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Spouse or Partner Visa Guide 2024

Effective planning and a thorough understanding of immigration processes are crucial for those looking to live with their partner in the UK. The Spouse or Partner visas play a significant role in this process, making it essential for applicants to be well-informed about the eligibility requirements and application procedures.

This guide provides an overview of Spouse or Partner visas, including eligibility criteria, pathways to residency, indefinite leave to remain (ILR), and British citizenship. Additionally, it outlines the processing times and expectations for applicants, along with guidance for those who may face challenges meeting the requirements.

How Can Immigration Connection Assist You in your Family Visa Application?

Applying for a Family Visa can be complex, as UKVI officers will require you to provide supporting evidence in specific formats and in accordance with the published guidelines. Each application file will have a storyline reflecting the family’s financial standing, accommodation arrangements, and relationship history. We recommend that all our clients pay attention to these details and reflect all the relevant information in their application file, rather than trying to tick some boxes.

Spouses, Civil Partners, and Unmarried Partners might need different sets of evidence to prove their cases. At Immigration Connection, we go through each requirement with you carefully and customise the evidence list to make your job easier.

With over a decade of experience in immigration law and after-visa support, our expert advisers can assist you through every step of your application process, ensuring a stress-free journey.

We continue to support you and your partner during your relocation process providing email support for your queries.

Before starting your preparations, get expert advice to check your eligibility.

Introduction to Spouse or Partner Visas

What is the Spouse or Partner Visa?

Also known as a Family Visa, or a Partner Visa, this route aims to unite couples and bring families together under one roof.

Who is the Spouse or Partner Visa For?

This visa category is for those in a genuine and subsisting relationship, either as spouses, civil partners or unmarried partners in a relationship akin to marriage for at least two years. It can be for partners joining their loved ones from outside the UK or for those transitioning from other UK visa categories who meet the relationship and living arrangements criteria.

What is Allowed, What is Not?

You can work, rent or study under this visa without any restrictions except for those applied for by relevant laws if your application is approved. You must not rely on public funds. If this is he first time you are applying for this visa, make sure you understand the Spouse Visa extension and Spouse Visa ILR stages once you enter this route and be well informed about the relevant requirements set by the UK Visas and Immigration.

Can You Switch to it?

If you are already in the UK on a different visa, you may be eligible to switch to a Spouse or Partner Visa, provided your current visa was granted for more than six months and you meet all the necessary requirements. This includes proving your relationship and your intention to live together permanently in the UK.

Eligibility Requirements for Spouse or Partner Visa

General Requirements

To be eligible for a Spouse or Partner Visa, both partners must be 18 or older and intend to live together permanently in the UK. Your partner must also be a British or Irish citizen, have a status under the EU Settlement Scheme, have refugee status, or have valid leave under ECAA – Turkish Businessperson or ECAA – Turkish Worker -for the first-time applicants.

Current Financial Requirement for Spouse or Partner Visas (On or After 11 April 2024)

Applicants must meet the financial requirement, which can be satisfied through employment, self-employment, savings, or other sources such as dividends and investments, stipends or rental income. In some cases, these income sources can be combined. Please bear in mind, that a combination is not applicable to all the income sources. The minimum income requirement is £29,000. There are exceptions, which we will mention later. However, the rules around combining income sources are quite complex, especially considering the UKVI officers will require the applicant to prove their income level with particular evidence presented as specified in the relevant guidelines.

Transitional Financial Requirement for Spouse or Partner Visas (Before 11 April 2024)

To qualify for transitional financial requirements under Appendix FM, applicants must meet specific criteria set before a critical date. An applicant must have initially applied as a fiancé(e), proposed civil partner, spouse or partner before April 11, 2024, and been granted permission to stay under the Appendix FM towards the five-year route to a settlement based on the same relationship. It’s important to note that those on the 10-year route to settlement are not eligible for these transitional arrangements.

For those who qualify under the transitional provisions, the financial requirement remains at the pre-existing threshold of £18,600 for couples without dependent children.

Financial Requirement for Dependent Children

If the applicant is sponsoring a child or children along with their partner, additional financial thresholds apply. The requirement increases by £3,800 for the first child and £2,400 for each additional child sponsored. In scenarios where these added financial responsibilities push the required income above £29,000, or £18,600 for those under transitional arrangements.

Accommodation Requirement

You must provide evidence of adequate accommodation for you and your partner without recourse to public funds. This accommodation must be owned or exclusively occupied by you and not be crowded in line with the Housing Act 2004. A suitable accommodation must be arranged before you submit your application. Whether it is a shared accommodation, a living arrangement made with the in-laws or rented for your sole use, you might meet the financial requirements stated in Appendix-FM outlining the rules for family members. There will be different evidence for each type of accommodation, and you might need to provide additional evidence from your landlord, family members, flatmates or an independent surveyor to confirm the living arrangement for your partner.

