Spouse visa – what are the requirements for a spouse visa

Thomas Chase Immigration - UK Spouse Visa

‘How do I apply for a spouse visa?’ ‘What are the requirements for a spouse visa? Common questions. You may be a British national living in the UK and would like your overseas spouse to join you. It should be a simple enough process. It is not. In an attempt to demystify the spouse visa applications, I have put together an outline of the process for applying for a spouse visa, the documents required and some general guidance to bear in mind.

Background

A spouse visa is appropriate when you are already in the UK and you would like your overseas spouse or civil partner to join you in the UK for over 6 months. Overseas national refers to your partner being a national of a country outside of the European Economic Area (EEA) and who is living abroad.

As part of the immigration process, you will need to sponsor your partner’s application to join you as a dependant and you will need to fall within one of the following:

  • Be a British citizen
  • Have settlement or indefinite leave to remain in the UK
  • Have asylum or humanitarian protection in the UK

Much of this information may apply to unmarried partners also though for the purposes of this article, the focus will be on spouses and married partners.

Application

As the sponsor you are supporting the application. Your partner will need to complete and submit the application online in their country of nationality or residence. The only exception to the online process is where your partner resides in or is from North Korea in which case, they will need to download and complete a paper application form.

The application form can be saved and returned to, allowing you to assist with the preparation of the application form or to review the application to ensure that all the information provided is correct.

The application type normally causes confusion. As you are a British citizen or settled and living in the UK, your partner will need to apply for a ‘Family of a Settled Person’ visa.

If you have children, your partner should their details within their application form and also complete separate online applications for each child.

Key requirements:

Genuine Relationship

Your partner must be over 18 and your relationship must be genuine and that you intend to live together as a family in the UK. When submitting the application to UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI), they will wish to see evidence that the marriage or civil partnership is legal and that the relationship is one that exists and has not an ‘arranged marriage’ or has been entered into to circumvent immigration laws.

Earnings

One of the most onerous requirements is the need for you to meet the financial requirements for your partner to successfully apply to join you in the UK. This means that you need to show that you earn above a certain threshold.

The salary threshold currently stands at:

  • £18,600 per annum – partner only
  • £22,400 per annum – partner and first child
  • £24,800 per annum – partner and 2 children
  • £27,200 per annum – partner and 3 children
  • £2,400 for each additional child

So as an example, if you are sponsoring your wife and 3 children to join you in the UK as your dependants, you will need to show the following savings or earnings:

  • £27,200 per annum – partner and 3 children

Total = £27,200

The financial requirement is usually evidenced via your income but can be a combination of:

  • Income from employment or self-employment – if you’re in the UK with permission to work
  • A pension
  • Maternity, paternity, adoption or sick pay
  • Other income such as from rent or shares
  • Cash savings – you’ll need at least £16,000, and the savings must have been in your name for 6 months or more

You will not need to meet the financial requirement if you have one or more of the following benefits:

  • Disability Living Allowance
  • Severe Disablement Allowance
  • Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit
  • Attendance Allowance
  • Personal Independence Payment
  • Armed Forces Independence Payment or Guaranteed Income Payment under the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme
  • Constant Attendance Allowance, Mobility Supplement or War Disablement Pension under the War Pensions Scheme
  • bereavement benefits

The above requirements do not apply if you have either humanitarian protection or refugee status and are subject to change.

You will also need to complete a Financial Requirement Form or Appendix 2 to further evidence that you meet the financial requirements.

The evidential flexibility for meeting the financial requirements is set out in paragraph D of Appendix FM-SE.

Accommodation

As part of the application process, you must show that you and your partner (and any children) will have adequate accommodation in the UK. This is to prevent individuals later seeking public assistance.

English language

Your partner will need to show that they have a knowledge of the English Language when they apply to join you in the UK.

