In recent years the UK has developed the concept of civil relationships, common law relationships and same sex relationships. Under immigration law they are treated all the same so we are just going to refer to the all under spouse visas.
What is a spouse visa?
Also known as a UK marriage visa, a spouse visa allows married partners of UK citizens to immigrate to the UK because they are married to someone who is 'settled in the UK' - i.e. a person who is ordinarily resident in the UK and has no immigration restrictions on how long they can stay in the UK.
Can I work on a spouse visa?
Yes, you are eligible to work or study in the UK once the visa has been granted.
Spouse visa requirements
To qualify for a UK spouse / marriage visa you must satisfy the following requirements:
- You and your spouse must be 18 years old or over.
- You must have met each other and be legally married - this is to prevent arranged marriages.
- You must intend to live together permanently.
- You must have enough money to support yourselves (and any dependants) without claiming public funds.
- Your sponsoring partner must earn more than £18,600 per year or have enough savings to be able to sponsor you. The minimum financial requirement is higher if they are also sponsoring dependant children.
- You must have suitable accommodation for you, your spouse and any dependants.
- You must satisfy the English language requirements.
How do I apply for a spouse visa?
You can apply for a spouse visa from overseas or from within the UK.
If you are already in the UK on a fiance visa, work visa, or student visa valid for more than six months, you may be able to switch into a spouse visa.
How long does the application take?
The average processing time for a spouse visa application is 2 – 12 weeks from the date we submit the application to the UKBA. Processing times vary depending on the country where the application is made.
How long does a spouse visa last?
If applying from overseas, a spouse visa is initially issued for 33 months. If you are applying from within the UK a spouse visa is issued for a period of 30 months.
Can I extend my spouse visa?
You can apply for an extension for an additional 30 months which can take your total time in the UK on this visa up to five years. At this point you can apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) provided you are still married and living in the UK with your spouse and continue to meet the maintenance requirements. After you have been granted ILR you may be eligible to apply for naturalisation as British citizen.
Spouse visa entry clearance
If you are seeking to enter the UK on the basis of your relationship with a UK national you must apply for entry clearance before coming to the UK.
If you are applying from inside the UK you must have leave to remain in the UK on a visa that is valid for six months at the time you apply.
You cannot switch to a spouse visa if you are already in the UK and were initially admitted for a period of less than six months - for example, if you were initially admitted entry as a visitor or prospective student.
English language requirements for partners
As a spouse visa applicant you must be able to show that you can speak and understand English.
You must meet the English language requirement if:
- You are a national of a country outside the European Economic Area and Switzerland; and
- You are in a relationship with a British citizen or a person settled in the UK; and
- You want to immigrate to the UK as that person's spouse.
If you are not a national of a majority English-speaking country or do not have a degree taught in English then you will need to pass an English language test from an approved test provider.
If you are applying from overseas we can make arrangements for you to take an approved English language test in your home country.
Contact us to find out more about the English language requirements.
Spouse visa dependants
Children under 18 years of age can enter the UK as your dependants. You should make an application for them at the same time that you make your spouse visa application. Please note that your sponsoring spouse must show income of a specified amount, the level of which varies depending on the number of dependant children being sponsored.
What if your relationship ends? (We hope not!)
If you relationship ends while your partner only has limited permission to enter or remain in the UK (i.e. during the probationary period before they can apply to live here permanently) you should notify the UKBA by writing to:
Evidence and Enquiry Unit
12th Floor (Long) Corridor
40 Wellesley Road
Include your partner's full name as shown in their passport, their date of birth, and their entry clearance or UKBA reference number (if known)
The UKBA will decide whether to cancel your former partner's permission to stay in the UK. However, this will not automatically happen if the basis of their stay has changed. For example, they may qualify to remain in the UK on another basis, or there might be compassionate or other reasons why it would be inappropriate to cancel their stay.