Relationship Requirement

To qualify for the Spouse Visa, you must be in a genuine and subsisting relationship with your partner. The method of proving this will vary based on the nature of your relationship:

  • Married or Civil Partners: You must provide a marriage or civil partnership certificate recognized in the UK.
  • Unmarried Partners: This is more complex as there is no official registration. You must demonstrate that you have been living together for at least two years.
  • Fiancé(e) or Proposed Civil Partners: You need to provide detailed plans for your marriage or civil partnership ceremony, which must occur within six months of arriving in the UK.

English Language Requirement

Applicants must meet the English language requirement at CEFR level A1 for initial applications and A2 for extensions. This can be demonstrated in many ways such as being from a Majority English Speaking Country, having a bachelor’s or higher UK diploma or equivalent (as confirmed by ECCTIS), or passing an Approved English Test at an appropriate centre. Exceptions also apply based on long-term physical or mental conditions.

Further Leave to Remain (FLR) for Spouse or Partner Visa Holders

For visa extensions, you must continue to meet the relationship, financial, and accommodation requirements. Your application should include supporting evidence proving cohabitation with your partner throughout the duration of your visa. Additionally, you must demonstrate that your English language proficiency is at CEFR A2 level or higher.

Residency and Citizenship Rights for Spouse or Partner Visa Holders

When can you apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR)?

Indefinite leave to remain is referred to shortly as ILR or Permanent Residence. This is considered as the end of the immigration period, and the start of permanent settlement in the UK. You can apply for ILR after living continuously in the UK on a family visa as a partner for five years. Time spent in the UK as a fiancé, fiancée, or proposed civil partner does not count towards this period. For those who secure a family visa under exceptional circumstances or human rights grounds, the time before applying for ILR can extend to 10 years, as specified in Appendix FM under the 10-year route. You must pass 

Life in the UK and English Language Test (KoLL)

The British Nationality Act 1981 requires individuals applying for naturalisation to have sufficient knowledge of life in the United Kingdom and proficiency in English, Welsh, or Scottish Gaelic. Since 2007, certain indefinite leave to remain (ILR) applications have also required proof of knowledge of the English language and life in the UK. Spouse Visa holders are among those who are required to pass the Life in the UK Test and prove B1 Level or higher English skills in specified methods.

To meet the Knowledge of Language and Life in the UK (KoLL) requirements for either ILR or naturalisation, applicants must fulfil both parts of the requirement:

  • Knowledge of the language
  • Knowledge of life in the UK

 

When Can You Apply for British Citizenship?

To apply for British citizenship, you must first obtain indefinite leave to remain (ILR). Applicants must also prove they passed the Life in the UK test, prove their English, Welsh or Scottish Gaelic knowledge, and be of good character. You must have also spent 365 days after obtaining your ILR. However, persons married to or in a civil partnership with a British Citizen at the time of their application are exempt from the 365-day rule. Depending on the applicant’s marital status when applying for British Citizenship, the qualifying period can be 3 or 5 years, and you will be required to meet the continuous residence requirement.

Spouse or Partner Visa Processing Times and What to Expect

Inside the UK

When applying from within the UK, the standard processing time for a spouse visa is around 8 weeks. If you opt for the super-priority service, the decision is typically made within 1 working day, although this service incurs a higher fee. A cheaper priority service is also available. The decision is typically made within 6 weeks. It’s important to note that although the UKVI states that processing begins once you’ve verified your identity and submitted your documents through the UK Immigration: ID Check app or at a UK Visa and Citizenship Application Service (UKVCAS) centre, it often starts after submitting your application form. Furthermore, it is important to note that since the COVID-19 pandemic, the UKVI has not been consistent with its priority or super-priority service offerings. 

Outside the UK

For applications made from outside the UK, the standard processing time for a spouse visa is 24 weeks. The process starts when you attend your biometric appointment at a visa application centre. Keep in mind that you should not book any travel or make urgent plans until a decision has been made on your visa application. If you need a faster decision, the UKVI may offer you a priority or super-priority service at a cost. However, availability may vary based on the application country or specific location.

What if You Can't Meet The Spouse or Partner Visa Requirements?

10-Year Route

If you struggle to meet the standard eligibility criteria for a spouse visa, you may consider the 10-year route to settlement. This option is available if you face significant hardships in meeting the financial, accommodation, or English language requirements. Under this route, you do not need to meet the spouse visa financial or English language requirements initially. However, you must still prove that your relationship is genuine and subsisting. The applications are based on human rights grounds, and the results may vary severely on a case-by-case basis. The UKVI caseworkers will check whether your application attracts human rights considerations. Service availability, processing times, and whether it is permitted also varies. 

Adequate Maintenance Requirement – An Alternative to Financial Requirement

Those unable to meet the standard financial requirements for personal reasons, such as disability or carer status, may be exempt. If you or your UK sponsor receive certain UK benefits such as Disability Living Allowance or Personal Independence Payment, you may qualify for the ‘adequate maintenance’ test instead. This test requires you to demonstrate that you can support yourselves without relying on additional public funds. It considers your income, housing costs, and tax payments, ensuring you can maintain a basic standard of living.

What are the Most Common Refusal Reasons?