If your partner is from a national of a majority English language, their language skills will be implied. Those countries are:

  • 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
  • US

Otherwise, English language can be evidenced by way of:

  • An academic qualification that both:
    • was taught or researched in English
    • is recognised by the body, UK NARIC, as being equivalent to a bachelor’s or master’s degree or PhD

A partner may be exempted from evidencing a knowledge of the English language where:

  • They are 65 years of age and older
  • Unable to do so due to a long term physical or mental condition
  • There are exceptional circumstances preventing them from meeting the requirements

UKVI will expect to see evidence if any of the above applies.

Tuberculosis Testing

As part of the immigration process, your partner may need to provide evidence of Tuberculosis (TB) screening if they are a resident of a particular country. Further information on TB screening can be found here.

It is advisable for your partner to book a test well in advance of the UKVI appointment as TB screening appointments in some countries can be subject to long waiting times.

Once your partner has been screened and found to be clear of infectious TB, they will be given a certificate which must be submitted as part of their application.

If you have children traveling as part of the application, they will need to be seen by the clinician who will decide if they need a chest x-ray. For any children under 11, a chest x-ray is rare. Once cleared, their certificates will also need to be included in their applications.

Children under 11 will not normally have a chest x-ray.

The TB certificate is normally valid for 6 months so this needs to be factored into your overall applications timescales.

Sponsorship Form

You will need to confirm your sponsorship of your partner’s (and child or children’s) application by way of an undertaking. This is done by completing a Sponsorship Form

By signing the Sponsorship Form, you are confirming that you will be responsible for your partner’s (and child’s or children’s) maintenance, accommodation and care, without relying on public funds:

  • For at least 5 years, if they are applying to settle
  • Throughout their stay in the UK

Documents

The key documents to be submitted with the application will depend on your and your partner’s circumstances. Each person’s circumstances are different and there have been instances when I have advised clients to submit additional documents or made detailed representations to UKVI in order to make the application process as smooth as possible.

Whilst this is not an exhaustive list, some of the key documents to be submitted are:

  • Printed application form
  • Your current passport or valid travel identification document
  • Any previous or expired passports
  • Your partner’s passport sized photographs
  • Evidence of your identity and status in the UK
  • Evidence of marital status
  • Evidence that you and your partner intend on living together in the UK and of your relationship
  • Proof of adequate accommodation in the UK
  • Proof that you can meet the financial requirement/ maintenance requirements
  • Financial Requirements Form
  • Your partners proof of their knowledge of the English language
  • Your partner’s valid TB test certificate – see above
  • Sponsorship Form

If your child or children are applying to travel to the UK with your partner, the following should also be included, though this is not an exhaustive list:

  • Your child’s current passport or valid travel identification document
  • Your child’s previous or expired passports
  • Your child’s passport sized photographs
  • Your child’s valid TB test certificate

How long are processing times?

Processing times are at the mercy of UKVI and depends on a number of factors. For that reason, it is advisable to leave nothing to chance so as to prevent delay to your application.

On average, however, spouse applications can take up to 12 weeks to be decided. The latest  UKVI processing timescales can be found here.

Application fees

As of 2016/2017, application fees for your dependant to join you in the UK stand at £1,195. Fee increases apply as of 6 April 2017.

In addition, your partner will need to pay an Immigration Health Surcharge towards the National Health Service of £200 per year.

How long will the visa be issued for?

Spouse visas are issued for 33 months. Before the end of the visa, your partner will need to apply to extend their visa for a further 2 years and 6 months. The application will be made UKVI from within the UK so there is no need for your partner to leave the UK and make the application from abroad.

Can my partner work in the work?

Once the visa has been issued, your partner may work, take up employment and study in the UK.

Can my partner apply for settlement?

Your spouse may apply for indefinite leave to remain in the UK or settlement once they have resided in the UK for 5 years continuously.

My suggestion is that as soon as your spouse enters the UK as your dependant, they you both take a long term view to your situation and collate documents over the next 5 years to with a view to submitting an application to first extend their leave in the UK and later to seek settlement.

