Current Requirements for the UK Spouse Visa Explained
Completing a UK spouse visa application is a complex, long-winded and nerve-wracking process. In recent times, the UK Government has tightened their measures and introduced more stringent requirements, in an effort to crack down on the number of false marriages.
This means that acquiring a spousal visa can prove to be one of the most challenging routes to take, particularly for those who may not have experienced the UK immigration system before.
Leading UK spouse visa experts, First Migration, talks through the key documents and requirements necessary to apply for this type of visa.
What is the spouse visa?
The UK spouse visa allows applicants to join their partner and live in the UK for two and a half years. Whilst eligible to work on this visa, the non-British partner cannot claim most of the benefits, tax credits, or housing assistance that UK citizens are entitled to.
In order to apply under the spouse visa, the applicant’s partner must already be a British citizen, or be settled in the UK (through Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR), settled status or permanent residence).
At the time of making an application, both parties must be 18 years old or over. They must also have met in person and intend to live together permanently within the UK when they receive the visa.
Applicants have to be able to prove that they are in a legal marriage or a civil partnership, which must be recognised in the UK. The marriage or civil partnership certificate should be included in the application. If this is not in English, it must be translated.
Alternatively, if applying as an unmarried partner, the applicant must provide evidence that they and their unmarried UK partner have lived with each other for at least two years. Such evidence includes documents like a joint bank account, a tenancy agreement together, or a joint mortgage.
For all applicants, their relationship with their UK partner has to be “genuine” and “subsisting”. Applicants must provide proof which supports the sincerity of their relationship, such as:
- Evidence of communication between the couple, for instance, text messages and social media chat logs, which can be downloaded in bulk and submitted in the application.
- Travel documents which prove they have visited one another
- Pictures of the pair throughout their relationship – immigration advisers recommend dating and briefly summarising each photo, making sure to include a variety of photos from different stages of the couple’s life together
- Marriage or civil partnership certificate
- Divorce certificate (if applicable)
It is, therefore, wise to include as much evidence as possible which supports the relationship being genuine. Statements from third parties, such as friends and family members, are also something applicants can include to help strengthen their application.
If an applicant or their UK partner has been married in the past (or civil partnership), it is important to include evidence (divorce certificate) of the permanent breakdown of the previous relationship. This must be translated into English if in another language.
Applicants must have enough money to be able to support themselves when living in the UK, without having to claim public funds. This means that, unless falling under certain exempt categories, applicants must meet the minimum income requirements to gain spouse visa approval.
If applying under Appendix FM, which means there are no dependent children, the parties must have a joint income of at least £18,600 per annum. If there are children involved, this increases by £3,800 for the first child, and £2,400 for every subsequent child.
In order to meet the minimum income requirement, there are several different sources applicants can include, such as; income from employment or self-employment, cash savings greater than £16,000, maternity pay and pensions.
Applicants need to prove their income within the application, so it is essential to show six months’ of bank statements proving both parties’ incomes, six months’ of payslips, and letters from employers which state their job role, length of employment and other important points.
English language requirement
Unless the applicant is a national of a country which is exempt by the Home Office (majority English-speaking countries), is over 65 years old, has a physical or mental disability preventing them from taking the test, or has an exceptional compassionate circumstance, then they must meet the English language requirement by passing an approved language test.
The applicant must, at a minimum, have A1 level English for speaking and listening, under the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). They are obligated to go to an approved centre in order to take the test and receive their English Language Certificate.
Other key requirements
When applying as a national from certain countries, applicants must include a certificate within the application which proves that they have been screened for tuberculosis (TB) at an approved centre.
Regarding living arrangements, the property that the couple are intending to live in within the UK has to be “owned or occupied exclusively” by their family. The property cannot be “overcrowded”, the definition of which can be found in the Housing Act 1985. The documents that need to be included in the application will depend on whether the accommodation is rented, owned, or if they live in the home of a family member or friend.
Summary of documents needed
To summarise, the following documents will be needed when submitting the spouse visa application:
- Valid passport
- Evidence of minimum income requirement
- Proof of genuine relationship
- English language certificate
- Right to live in the country where the applicant has applied from
- TB test results, if necessary
For peace of mind when going down the spouse visa route, it is often wise to enlist the help of an immigration consultant or adviser, who are knowledgeable in this area of the law and can help people correctly complete the necessary forms in order to increase chances of visa approval.