Spouse visa FAQ’s: Understanding the visa, context and spouse visa changes:

In this article, we answer and discuss frequently asked questions surrounding the spouse visa.

What is a spouse visa?

The spouse visa, otherwise known as the Family visa is one of four major visa categories in the UK. It allows eligible overseas nationals to live with their qualifying family members in the UK for 6 months or longer.

Can I apply for a spouse visa?

Overseas individuals can apply for a visa to live with their:

  • spouse or partner.
  • fiancé, fiancée or proposed civil partner.
  • child.
  • parent.
  • relative who will provide long-term care for you.

Are all family visas the same?

There are different types of relationship visas that are specific to family relationships and circumstances:

  • UK partner and spouse visa – allows overseas nationals live with their partner in the UK if they are a British citizen or have settled status.
  • Fiancée, Fiancé visa or proposed civil partner– this sub route is for people who intend to marry or enter into a civil partnership with a British citizen or someone with settled status or pre-settled status. This sub-route allows the person to switch to a spouse or civil partner visa.
  • Child dependent visa – allows an overseas child to join a parent or parents living in the UK.
  • Adult dependent relative visa – overseas family members to come to the UK to be cared for by a person settled in the UK.
  • Ancestry visa – allows Commonwealth and British overseas citizens with a grandparent both in the UK to study, work and live in the UK.
  • Family reunion visa – allows immediate family members to join a refugee in the UK.
  • EUSS family permit – allows family members of someone from the EU, Switzerland Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Northern Ireland to come to the UK.

In this article, we focus on the first bullet point.

Who can sponsor a spouse visa?

The following can sponsor a spouse visa:

  • Be an British or Irish citizen.
  • Be an EU national with status under the EU Settlement Scheme in the UK.
  • Have humanitarian protection in the UK.
  • Have refugee status.

A sponsor with a valid UK visa can sponsor their partner to join them in the UK. If so, the visa application needs to be made for a ‘dependant’ partner visa under the relevant immigration category. Examples include the dependent partner of a Skilled Worker visa and the Health and Care visa.

What requirements must an applicant and sponsor meet?

The exact rules that sponsors and applicants must meet depend on the circumstances. However, there are still some overall requirements that a sponsor or applicant must meet:

  • Be a spouse, partner, fiancé, fiancée or proposed civil partner, child, parent, or a relative to who you will provide long-term care.
  • Be able to financially support themselves and their dependents.
  • Have sufficient knowledge of the English language.
  • Not possess a criminal record or pose a threat to UK security.
  • If the applicant is a child, they must, be dependent on the sponsor, not live an independent life, not be married and live with you (except if they attend boarding school or university).

How has the spouse visa changed recently?

As of April 2024, under the ‘5 Point Plan’, the Spouse visa, has undergone a series of complex changes that have already begun to have huge negative effects on overseas migrants already in the UK and on those seeking to enter the UK via this route.

Additionally, the minimum income requirement has been subject to considerable changes.

Minimum income requirement

On 11 April 2024, under the new changes, the minimum income normally required to sponsor someone for a spouse/partner visa will increase from £18,600 per year to £38,700 per year.

This steep increase will happen over a 2 year period and is set to reach £38,700 by early 2025. The new minimum income requirement applies to sponsors who are British citizens or who have indefinite leave to remain or the equivalent, including pre-settled status and would like their partner to join them in the UK. It also applies to overseas nationals already in the UK.

This ‘phased approach’ to the income rise is meant to provide families with more ‘predictability’. As of 11 April 2024, the threshold rose to £29,000 and will increase to £34,500 by the end of 2024. It will finally reach £38,700 in early 2025.

This is more than double the previous annual income requirement of £18,600 and will place a large strain on families and couples. The new minimum income requirement stands out even further because it exceeds the median employee’s salary of £29,700, making the UK stand out from other countries’ family migration policies. This change does not apply to those who applied under the previous threshold of £18,600.

The government states that the core reason for the minimum income requirement increase is to ensure that only those who can financially support their families are eligible for a visa. However, the new requirement exceeds the median UK employee’s salary of £29,700 per annum. This not only makes the UK stand out from other countries’ family migration policies but raises several questions surrounding the excessive raise to the minimum income requirement and the stark difference between the median UK salary.

How long does the spouse visa application process take?

Processing times begin once the applicant has attended the biometric appointment and provided all of their supporting documents.

According to the official government website:

  • Applications made outside of the UK typically take 3 months.
  • Applications made from within the UK can take up to 6 months. However, most decisions are made within 2 months.

Fast tracked decisions are offered for an additional fee. This can shorten the waiting period to under 2 months.