Conclusion

Spouse visas allow an overseas partner living abroad to join their British or settled spouse or civil partner in the UK. Once obtained, the overseas partner may travel to the UK, live beyond 5 years, work and study. Yet, the fact that the sponsoring spouse of civil partner might be British or settled in the UK does not necessarily mean that the immigration process will be a straightforward one. There are a number of strict requirements that could lead to a delay or a refusal of a spouse visa application if those requirements are not met.  With this in mind, this article has sought to explain the spouse visa immigration process and clarify the requirements to be met by UK sponsors and their overseas partners.

Call to action

If you would like further guidance or assistance with an application for a UK spouse visa, contact us at Thomas Chase Immigration to arrange a consultation. Or learn more about immigration from our blogs.

You may also like: Q&A: UK spouse visas and Disability Living Allowance.

Brexit: Retained Rights of Residence

“Brexit: Retained Rights of Residence” is locked Brexit: Retained Rights of Residence

Brexit remains a hot topic for European nationals and with good reason. The UK government has announced a time frame of March 2017 for the start of formal negotiations to leave the European Union. Many European nationals are eager to know how, and to what extent, their current rights to work and reside in the UK will be protected. But what of non-EEA family members whose circumstances have change? Here we look at the Retained Rights of Residence provisions and the documents that need to be gathered and submitted to support an application to UK Visas and Immigration.

Background

The Immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations 2006, later replaced by the Immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations 2016,  sets out the rights of nationals, of the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland, and their family members to enter and reside in the UK.

In order to first enter the UK, the non-EEA family member of sponsoring EEA national must apply for an EEA family permit. The exception is where the non-EEA family member holds a qualifying EEA State residence card issued in Germany or Estonia or already holds a residence permit or permanent residence card.

Once in the UK, non-EEA family members can find themselves in a vulnerable position if their circumstances change and they do not yet have permanent residence. With Brexit looming, it has become crucial than ever for such individuals protect their status.

Retained Rights of Residence categories

Regulation 10 allows EEA nationals family members that are from outside the EEA retain their right of residence in the UK if:

  • The EEA national:
    • Is deceased – regulation 10(2)
    • Leaves the UK – regulation 10(3)
    • Parent of a child who retains the right of residence: regulation 10(4)
    • Divorces their spouse or dissolves their civil partnership – regulation 10(5)
  • The family member is the parent of a child who retains the right of residence – regulation 10(4)

Regulation 10 only applies on or after 30 April 2006 and cannot be applied if the circumstances happened before that date. For example, if a person married an EEA national and subsequently divorced them before 30 April 2006 they would not be entitled to retain the right to reside.

Below we look at what each of the categories mean and list some of the key documents that must be submitted to UK Visas and Immigration when applying for retained rights of residence.

Death of the EEA national sponsor: regulation 10(2)

If the sponsoring EEA national has died, their non-EEA national family members may retain a right of residence. To do so, the following circumstances must be in place:

  • The EEA national died on or after 30 April 2006 and was a qualified person or had a right of permanent residence when they died
  • the applicant was living in the UK for at least one year immediately before the EEA national’s death as:
    • a family member of the EEA national qualified person, or
    • an EEA national with a permanent right of residence.
  • The EEA national was a worker, self-employed person, or self-sufficient person; or
  • The non-EEA national family member is carrying out activities similar to that of a qualified person and is a worker, self-employed or a self-sufficient person.

Where the non-EEA family member is a student, they must demonstrate that they are self-sufficient to fall within the provisions of regulation 10(2).

Documents

The evidence that a non-EEA family member will need to submit with their application are:

  • A valid passport
  • A valid passport or EEA ID card of the EEA national to evidence their nationality
  • Evidence of their genuine relationship to the EEA national
  • The EEA national’s death certificate
  • Evidence that the EEA national was exercising free movement rights at the time of their death
  • Evidence of the non-EEA family member’s residence in the UK for at least one year immediately before the EEA national’s death
  • That they are a worker, self-employed person or self-sufficient person or the family member of such a person
  • Where applicable, evidence of the child being educated in the UK immediately prior to the EEA national ‘s death
  • Documents showing the child’s continuing education in the UK, for example a letter from the child’s school
  • The child’s or children’s identity documents and birth certificate

The above is not an exhaustive list and will need to be tailored to the individual circumstances of the individuals.

