Fiancée visa or Spouse visa? That is the Question

Fiancee visa

Of all the visa types, assisting clients with fiancée visa or spouse visa applications are some of my favorites. Perhaps I’m an old fashioned romantic but I simply enjoy helping couples secure visas to reunite and carry on their lives together.

And so it was with Raj, a dual British national living and working in the United Kingdom (UK), and Louisa, an American citizen from California.

Raj and Louisa met during their university studies in the UK over 3 years. At the end of their undergraduate studies and Louisa’s Tier 4 student visa, Louisa returned to the United States (US) and took up a lucrative position in New York.

Raj remained in the UK and went on to study for his Masters’ degree before starting and running his own business.

The one constant was Louisa and Raj’s relationship to each other, something that they maintained via Skype, Facetime, email and regular trips abroad whenever their schedules (and finances) allowed it.

As Raj’s business grew, he had less freedom to visit Louisa as before, though the funds to do so.

For Louisa, taking more time off to visit the UK and spend time Raj was proving increasingly difficult as her employers were not always understanding of her inability to change her travel at short notice.

And so, Raj and Louisa approached me for advice. Raj and Louisa wanted to take their relationship to the next stage and live together. They did their research, readily admitting to me that much of the information they had read elsewhere was either complicated or contradictory.

Based on their research, they both agreed to try and secure a fiancée visa for Louisa to come to the UK to marry Raj. Yep! They were going to tie the knot!!! I warned you I was a bit of a romantic!

Once in the UK, Louisa planned to apply for a spouse visa to remain in the UK with Raj.

And that’s when they contacted me to assist them with applying for a fiancée visa.

However, rather than launch into preparing the fiancée visa, I wanted to make sure Raj and Louisa understood the immigration requirements and were aware of their options.

Fiancée visa

Fiancée visas allow overseas nationals, from outside of the European Economic Area (EEA) to enter the UK and marry their British or ‘settled’ partner.

The marriage must take place within 6 months of entry.

This visa type was attractive to Louisa because she could stay in the UK and apply for a UK spouse visa.

I also explained to Raj and Louisa that fiancée visas were very different from marriage visas, the latter being a short term visa to enter the UK to marry only.

At the end of the 6 months’ visa, the marriage visa holder must have left the UK.

Clearly, Louisa’s wish was to remain in the UK so a marriage visa was immediately discounted.

Fiancée visa requirements

Though not an exhaustive list, to qualify for a fiancée visa, Louisa would have to demonstrate that:

  • Raj is over 18 years of age
  • That she and Raj had met each other and are in a genuine relationship together
  • That they both intend to live together on a permanent basis once married
  • That they are both free to enter into a relationship with each other
  • They intend to marry in the UK within 6 months
  • They have sufficient funds to support themselves
  • That Raj, as the sponsor, earns a minimum salary of £18,600 per annum or equivalent in savings
  • They have suitable accommodation in the UK

Of importance was helping Raj and Louisa understand  UK Visas and Immigration’s (UKVI’s) application fees and when they would be incurred.

Raj was somewhat shocked to hear of the level of fees involved. For instance, a fiancée visa would cost Louisa and Raj around $2,050 USD at the point of submission on the online application.

And the couple would have to incur similar fees, within 6 months, for a spouse visa as well as incur the Immigration Health Surcharge.

In fact, although they both had well paid jobs, their various overseas trips to see each other and wedding plans had depleted both of their savings.

Spouse visa

We discussed their options further and Louisa revealed that her preference was to marry in California. She had a large family and it would prove logically easier and cost effective to have the wedding in the US.

Raj appeared easy going about the location of the wedding. His family was much smaller and he just wanted to move matters forward.

Another area of concern for Louisa was employment. Louisa considered a 6 months’ career gap to be a long one and was not aware that she could not work while holding a fiancée visa.

Why not get married in California?

Raj and Louisa hadn’t really considered this as an option. Quite rightly they were focused on securing Louisa’s immediate long term stay in the UK, but I wanted to highlight that they had wider options.

Spouse visa requirements

Though not an exhaustive list, to qualify for a spouse visa, Louisa would have to demonstrate that:

  • Raj is over 18 years of age
  • That she and Raj had entered into a genuine marriage
  • That they both intend to live together on a permanent basis once married
  • That they are both free to enter into a relationship with each other
  • They intend to marry in the UK within 6 months
  • They have sufficient funds to support themselves
  • That Raj, as the sponsor, earns a minimum salary of £18,600 per annum or equivalent in savings
  • They have suitable accommodation in the UK

Applying for a spouse visa from New York or California would negate the need for Louisa and Raj to incur fiancée visa fees and for Louisa’s family members to travel to London.

Also, Louisa would be granted entry to the UK for 30 months, and could immediately take up employment.

The fact that their marriage would be a recent one, and could be subjected to further scrutiny by UKVI, was something that could be overcome with proper preparation of the application.

Conclusion

Six months later, Louisa secured a spouse visa UK and is currently in the UK.

