UK spouse / partner visas

UK Immigration – Spouses, Civil Partners, Unmarried Partners, Fiancé(e)s


We have many years experience in assisting migrants to obtain UK visas as Spouses, Civil Partners, Unmarried Partners, Fiancé(e)s.

Such applicants will be sponsored by a UK citizen or person settled in the UK (i.e. who has indefinite leave to remain – ILR) or returning to settle in the UK. Different rules apply to EEA applicants sponsoring a family member – see our EEA section for more information.

Who can apply

The UK permits many different types of relationships to apply under these categories, including;

Married spouses (opposite sex)

Civil partners (same sex)

Unmarried partners (i.e. same sex or opposite sex spouses living together but not married or in a civil partnership)

Fiancé(e)s – those who intend to marry or register a civil partnership in the UK and apply for a visa to remain in the UK after marriage .

In all cases, applicants need to show that there is a genuine and continuing relationship. Many applications are delayed for want of sufficient evidence on this point. Regardless of the length of the relationship, this point is crucial.

A common error is for applicants to apply with their marriage certificate and no proof of relationship. This may show you are legally married but it does not show a genuine relationship.

Increasingly, the UK Border Agency is requiring applicants to show that their relationship is genuine and case officers are on the lookout for “sham marriages”. It is crucial to avoid any chance of a negative inference by addressing this issue.

Unmarried partners

The UK has for many years recognised a relationship where the parties are unmarried. In order to qualify as “unmarried partners” (either through a same sex or opposite sex relationship), the parties must show the existence of such a relationship for the 24 months period immediately before the application.

UK Border Agency guidance does permit short periods of living apart as long as the separation is temporary.

The guidance on proving an unmarried partner relationship stipulates that it only includes;

“genuine long-term relationships” and not just a “cohabiting relationship”

Unfortunately, many applicants are rejected on this point by confusing an unmarried partner relationship with cohabitation. Applications are frequently submitted with evidence just showing cohabitation for 24 months and then expecting approval. This approach is not likely to receive approval without more evidence.

The UK Border Agency guidance to its caseworkers provides instruction on the type of documents that should be provided to show “sufficient conclusive evidence of the relationship”.

Cohabitation is just one component of proving the relationship. Unless, you can provide sufficient evidence to demonstrate all the components of an unmarried partner relationship, then there is little point in applying.

The UK is generous compared to many other countries (such as the USA) that only recognise married spouses. However, the evidence required for unmarried partners is not something that is viewed lightly. Each application needs to be carefully assessed to ensure the key components are met.

We regularly assist applicants to show that all the key components of an unmarried partner relationship are being met.


Previously, the UK government passed controversial legislation requiring both parties to be at least 21 years old before applying for any visas in this category.

This was overturned by a 2011 court case and the government has now reverted to a minimum age of 18 years for both parties.

Maintenance and accommodation

These criteria of maintenance and accommodation in the UK are often overlooked by applicants.

However, they are mandatory requirements of the Immigration Rules and mustbe addressed in the application.

The applicant must show that he / she can be maintained and accommodated in the UK without recourse to public funds.

Therefore evidence of financial resources, potential or actual employment, sufficient accommodation or plans for accommodation must all be shown in the application.

The exact type of documents that will need to be provided will depend on;

Where the application is made – in the UK or overseas

If either party has employment in the UK

If either party can show sufficient savings

If a family member can provide proof of support

We work with applicants to ensure that the evidence provided on these points can be accepted by the UK Border Agency.

English language ability

Changes introduced in November 2010 introduced an English language requirement for all Spouses, Civil partners, Unmarried Partners, Fiancé(e)s.

This can be shown through either;

An approved English language test

A Degree taught in English

Proof of citizenship of a majority English speaking country

Switching in the UK

All of the visas in these categories can be applied for outside the UK.

However, there are restrictions on applying for these visas in the UK – i.e. switching your immigration category.

In most situations your visa needs to be one that is issued with at least 6 months validity before you can switch. This doesn’t mean that your visa has to have 6 months remaining but that it was issued for a period in excess of 6 months.

However, there are exceptions to this rule in certain situations. Please contact us so we can see if you can switch in the UK or if you must apply outside the UK.

Visa Issuance and Applying later for ILR

Visas for fiancé(e)s or proposed civil partners are issued for 6 months to allow the parties to marry or register a civil partnership in the UK.

Spouses, civil partners and unmarried partners are issued visas usually for 27 months. Then after living in the UK for 24 months, an application for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) can be made.

See our ILR webpage for more information.

In some situations, an applicant can be issued with ILR straightaway without having to later apply in the UK.

This is where the parties have been married or lived together for several years. The amount of evidence required for this can be extensive so this is something we would really need to review in advance.

2011 consultation and future developments

The UK government have targeted cutting the numbers of applicants permitted to move to the UK as Spouses, Civil Partners, Unmarried Partners, Fiancé(e)s. This is part of the overall idea to reduce net migration to the UK.

A detailed consultation was launched in 2011 with a view to implementing some key changes in these visa categories.

The following are some of the main proposals that the government has consulted on;

Requiring specific income / maintenance levels for British citizens / residents to sponsor partners

Increasing the probationary period for settlement from 2 to 5 years

Asking applicants to demonstrate why their combined attached to the UK is greater than to any other country

Imposing an annual cap on numbers in these visa categories would probably be a breach of Human Rights legislation so the government seems to be trying to make the criteria much tougher.

Following on from this, a government report has recommended a minimum salary for British residents sponsoring family to settle in the UK.

A minimum salary of between 18,600 GBP and 25,700 GBP before tax should be introduced for UK residents sponsoring a partner or dependent for settlement, the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) has recommended.

A salary threshold of 18,600 GBP would reduce settlement through the family route by 45 per cent, the MAC estimates. A minimum of 25,700 GBP would reduce it by 63 per cent.

The fact that the government is clearly advocating tougher criteria that will reduce migration numbers is worrying.

It is unclear exactly how the government will implement this but we expect changes ahead. These proposals would represent a very radical change in the criteria for spouses and partners.

Our service – Visas for Spouses, Civil Partners, Unmarried Partners, Fiance(e)s

We have many years experience in securing visas in these categories for our clients. The process can be complicated and is not granted easily by the UK government – it does, after all, lead to permanent residence and eventually to British citizenship.

We can handle the whole application from start to finish.  The service includes everything from pre-application advice, document review, completing forms, covering letter, drafting your personal statement, submission to the authorities and bringing to a successful conclusion. This continues throughout the whole process until your visa is approved.

You will only deal with one dedicated immigration adviser to provide you with a focused one to one service.

Our success rate is second to none and we can provide numerous verifiable references from satisfied clients for you to review and inspect.

At this stage, we just need you to complete this quick registration form on our website;

This should give us all the information we need to give you the correct advice.
We can then review in full and get back to you

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