Leaves the UK – regulation 10(3)

A non-EEA national spouse or civil partner will lose their right of residence if the sponsoring EEA-national leaves the UK while they are still married or in a civil partnership. This is because they can no longer be viewed as a ‘qualified person’ exercising free movement or Treaty rights.

Where this happens, the non-EEA family member will need to demonstrate that they instead fall under fall one of the other provisions of regulation 10.

The exception is where the family member of a direct descendant of the EEA national.

Documents

Below is a guide to the documents that need to be gathered and submitted with the application.

  • A valid passport evidencing nationality.
  • Evidence of their relationship to the EEA national.
  • Proof that the EEA national has left the UK, if applicable. This can be in the form of a declaration
  • Evidence that the EEA national was exercising free movement rights prior to leaving the UK
  • Evidence of the child being educated in the UK immediately prior to the EEA national leaving the UK
  • Documents showing the child’s continuing education in the UK, for example a letter from the child’s school
  • The child’s or children’s identity documents and birth certificate.

The above is not an exhaustive list and will need to be tailored to the individual circumstances of the individuals.

Parent of a child who retains the right of residence: regulation 10(4)

A non-EEA family member who is the parent of a child or children of an EEA national may retain a right of residence until the child reaches the age of 21.

It is possible for the non-EEA family member to continue their residence beyond the child 21st birthday if the child has, for instance, a severe physical or mental disability and the non-EEA national’s assistance will allow that child to continue with their education in the UK.

Documents

The evidence that a non-EEA family member will need to submit with their application for retained rights are:

  • A valid passport
  • 2 colour passport sized photographs for each person
  • Birth certificate evidencing the relationship of the non-EEA and EEA national to the child or children
  • The child’s or children’s evidence of identity
  • Evidence of the non-EEA national’s relationship to the EEA national
  • Their relationship to the EEA national
  • Their custody of the child, if appropriate. For instance, a letter that has been officially sworn by a solicitor confirming that the parent has custody.

The above is not an exhaustive list and will need to be tailored to the individual circumstances of the individuals.

Divorces their spouse or dissolves their civil partnership – regulation 10(5)

Separation

Where there has been a separation, the non-EEA national will continue to be a family member with the right to reside in the UK, as long as the sponsoring EEA national continues to exercise free movement rights in the UK, or has acquired permanent residence.

Rights of residence continues until:

  • The divorce is finalised and a decree absolute is issued
  • The marriage is annulled or
  • The civil partnership is dissolved

Once the above papers have been issued, the non-EEA national’s right of residence will come to an end.

Divorce

Most of the queries I receive on retained rights of residence are from individuals whose marriage or civil partnership to the sponsoring EEA national has officially ended.

Where the relationship ends in divorce, the non-EEA spouse or civil partner will lose their right of residence if:

  • The EEA national leaves the UK while they are still married or in a civil partnership. This is because they can no longer be viewed as a ‘qualified person’), and
  • the non-EEA national does not qualify for a retained right of residence under any other part of regulation 10.

Conditions of Regulation 10(5)

To avoid this, the non-EEA spouse or civil partner, and anyone who was related to the EEA national sponsor by marriage or civil partnership, must meet the conditions of regulation 10(5) in order to retain a right of residence in the UK. Those conditions are that:

  • The non-EEA national has been married to, or in a civil partnership with, the EEA national for at least three years immediately before beginning proceedings for divorce, annulment or dissolution; and
  • Has lived in the UK with the EEA national sponsor for at least one year during the time of their marriage or civil partnership.