And I am pleased with the part that I played in helping Louisa to secure her spouse visa from New York, drafting the application form on Louisa’s behalf, advising on the documents to be provided and inspecting them, preparing the application bundle of documents and booking the biometric appointment for her.

As I said at the start, I enjoy seeing couples reunited.

Here’s wishing Louisa and Raj all the best!

And by the way, the main picture is not a photo of Raj and Louisa, but I have seen the wedding photos and they are gorgeous!

Over to you. Have you applied for a spouse visa or fiancée visa and how did you find the experience?

If not, do you need straightforward immigration advice or guidance? Contact us at [email protected] for a quick reply.

Written by Carla Thomas – Managing Director at Thomas Chase Immigration.

Thomas Chase Immigration offer immigration help to individuals and families secure visas to travel to and remain in the UK.

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Contact us at [email protected], and visit  https://www.thomaschaseimmigration.com/contact-us to arrange a consultation. Or learn more about from our blogs

Minimum Income Requirement

Minimum Income Requirement

The Home Office has updated the minimum income requirement, within the Immigration Rules, following the recent findings of the Supreme Court. We highlight the key takeaways from the Court’s findings and updated Immigration Rules.

Background

British citizens and settled nationals in the United Kingdom (UK) who wish to sponsor their non-European Economic Area (EEA) spouse must meet strict minimum income requirements (MIR), as set out in Appendix FM Family Members Section E-ECP Eligibility.

Under the MIR, a sponsor must evidence a minimum annual income of £18,600 from employment, or hold the equivalent in cash savings. That is, savings of £62,500 in total.

The MIR also applies to those wishing to sponsor a non-EEA unmarried partner or fiancé/ fiancée. And the amount of income required increases depending on the number of overseas children to be included in the application.

For instance, the sponsor must earn an additional £3,800 for the first child and an additional £2,400 for each subsequent child added to the application.

The Supreme Court, the final court of appeal for civil cases in the United Kingdom (UK), recently considered the scope of the MIR in the case MM (Lebanon) and others v the Secretary of State for the Home Department [2017] UKSC 10 (MM (Lebanon)).

The Supreme Court’s findings

In MM (Lebanon), the Supreme Court unanimously (and unfortunately) supported the minimum income requirement in principle, agreeing with the Home Office, that it was not only necessary for the UK’s aim of maintaining an effective immigration control, but that the requirement was compatible with the right to family life enshrined under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) – much to the disappointment of many families and campaigners.

However, the Supreme Court acknowledged that the minimum income requirement was ‘particularly harsh’. In paragraph 80 of the judgement, the Justices stated:

There can be no doubt that the MIR has caused, and will continue to cause, significant hardship to many thousands of couples who have good reasons for wanting to make their lives together in this country, and to their children.

They ruled that the Immigration Rules, and the Immigration Directorate Instruction issued to caseworkers were defective and unlawful due to their narrow application and little weight given to the interests of children.

The Home Office has since incorporated the findings of the Supreme Court in the Statement of Changes in Immigration Rules HC290, which came into effect on 10 August 2017 and Appendix FM to HC 395.

Key Takeaways

The key takeaways from the judgement of MM (Lebanon) and the Home Office Statement of Changes are as follows:

  1. Children’s rights must be safeguarded

Under section 55 of the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009, the Secretary of State has a duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of children when making decisions which affect them.

The Justices felt that the Immigration Rules and the guidance issued to caseworkers and entry clearance officers failed to do so, making them unlawful.

The Home Office has since revised the Immigration Rules and guidance to ensure that decision makers treat the best interests of the child as a primary consideration.

  1. Alternative funding

The Supreme Court assessed whether the overseas partner’s prospective income should be taken into account when determining whether the MIR had been met.

The Court ruled in favour of the Secretary of State on this point, stating that to do so would prove cumbersome to verify for decision makers.

Nevertheless, the Court expressed concern that the sources of funding, taken into account by decision makers when assessing whether the MIR had been met, were so restrictive as to be harmful. This was particularly significant where the refusal of the application could breach Article 8 ECHR.

The Home Office has now amended the Immigration Rules and guidance so as to place a less restrictive approach to alternative funding.

Conclusion

The Supreme Court, in their judgement of MM (Lebanon) recognised that the minimum income requirement (MIR) was harsh and somewhat unfair to a number of individuals, couples and families. They stopped short of ruling that the MIR was unlawful overall but found that elements of the Immigration Rules and guidance were.

The Supreme Court ruled that the Home Office must give more consideration to the interests of the child in such cases and gave findings on the alternative sources of funding.

The Home Office has duly complied. However, time will tell whether the Home Office has truly heeded the concerns expressed, and findings of, the Supreme Court.


Written by Carla Thomas – Managing Director at Thomas Chase immigration. Thomas Chase Immigration offer immigration help to individuals and families.

Call to action

If you have questions or concerns or you would like straightforward immigration advice, or assistance with your application to extend your visa, feel free to contact us.

Contact us at [email protected], and visit  https://www.thomaschaseimmigration.com/contact-us to arrange a consultation. Or learn more about from our blogs

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Fiancée visa or Spouse visa? That is the Question