We had helped Shelby (not her real name) secure an extension of her spouse visa. She first approached us two months prior to the expiry of her current spouse visa because, in her words, she felt ‘clueless’. So we answered her questions and helped her through the application process. Here’s how we were able to secure Shelby’s spouse visa extension.
Requirements for a spouse visa extension
Shelby, a US citizen, and her British husband, Den, had been married for several years. Shelby had applied for a spouse visa to enter the UK, from the US, in order to join Den. Though she had used the services of another immigration advisor, she was clear that she did wish to use them again.
We took Shelby through the requirements of paragraph R-LTRP.1.1 of the immigration rules and explained that an applicant from outside of the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland, holding a spouse visa, may apply for a spouse visa extension. When considering the application UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) will assess whether:
- The applicant continues to be the family member of a British national or settled person; and
- Whether they continue to live with their spouse, in the UK, on a permanent basis.
As with the initial application for a spouse visa, the applicant must prove that:
- The couple are 18 years of age and over;
- The relationship remains genuine and subsisting;
- The couple still intend to live with each other in the UK in a relationship akin to marriage;
- The couple have an adequate place to live in the UK;
- The couple can adequately maintain themselves;
- They have a good knowledge of the English language and
- They meet the suitability requirement.
In effect, UKV will test out the merits of the relationship again and the extension application may be refused if her circumstances had changed drastically or she had provided false or incomplete information.
We assessed Shelby’s, and Den’s, circumstances against each of the immigration requirements. But first, we verified Shelby’s immigration status. It should be noted that when applying for an extension of stay as a spouse of a British citizen, or settled person in the UK, the applicant’s presence in the UK must be lawful.
A person with a tourist or visitor visa, or visa issued to them with less than 6 months’ leave, (unless they were here as a fiancé/ fiancée or proposed civil partner), cannot apply for an extension of stay as a spouse. Instead, they must leave the UK and submit an application for an initial spouse visa from their country of lawful residence or nationality.
The couple are 18 years of age and over
We referred to Shelby’s and Den’s, passports. We submitted Shelby’s original current and expired passport. A certified copy of Den’s full passport was also submitted.
The relationship remains genuine and subsisting
For the initial spouse visa application to enter the UK, Shelby had submitted her original marriage certificate as well as numerous photographs of her and Den together. Shelby had also submitted a selection of screenshots of her communications with Den.
Here, we submitted the original marriage certificate as part of the spouse visa extension application. And Shelby and Den were advised to provide documentary evidence that they have been living together in the UK as a married couple.
We advised the couple to submit evidence of cohabitation in the UK, such as their joint tenancy agreements, joint utility letters and joint bank statements covering the last 2 years. Where Shelby and Den did not have possess joint letters, we submitted individual letters sent to them at their shared residential address.
Shelby questioned whether it was necessary to collate and submit such documents, given that UKVI had already accepted the existence of their relationship and marriage. After all, copies of documents from the earlier application were held by UKVI. She is not the first client to say this. In their guidance of November 2014, UKVI caseworkers are advised to make further enquiries of the applicant and sponsor, if the caseworker has any concerns as to whether the relationship is genuine or continuing. Further, UKVI may invite the applicant for an interview, and it the enquiries, and/or interview, prove unsatisfactory, the application will be refused.
It is therefore important to submit the correct information and documents in support of the immigration requirements.
The couple still intend to live with each other in the UK in a relationship akin to marriage
For the initial spouse visa application to enter the UK, Shelby had submitted numerous photographs of her and Den together. She had also submitted a selection of their communications to each other. UKVI is not necessarily concerned with such evidence here.
As above, to assess whether a couple intend to continue living together, UKVI will carefully consider the information and documentary evidence provided. That data will be used to determine whether the relationship and marriage is genuine and as such, whether the couple intend to continue living together in a close relationship.
The couple can adequately maintain themselves
On 9 July 2012, a minimum financial requirement, based on income, was introduced into the Immigration Rules for applicants applying for a spouse visa or a spouse visa extension. Applicants, whose partners are in receipt of disability living allowance, personal independence payment, or other specified benefits are not required to meet the minimum financial requirements.
All other applicants must evidence that they or their partner earns £18,600 per annum. This figure will increase for each additional child included in the application. The requirements have since been adapted to apply a more flexible approach’
In Shelby’s case, Den earned an annual income of around £55,000. Shelby and Den were advised to submit Den’s Contract of Employment, payslips and corresponding bank statements covering the 6 months’ period immediately preceding the application submission date.
