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 leave 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 they 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. Like 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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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.

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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.