UK spouse / partner visas

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

Overview

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.

It is also possible to apply when the UK citizen is living outside the UK. This is on the basis that the UK citizen is returning to settle in the UK – either with the applicant or ahead of the applicant.

Who can apply

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

Married spouses (opposite sex and same 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 or even refused 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, UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) are 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.

Many couples may not have lived together before applying, especially where they live in different countries. In this situation they could show that they have a genuine relationship through visits and frequent contact. This would require more evidence perhaps compared to a couple who have been married for many years, lived together for many years and have children together.

The key point is that proving a genuine relationship will be subjective in each application. The onus is on you, the applicant, to make sure that this is demonstrated sufficiently. We have a lot of experience in assisting applicants to show this in an application.

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.

UKVI 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.

UKVI 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 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.

The Financial Requirement

Several years ago, comprehensive changes were introduced by the UK government to the financial criteria for spouses and partners of UK citizens and of those settled in the UK.

These changes affect husbands, wives, unmarried partners, civil partners and fiancés.

The new rules introduced stringent new financial requirements to allow an applicant to be sponsored.

So, how does one meet the financial requirement? Currently, this can be met through income or savings (or a combination of the two).

In short – an annual income of GBP 18,600 is needed by the UK sponsor or total savings of GBP 62,500 (held either by the UK sponsor or applicant). These amounts are increased if children are to be included.

But the new rules are incredibly complicated and the documentary evidence to support an application needs to be almost perfect – case officers are rejecting applications without asking for clarification.

Income can be met through employment, self-employment, pension, investment, property rental.

Savings can be met through “cash funds” held in a bank account or similar.

The following are some of the main issues that arise;

  • What sources of income and savings can be combined together? For instance employment and pension income can be combined but self-employment and savings cannot be combined.
  • The rules have introduced a new formula for using savings to top up an income shortfall.
  • The rules differ greatly depending on whether the applicant and / or sponsor are in the UK or outside the UK
  • Applicants outside the UK can only rely on the employed income of the UK sponsor but pension income can be from either party.
  • Applicants employed outside the UK must have an offer of employment in the UK. Self-employed applicants must show an intention to continue self-employment.
  • Only savings held in cash funds can be counted – property equity, shares and stocks are all irrelevant. Savings must be held for 6 months.
  • You can also show savings held in cash that have been derived from the sale of an asset that you have owned for over the last 6 months – the most common example being property.
  • The specified evidence for self-employment and employment is very difficult to meet and many applicants (especially outside the UK) struggle to satisfy the requirements.

We are seeing many applicants coming to us who have been refused and are trying to submit an appeal. The reality is that an appeal is difficult unless you can show that the case officer made a basic error (which does happen of course).

It really is vital to prepare an application thoroughly and well in advance. We advise applicants to contact us early in their plans to move to the UK.

These new rules are complex and applications need to fit in exactly with one of the permitted categories to meet the financial requirements. The new approach is very different from the previous more flexible system that was in place before July 2012.

Adequate Maintenance

Some applicants are exempt from the strict financial requirements. This includes the situation where the UK citizen is in receipt of a designated public fund such as Carers Allowance, Disability Living Allowance, Personal Independence Payment etc.

This means that the sponsor must be able to show that there is “adequate maintenance” in place to support the applicant.

The total household income of the sponsor is assessed including benefits, employment, pension etc. Savings can also be included. Then the housing costs and council tax costs are deducted. The net amount left over needs to then meet or exceed the amount of Income Support that would usually be paid to a family in that situation.

If so, then the adequate maintenance requirement is met.

English language ability

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

All applicants need to meet an English language requirement, unless exempt through age or disability. This can be met by;

  • Passing a specified English language test
  • Showing you have a degree qualification conducted through English
  • Showing you are a citizen of an English-speaking country

If you are taking a specified English language test then make sure the test you take is on the current approved list. The list does change from time to time.

Also, the required test level varies depending on what stage of the visa process you are at. If applying from outside the UK for your first visa then the test level is A1. This increases to A2 when applying to extend in the UK, and again to B1 when applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain.

It is of course possible to just sit the higher B1 level at the outset and then use that test for all subsequent applications (assuming that the English language requirement doesn’t change).

It is possible to meet the English language requirement by showing you have a degree (including Bachelors, Masters and Doctorate degrees) that was conducted in English. Some other qualifications can also be accepted such as a Postgraduate Diploma, but these need to be checked.

Citizens of the following countries are exempt from the English language test;

Antigua and Barbuda

Australia

The Bahamas

Barbados

Belize

Canada

Dominica

Grenada

Guyana

Jamaica

New Zealand

St Kitts and Nevis

St Lucia

St Vincent and the Grenadines

Trinidad and Tobago

USA

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 2.5 years, then extended for 2.5 years. Then after living in the UK for 5 years, an application for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) can be made.

See our ILR webpage for more information.

Absences from the UK

Once issued a spouse visa then the applicant and their spouse (or partner) should intend to live together in the UK. When applying for further leave to remain or indefinite leave to remain, they are expected to show evidence of this cohabitation.

What happens if the applicant and / or the spouse have spent extended periods outside the UK?

All absences from the UK need to be declared in the application. The Home Office will usually disregard short absences for annual leave every year or for short business trips.

The official guidance on absences for spouse / partner visas explains that extended absences will be assessed on a case by case basis. There is no set number of days allowed such as 90 days or 180 days per year. These rules apply to other categories such as applying for UK citizenship or for those in the UK on work visas.

The guidance states that the case officer should look at the reason for the absences and if this causes reason to doubt that the couple intend to live together permanently in the UK. This is the key point that needs to be considered.

So, for example, an applicant who works for a company that requires him / her to travel abroad frequently for business meetings will be expected to justify and evidence this.

Also, if an applicant has had to spend a longer period outside the UK for a compelling or compassionate reason then again this can be considered. An example of this might be where the applicant became sick while abroad and was required to stay for a few further weeks for medical attention. Another example might be the sickness and / or death of a close family member abroad.

In these cases the applicant needs to be sure that the case officer will see that they have made the UK their home and are living here with their spouse / partner and intend for this to continue.

It is very important to remember to document any such absences. Often professional advice is needed to ensure that the absences will be permitted.

When calculating absences only full days outside of the UK are counted. For example, a trip to France departing on Friday and returning on Monday, counts as 2 days out of the UK – Saturday and Sunday.

Many applicants struggle to compile a list of all absences out of the UK but there is no way around this. Applicants show try to keep a regular record of all travel as this will be needed for later applications.

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;

http://www.commonwealthimmigration.com/assesment_form.html

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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