The couple have an adequate place to live in the UK
All applicants applying for a spouse visa extension under the 5 years’ route must evidence that they have adequate accommodation in the UK without the need to claim State funds. This applies whether the applicant’s partner is in receipt of Disability Living Allowance (or other specified benefits) or not.
UKVI guidance states that the accommodation must be suitable for the applicant, their partner and any family members in the household, whether the family members are included in the application or not. The property must be one which the family own or which they occupy exclusively.
Shelby and Den jointly rent a 2-bedroom flat in Central London. We advised them to submit the Tenancy Agreement in support of the application.
Similarly, another client, Sam, who also applied for a spouse visa extension, rented a large 2 bedroomed flat with his civil partner and another tenant and that tenant’s partner, in a flat-share arrangement. In that matter, Sam was advised to not only submit the Tenancy Agreement in support of the application, but also, a letter from the Landlord confirming the arrangement and layout of the property. UKVI approved Sam’s application and the accommodation was seen as adequate because Sam and his partner had, as a minimum, exclusive use of the bedroom.
Under paragraph 6 of the Immigration Rules, the term ‘occupy exclusively’ means that at least a part of the accommodation must be for the exclusive of the applicant and their partner (or their family).
As to Shelby, had she owned the property, we would have advised her to submit evidence to support this, such as a copy of the property deeds or a letter from a bank or building society confirming the mortgage arrangements. In other words, the documents to be submitted will depend on the individual circumstances.
They have a good knowledge of the English language
The Immigration rules state that an applicant must demonstrate sufficient knowledge of the English language by way of specified evidence. The applicant must:
- Be a national of a majority English speaking country listed in paragraph GEN.1.6 of the immigration rules. That is: 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 and the United States of America; or
- Have passed an English language test in speaking and listening at a minimum of level A2 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages with a provider approved by the Secretary of State; or
- Have an academic qualification recognised by UK NARIC to be equivalent to the standard of a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree or PhD in the UK, which was taught in English; or
- Be exempt from the English language requirement under paragraph E-ECP.4.2. E-ECP.4.2. The applicant is exempt from the English language requirement if at the date of application- (a) the applicant is aged 65 or over; (b) the applicant has a disability (physical or mental condition) which prevents the applicant from meeting the requirement; or (c) there are exceptional circumstances which prevent the applicant from being able to meet the requirement prior to entry to the UK.
The immigration rules state that an applicant applying for a spouse visa to enter the UK must have a basic knowledge of the English language, at level A1. In the case of the Spouse visa extension application, the applicant is required to submit an English language pass certificate at A2 level. The spouse visa application will be refused if the applicant submits an English language pass certificate below level A2.
As a US citizen, Shelby was able to rely on her current passport as evidence of meeting the English language requirement.
The suitability requirement
When assessing the spouse visa application, UKVI will also test whether it is suitable to grant the applicant leave to remain under paragraph S-LTR.1.1 of the immigration rules. Therefore, the applicant’s character and conduct, their previous immigration history, whether they have accrued debt to the National Health Service (NHS), and whether they have co-operated with their enquiries will be assessed.
Shelby’s application to extend her spouse visa was approved under the same day service. Shelby was not required to provide details of her absences as part of the application. Longer term, Shelby would like to apply for settlement once she has held the spouse visa for 5 years. As such, we advised Shelby to be mindful of her absences from the UK over the course of her residence in the UK. This is because, the settlement, or indefinite leave to remain, application carries a strict absence requirement, which if not met could lead to the refusal of the application.
The application to extend the spouse visa in the UK must be approached with due care and attention. As with Shelby’s matter, it is important to demonstrate how each of the requirements under the immigration rules are met. The fact that the initial spouse visa to enter the UK, was granted, is not an indication that the application to extend that visa will be immediately approved without scrutiny. By reviewing the above tips, we hope that you will secure the extension of the spouse visa.
Written by Carla Thomas – Managing Director at Thomas Chase immigration.
Thomas Chase Immigration offer immigration assistance to individuals and families.
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If you have questions or concerns or you would like straightforward immigration advice, or assistance with your application to extend the spouse visa, feel free to contact us.
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