UK family visa

The UK spouse visa is officially referred to as a “family of a settled person” visa and makes it relatively easy for partners, spouses, parents of minor children or children of British citizens to join them in the UK. There are a variety of relationships that qualify in this regard, so you should never feel put off from investigating your options just because your relationship is non-traditional.

Who can apply for a UK spouse visa?

You can apply for this visa if you are married to, or in a qualifying long-term relationship with:

  • a British or Irish citizen
  • a person who has settled status in the UK i.e. they have indefinite leave to remain, settled status or proof of permanent residence
  • someone from the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein who has pre-settled status (they must have started living in the UK before 1 January 2021)
  • someone who has has a Turkish Businessperson visa or Turkish Worker visa
  • someone who has protection status (leave to remain as a refugee, permission to stay as a refugee or a person with humanitarian protection)

Get a UK visa for an unmarried partner

You may also apply for a spouse or partner visa if you are unmarried and in a long-term relationship of at least two years.

In order to apply for the settlement visa as an unmarried partner you must:

  • be able to provide evidence that you have been in a relationship for at least two years.
  • be able to support yourselves, and any dependants, without recourse to public funds.
  • intend to live with your partner permanently.

Do you need a spouse or dependant visa?

If your spouse or partner is in the UK on any of the following visas, you will be able to join them as a dependant on their visa:

It’s important to note that this is different to a spouse visa, which is your own visa. As a dependant spouse you will be included on your spouse or partner’s visa. You will also have the right to live and work in the UK, but only for the duration of your partner’s visa.

These applications must be made from your home country or country of residence. If you are in the UK on another visa (other than a visitor visa), you can switch to a dependant or spouse visa in the UK.


UK spouse visa benefits

One of the greatest benefits of a partner or spouse visa is that it allows you to live and work in the UK without any restrictions. The visa is initially issued for two years and nine months (you are given a 90 day period in which to move to the UK), and you may also exit and re-enter the country multiple times. At the end of this time, you can apply to extend your stay in the UK for a further two and a half years.

The spouse visa is also a route to settlement where you will be able to apply for indefinite leave to remain (ILR) after being in the UK for a total of five years.


UK spouse visa requirements

In order to be eligible for a spouse or partner visa:

  • You and your partner must both be over the age of 18
  • Your partner must either be a British or Irish citizen, have settled status, ILR or have pre-settled status if they are from the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein and have been living in the UK since before 1 January 2021
  • You must be married to, or able to show that you have been cohabiting with, an eligible person for at least two years
  • You must ensure that the British citizen meets the financial requirement
  • You must meet the English language requirement

What are the English language requirements for a UK spouse visa?

You will need to prove your knowledge of the English language. You can demonstrate this with an academic qualification that was taught or researched in English. If your qualification is from a university outside of the UK, you’ll need to provide a certificate from Ecctis to show that your qualification is equivalent to a UK bachelor’s degree or higher and that it was taught in English.

Alternatively, you can take a test that would prove your English language knowledge. You must pass at least level A1 on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) scale for your first visa application. However, you can choose to take a test at a higher level. If you pass level B1 or higher, you can use your test result again when you apply for a spouse visa extension as well as ILR after five years.

What are the financial requirements for a UK spouse visa?

If both the applicant and the British citizen are living in the UK, then the requirement can be met by either or both partners. If the British citizen is resident overseas, then the earnings requirement must be met by them alone. If the cash savings route is taken, then it can be held jointly or separately.

Essentially, one of the following financial criteria must be met:

  • You and your partner must have a combined annual gross income of at least £29,000
  • Cash savings of £88,500
  • A combination of the above in certain cases

How much does a UK spouse visa cost?

The cost of a spouse visa application is £1,846. You will also have to pay the immigration health surcharge (IHS) of £1,035 for every year that your visa is valid for. This means the total cost of your spouse visa will be £4,951.


UK spouse visa extension

When it comes to your spouse visa extension, you can only apply to extend your visa 28 days before it expires. You should keep in mind that just because you were granted an initial visa, doesn’t mean that you are guaranteed an extension.

Much of the same eligibility criteria that you met initially must be met again when applying for a UK spouse visa extension. However, the English language requirement is higher on the assumption that your language skills would have improved after spending two and half years in the UK.

You can expect a decision on your extension application to arrive in roughly 12 weeks if you applied using the standard application. There is also a speed service, which will give you a decision on your UK spouse visa extension within 24 hours.

Indefinite leave to remain and UK spouse visas

Time spent in the UK on a spouse visa or partner visa counts as qualifying time in the UK towards indefinite leave to remain (ILR). After you have extended your spouse visa, you will have spent the five years in the UK, which is one of the requirements for ILR.

In addition to fulfilling the qualifying time criteria for ILR, you must also:

  • Pass the “Life in the UK Test
  • Prove your proficiency in English which can be in the form of an English language test. Note that individuals from certain countries are exempt from having to take this test
  • Be of good character
  • Meet the income requirements

After you have held ILR for 12 months, you will be able to apply for British citizenship.


UK spouse visa frequently asked questions

1. Can you get a spouse or partner visa if you have been with your partner for less than two years?

If you are unmarried, you will have to prove that you have been in a long-term relationship for at least two years. This isn’t a requirement if you are married, but you will have to show that you are in a genuine relationship.

2. What is a UK fiancé visa?

You can apply for a fiancé visa if you intend to get married or become civil partners within six months of your arrival in the UK. The difference between this and a spouse or partner visa is that you will not be allowed to work while you are engaged and the visa is only valid for six months.

If you’re applying as a fiancé, fiancée or proposed civil partner, you must also prove that any previous marriages or civil partnerships have ended.

3. Is the UK spouse visa a settlement visa?

Yes, the spouse or partner visa is a route that leads to citizenship. The fiancé visa, however, does not.

4. Can you work in the UK on a spouse visa?

You are allowed to live and work in the UK without restrictions, compared to a worker visa where you are only allowed to work for the company that is sponsoring you.

5. How long does it take to get a UK spouse visa?

If you use the standard service and are applying from outside the UK, a decision will usually be made within 12 weeks, and four weeks if you choose priority service. If you’re making your application from within the UK, you will usually get a decision within eight weeks.

6. How much does it cost to renew your spouse visa?

It costs £1,048 to extend your spouse visa and you will once again have to pay a £2,587.50 IHS fee.

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