means that it is no longer valid and you are therefore required to switch to another category — such as a Tier 2 Work Visa for example — or leave the UK.
But if you are the victim of domestic abuse as the holder of a Spousal Visa, you can remain in the UK after your visa is curtailed. You are also eligible for Legal Aid. If you’re able to demonstrate that you are the victim of abuse, you will be granted leave to remain on your own accord. This means you are no longer restricted by your visa, and that you can remain in the UK as a single person.