Documents

The evidence that a non-EEA family member will need to submit with their application for retained rights are:

  • A valid passport for the non-EEA national
  • For the sponsoring EEA national evidence of their nationality, which must be a valid passport or EEA ID card
  • 2 colour passport sized photographs
  • Evidence that the marriage or civil partnership lasting for at least three years immediately before the initiation of proceedings for divorce, annulment or dissolution
  • Evidence of the non-EEA family member and EEA national’s residence in the UK for at least one year during the marriage
  • Evidence of the termination of the non-EEA national’s relationship with the EEA national on or after 30 April 2006. This could be a:
    • Decree absolute
    • Decree of annulment
    • Certificate of dissolution
  • Proof that the EEA family member had permanent residence or had been a ‘qualified person’ (i.e. a worker, student, self-employed person, self-sufficient person or someone looking for work) in the UK

The above is not an exhaustive list and will need to be tailored to the individual circumstances of the individuals.

Other factors

It is important to satisfy the conditions under regulation 10 otherwise the application for retained rights of residence may not only be refused, but their registration certificate or residence card may also be revoked.

Under the Free Movement of Persons Directive 2004/38/EC family members who have a retained right of residence do so ‘exclusively on a personal basis’. In practice, this means that the non-EEA family member cannot be the sponsor for another family member.

In their published guidance, UKVI states the following by way of an example:

‘…if a non-EEA national with a retained right of residence gets married to another non-EEA national, her new husband will not have any rights under the regulations. Her new husband would only be able to enter or remain in the UK if he qualifies under the Immigration Rules’.

It is possible for non-EEA national family members of British citizens (Surinder Singh cases) to continue to remain in the UK. However, this is beyond the scope of this article and will be covered in a separate article.

Conclusion

Non-EEA family members of EEA nationals may continue to reside in the UK under certain circumstances. The circumstances are limited and do require a significant amount of documentation to be submitted along with the application for retained rights of residence.

Brexit Latest: Brexit and Immigration

Brexit Latest: Brexit and Immigration

At the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham on Sunday, Prime Minister Theresa May laid out her position on Brexit. Article 50, the formal mechanism for beginning exit negotiations from the European Union (EU), would be invoked by the end of March 2017.

During the negotiations, Mrs May said that immigration control, and not better trade deals, would be the priority. This was the strongest indication yet of a ‘hard Brexit’ approach, an approach that was reaffirmed by David Davis, the Brexit Secretary, who promised to not only control immigration but to ‘bring numbers down’ when he addressed the conference.

Yet, the hard Brexit approach has already began to cause some friction within in the Conservative party. There are those within (and outside) the party who would like to see the government adopt a ‘soft Brexit’ approach. One that would see access to the single market balanced with free movement of people.

Mrs May also proposed the repeal of the 1972 European Communities Act (ECA) which gives direct effect to all EU law, and spoke of the introduction of the ‘Great Repeal Bill’ which would enshrine ‘all’ EU law into UK law. She stated:

‘This historic bill, which will be included in the next Queen’s speech will mean that the 1972 Act, the legislation that gives direct effect to all EU law in Britain will no longer apply from the date on which we formally leave the European Union’

Mrs May added;

‘Our laws will be made not in Brussels but in Westminster. The judges interpreting those laws will sit not in Luxembourg but in courts in this country. The authority of EU law in Britain will end’.

The Repeal Bill’s aim to enshrine all EU laws in UK law seems at odds with Mrs May’s stance on UK sovereignty. The likely aim of the bill to provide much needed assurances to the business sector that little will change immediately post-Brexit.  

Yet, this would still provide little comfort to businesses and UK universities uncertain about not only trade but still confused as to the long term impact to European employees, workforce and students.

In fact, little information was given to recent and longer term

EU residents in the UK. Mr Davis said that the UK, during negotiations, will protect the rights of EU citizens in the UK ‘so long as Britons in Europe are treated the same way’, suggesting that there is still some way to go before EU citizens gain clarity on their longer term status.

Aside from any deals yet to be negotiated, the likelihood is that post-Brexit, EU laws enshrined in law will be diluted and amended over time. Eventually, UK courts will need to interpret immigration laws in keeping with the will of Parliament and not Europe.

For those involved in immigration, we can only hope that vital safeguards are not lost altogether. We will watch this space closely to see how things progress.