Despite what harangued husbands and exasperated wives may say in anger or jest, no one who is married really wants to live in a separate country from their spouse. Unless, that is you are TV stars Cat Deeley and Patrick Kielty. She lives in LA and Patrick resides in Dublin. But on the whole, a UK citizen who marries someone from another nation, be it America, Australia or Algeria, more often than not will want to live as a normal husband and wife on British soil.
In order to join you for longer than six months, your husband, wife or civil partner will need a visa.
Unfortunately, changes to the Spouse and Civil Partnership Visa requirements in recent years means that many married couples are being kept apart. Encased in the enormous, monstrously complex passages of Appendix FM of the Immigration Rules, the eligibility requirements for spouses and civil partners who wish to join their spouse in the UK are one of the nation’s biggest passion killers.
This quick guide is designed to provide a snapshot of those requirements as well as the rights that come with the UK Spouse and Civil Partnership Visa.
The type of visa required
The spouse residing in the UK is known as the ‘sponsor’. Under the spouse visa route, the sponsor must have settled status in the UK i.e. they should be a British Citizen or have Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK. The spouse living outside of the UK can then make an application to come to the UK as a family member of the sponsor.
A Spouse or Civil Partnership Visa lasts 33 months and can be renewed for another two years and six months.
After five years’ residency, your spouse can apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK.
Earning threshold requirement
Sponsors who wish to bring their spouse to the UK will have to prove they have an income of at least £18,600, or alternatively, savings of a minimum of £63,000.
The income requirement can be made up of a combination of earnings, such as income from employment coupled with savings. However, the savings can amount to no less than £16,000 and must have been held in your name for at least six months.
Money from public funds will not be considered.
The income threshold has proven very unpopular, as it is estimated that more than 40% of UK citizens would not earn enough to meet the requirement. The Tory Government has been accused of creating a generation of ‘Skype’ families, who have no hope of ever residing in the same country together, and who are expected to have a relationship simply through modern means of communication. Whilst some may be happy to live thousands of miles away from their spouse (giving them plenty of ‘me’ time!), the vast majority of married couples find it incomprehensible that they should be expected to communicate via smartphone applications such as “Viber” and “WhatsApp” simply because they cannot meet the financial requirement.
We are presently waiting for the Supreme Court to deliver a decision on a collective challenge to the income requirement in the case of R (on the application of MM (Lebanon)) v Secretary of State for the Home Department. This highly anticipated judgment is due out at the end of the summer. Until then, people will have to continue to ensure that they meet the financial requirement if they want any chance for their spouse to join them in the UK.
Other eligibility requirements for obtaining a UK Spouse Visa
To successfully apply for a UK Spouse Visa if you are a non EEA-national you must also:
- be over the age of 18 years
- be ‘legally married’
- have sufficient knowledge of English language
- have suitable accommodation
- show you intend to live with your sponsor as their husband or wife or civil partner
The ‘legally married’ requirement
Your marriage must be recognised by UK law.
According to the Immigration Directories’ Instructions on the topic, the recognition of any marriage which has taken place overseas is governed by the following:
- is the type of marriage one recognised in the country in which it took place?
- was the actual marriage properly executed so as to satisfy the requirements of the law of the country in which it took place? (This relates to the requirements for the marriage ceremony itself).
- was there anything in the law of either party’s country of domicile (at the time of the marriage) that restricted his/her freedom to enter the marriage?
If the answers to the above questions are respectively, “yes”, “yes” and “no” then the marriage is valid.
The process for getting your marriage visa
At the time of writing the application fee for applying for a UK Spouse or Civil Partnership Visa is approximately £1,195. Unfortunately, there has recently been an introduction of the NHS Immigration Health Surcharge fee that also needs to be paid with the application. This entitles the applicant to use the NHS services in the UK and if the application is refused, the NHS fee is refunded.
Alongside the application form, you’ll need to provide:
- your current passport or other valid travel ID
- previous passports
- proof of your genuine relationship
- proof you can meet the financial requirement or maintenance requirement
- proof that you have adequate accommodation for your spouse to join you in the UK
- proof that your spouse has knowledge of English if 18 or over – unless they’re exempt
- tuberculosis test results if they’re from a country where they have to take the test
Providing sufficient documents is vital to the success of a spouse visa application. There are certain specified documents that must be submitted, without which the application will be refused. There are also supporting documents that will help increase the chances of success of an application. It is therefore strongly recommended that you consult a solicitor before submitting any application for tips on how to make your application a success.
A decision should be given by the British Embassy within 12 weeks. If your visa is granted, your spouse will be able to join you in the UK and you can live happily ever after (or until it is time to apply for the extension of the application).
However, if your visa is refused you may be able to appeal. Appeals are complex and lengthy so you will need the advice and support of an experienced immigration solicitor to challenge a decision made by the British Embassy.
Saracens Solicitors is a multi-service law firm based in London’s West End. We have a dedicated and highly experienced immigration team who can assist you with any questions you have regarding applying for a UK Spouse or Civil Partnership Visa. For more information, please call our office on 020 3588 3500.