Spouse Visa applications are often refused for various reasons, primarily due to inadequately prepared supporting documentation, misunderstandings of the required criteria, and a lack of familiarity with the application procedures.

  1. Financial Requirements: Not proving that you meet the minimum income threshold or not providing sufficient evidence of stable and sustainable earnings.
  2. Genuine Relationship: Insufficient evidence to demonstrate that your relationship is genuine and subsisting. This could include a lack of cohabitation, limited communication records, or inconsistencies in the information provided during interviews.
  3. Documentation Issues: Missing or incorrect documents are a common reason for visa refusals. This includes incomplete application forms, missing evidence of the relationship, or inadequate proof of meeting the English language requirements.
  4. Intentions Post-Marriage: Applications are sometimes refused if the authorities suspect the couple does not intend to live together permanently in the UK.

If you decide to reapply or appeal the decision, it’s crucial to address any reasons for refusal thoroughly, ensuring that all aspects of the application are complete and detailed. Consulting with an immigration specialist can greatly enhance the chances of a successful application after a refusal.

What happens if my Spouse or Partner Visa application is refused?

Appeal Process

If your Spouse Visa application is refused, whether you’re applying from inside or outside the UK, you have the right to appeal against the decision if you believe it has been wrongly refused or if human rights claims are involved.

  • Inside the UK: If you’re already in the UK and your application for an extension or switch to a Spouse Visa is refused, you can typically appeal to the First-tier Tribunal (Immigration and Asylum Chamber). You need to follow the instructions in your refusal letter, including how to file an appeal and the deadline (usually 14 days from the decision date).
  • Outside the UK: If you applied from outside the UK for your Spouse Visa and your application is refused, the appeal process might involve a review or an appeal, depending on the grounds stated in the refusal. Appeals from outside the UK generally must be lodged within 28 days of receiving the refusal notice.

 

In both cases, you can present additional evidence to support your case during the appeal process.

Spouse Visa Refusal: Appeal or Reapply?

Before deciding to proceed with an appeal after a Spouse Visa refusal, it is highly recommended to seek expert advice to evaluate your chances of success. In many cases, the reasons for visa refusals are due to misunderstandings of the requirements or mistakes in the application process. Often, a fresh application might be more appropriate than an appeal, especially if the initial application was significantly lacking or incorrect.

As an OISC Level 3 regulated organisation, Immigration Connection offers expertise in minimising the risk of visa refusals by advising on the necessary requirements and supporting evidence. If your application has been refused, Immigration Connection can provide guidance on whether an appeal is advisable or if reapplying would be a more effective course of action based on your specific circumstances.

For further assistance and a more detailed understanding of your options, contacting Immigration Connection for a free consultation can be a valuable step. We can help clarify your UK Visa queries and appeal needs, ensuring you make an informed decision on how to proceed effectively. As your legal representatives, we can assist you in your application, reapplication or appeal process.

Frequently Asked Questions

Applicants must provide evidence of their relationship, financial stability, and adequate living arrangements. Specific evidence includes marriage certificates for spouses, proof of cohabitation for unmarried partners, and detailed plans for a marriage or civil partnership within six months for fiancées. Financial evidence might include employment income, savings, or other assets.

Yes, you can switch to these visas if you are already in the UK on another visa granted for more than six months, provided you meet all relationship, financial, and other requirements. This excludes those who entered the UK on a visitor visa or other short-term visas.

Inside the UK, the standard processing time is about 8 weeks, with options for faster processing through super-priority services. From outside the UK, the standard processing time extends to 24 weeks. Applicants are advised not to travel or make significant life changes until they receive their visa decision.

If you cannot meet the standard financial requirement, you may still apply under the “adequate maintenance” provision if your sponsor receives certain UK benefits like Disability Living Allowance. Additionally, the 10-year route to settlement may be an option if you face significant hardships in meeting the financial, accommodation, or English language requirements.

Spouse Visa applications are frequently refused due to not meeting key eligibility criteria. One common issue is failing to meet financial requirements, where applicants do not sufficiently prove stable income above the minimum threshold. Another significant reason for refusal is the lack of convincing evidence that the relationship is genuine and subsisting. This could manifest as inadequate cohabitation proof, limited communication, or discrepancies in interview responses. Additionally, documentation errors, such as incomplete application forms or insufficient proof of English proficiency, often lead to visa denials. Suspicions regarding the couple’s intent to live together permanently in the UK can also result in application rejections.

If your Spouse or Partner Visa is refused, you have options depending on where you applied from. Those within the UK can appeal to the First-tier Tribunal if they believe the decision was incorrect or involves human rights issues, typically within 14 days of the decision. Applicants outside the UK also have the right to appeal, generally within 28 days of the refusal notice. Before proceeding with an appeal, it’s advisable to consult with immigration experts, such as those from an OISC Level 3 regulated organisation. They can assess whether reapplying might be more advantageous than appealing, especially if the initial application had significant shortcomings. Consulting with professionals can help clarify the process and increase the likelihood of a successful outcome.

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