How much is the application fee?

There are several costs involved in the application process. It is vital to note that the application fee is not the only costs involved in the spouse visa application.

Application Fees:

Fees vary based on who the applicant is joining and how they apply:

Family member Applying from outside the UKApplying from within the UK
Cost of joining a partner, parent or child£1,846£1,048
Cost of each dependent added to the application£1,846 each person£1,048 each person
Application Fees – Government website

Application costs depend on the permission that a persons relative has to be in the UK.

Costs differ for those with temporary ‘protection status’.

The Immigration Health Surcharge is an additional fee that applicants must pay at the same time that they submit their online application.

Recent changes made under the ‘5 Point Plan’ have seen a steep increase to the minimum income requirement. In October 2023, the Immigration Health Surcharge had increased. Prior to that, visa application fees had gone up.

Do I have to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge? What is it?

The Immigration Health Surcharge grants all lawful non-visitor overseas nationals access to UK health services. The Immigration Health Surcharge was introduced on April 6 2015 among a wider package of changes brought in by the Immigration Act 2014 to reduce “pull factors” attracting migrants to the UK.  

Applicants have to pay for the Immigration Health Surcharge as part of their visa application. The Immigration Health Surcharge is an additional fee that is paid on top of the application fee. It is key to note that applicants must pay for the Immigration Health Surcharge at the same time that they submit their visa applications.

  • The Immigration Health Surcharge costs £1,035 per year of the length of the visa. For example, £3,105 for a 3 year visa.
  • Visas that have been granted for more than 6 months but less than a year have to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge for one year £1,035.
Example of Immigration Health Surcharge fees in different scenarios:

Example 1: Mrs. James is an American citizen applying to join her British partner in the UK. She will be issued a visa for 3 years and would pay £3,105 for the Immigration Health Surcharge as part of her online application.

Example 2: Mr. Kante is a Ghanian national who is applying to join his British partner. His 3 Ghanian children aged 3, 9 and 14 will also join him. Mr. Kante would incur £3,105 per applicant. The total Immigration Health Surcharge payable would be £12,420.

Use the Immigration Health Surcharge below to calculate how much you will have to pay alongside your application.

https://www.immigration-health-surcharge.service.gov.uk/checker/Type

If a visa application is refused, the Immigration Heath Surcharge is automatically refunded to applicant. Refunds can take up to six to ten weeks to appear in the applicants bank account.

Can you extend a spouse visa?

Yes. Individuals can extend their visas prior to the expiry of their permission to stay in the UK.

An applicant can apply to extend their visa 28 days before their visa expires.

Can you apply for settlement with a spouse visa?

Settlement is akin to indefinite leave to remain. Individuals can apply to settle in the UK after they have lived in the UK for 5 years continuously on a family visa.

A person cannot include time spent on other visas such as the fiancé, fiancée or proposed civil partner or a work visa.

Get in touch with us for immigration advice if unsure.

Why has my spouse visa application been rejected? Can I appeal the decision?

If an applicants’ visa application has been refused, they will receive a decision letter that explains the reasons for refusal.

Some of the most common reasons for refusals are:

  • Inadequate Proof of Relationship

The Home Office requires substantial evidence of an authentic relationship. If the Home Office concludes that the evidence is insufficient, they may assume that the relationship is not real meaning that the application is very likely to be refused.

  • Failure to Meet the Financial Requirements

On April 11 2024, the minimum income requirement rose from £18,600 to £29,000. It is set to rise again to £34,500 in late 2024 before reaching the final threshold of £38,700 in early 2025. This steep and unfair rise means that many applicants are no longer able to meet the new financial requirements to bring their spouses or families to the UK.

Providing accurate financial information is vital to the application.  It is not enough to satisfy the economic criteria; applicants must also adequately prove it.

For example, it is vital to provide up to date bank statements and an adequate number of payslips. If the applicant is self employed, they must clearly demonstrate sufficient personal income after business expenses and taxes.

Challenging a refusal

It is possible to challenge a refused family visa decision. However, a person can only appeal or challenge a decision if they have the legal right to appeal. The visa decision letter will tell applicants if they have the right to to appeal the decision or a right to administrative review.

Contact Thomas Chase Immigration if you need advice or support with the application or refusal process.

How we can help you

Thomas Chase Immigration offer immigration assistance to individuals and families.

If you have questions or concerns or you would like straightforward immigration advice, or help with applying for a visa, Thomas Chase Immigration can help. Our processes are tried and tested. We offer an individual touch when assisting you and presenting the matter to the Home Office. Contact us at info@thomaschaseimmigration.com.

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    By Mya Alghali

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