Non-European nationals can apply to enter or remain in the UK as either the spouse/partner of a British citizen or a person with settled status, refugee leave or humanitarian protection under a spouse visa, partner visa or unmarried partner visa. Settled status, also known as Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR), means having been given permission to settle here permanently. If you are outside the UK you must obtain your spouse visa or partner visa before travelling.
SPOUSE VISA APPLICATION & CIVIL PARTNER VISA APPLICATION
As the non-European spouse, civil partner, unmarried or same-sex partner of a British citizen or a person with settled status, subject to satisfying the criteria for the relevant visa under the Immigration Rules (including suitability, relationship, financial and English language requirements), you will be given permission to stay in the UK for 30 months. If you continue to meet all the requirements you can apply to stay for a further 30 months.
After a 5-year period you can apply for settlement (ILR) in the UK. Alternatively you may be eligible to apply under the less stringent 10-year route which overlooks the financial and English language requirement, although you will need to show insurmountable obstacles to family life with your spouse or partner continuing overseas.
If you do not meet the requirements for either route you may be given permission to remain here on the basis of your private life, subject to evidence that you have resided continuously in the UK for a required period of time. Both the private life and 10-year settlement route can only be made via applications from within the UK.
If you have already joined your spouse or partner in the UK you may apply to switch to a spouse visa or a partner visa from a different immigration category. You will not be allowed to switch categories if you are here as a visitor on temporary admission if permission to stay was given for a period of less than 6 months (unless that leave was specifically as a fiancée or proposed civil partner on the relevant visa), or you are in breach of the Immigration Rules (a period of overstaying of less than 28 days will not be taken into account).
You must be married, and the marriage must be recognised as legally valid in the UK. This in itself can be quite complex – for example, if you were married in an Islamic ceremony in the UK it would not be recognised as valid for UK immigration, but on the other hand, the same ceremony would be regarded as valid if it had taken place in an Islamic country. Similarly, a Ghanaian customary marriage may or may not be regarded as legal for UK immigration, depending upon the circumstances in which it took place.
You also have to satisfy the Home Office that your relationship is genuine – that is, that the reason why you are married is because you and your spouse want to live together permanently. If the Home Office is not satisfied on this point they are likely to call your relationship a ‘sham marriage’.
Before you can get a visa, you have to satisfy the Home Office that you and your spouse will be able to support yourselves from your own resources, without needing any help from the government in the form of benefits. To do this you have to show a gross income of at least £18,600 per year.
There are various ways in which you can show that the financial requirements are met, but in most cases it is the UK based spouse who has to show that they have this sum of money available. The financial requirement rules are particularly strict – only certain types of income are permissible. Financial support from parents and family is not permitted.
If the UK spouse is in receipt of certain benefits, to do with disability or being a carer, then you do not have to show an income of £18,600, though you will still have to show that you can support yourselves as a couple.
You need to show that there is appropriate accommodation available for you and your spouse to live in. Rented accommodation is acceptable, as is a shared house, as long as the property is not statutorily overcrowded.
English language requirements
Unless you are from a majority English speaking country or have a degree that was taught in English, you will need to pass an English test before you apply for your visa. This test is in Speaking and Listening at Level A1 of the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR). The Home Office have a list of approved tests and test providers, which changes frequently.
Character and conduct requirements
If you have a serious criminal conviction, or a number of less serious convictions, you may not meet the ‘suitability’ requirements of the Immigration Rules.
Spouse visa and partner visa applications can be complex and using the services of an immigration expert is highly recommended. Get in touch with LPS today for friendly, no obligation advice from the professionals. Call now on 0800 996 1807, chat to us online or request a call back