UK spouse visa – basic requirements and eligibility

A UK spouse visa or UK partner visa allows you to move to the UK to live with your British spouse or partner. Your British spouse or partner will act as your sponsor for the visa application. This type of visa is suitable for:

  • married couples or civil partners  (regardless of how long you have cohabited); and
  • unmarried couples who can prove that they have lived together for at least two years.
  • A fiancé/fiancée/proposed civil partner who intends to marry/enter in to a civil partnership in the UK within six months of arrival and then live in the UK can apply for a different type of visa called a fiancé visa, and then transition on to a spouse/partner visa.

Minimum income requirement

Generally, most sponsors will have to demonstrate that they meet the £18,600 minimum income requirement. There are several rules on exactly how this requirement can be met, and what specific evidence must be produced. Failing to satisfy the Home Office that the minimum income requirement is met is one of the most common grounds for refusal of spouse and partner visa applications. Correctly proving your financial circumstances can be full of pitfalls. Our lawyers can advise you on your individual circumstances.

English language requirement

All applicants aged 18-65 must meet an English language requirement. Those who are citizens of a majority-English-speaking country will meet the requirement automatically. Those with a degree from an English-speaking or UK university can apply for recognition of that qualification. All others must pass a UKVI-approved English language test in speaking and listening at Level A1. Our lawyers can advise you on your own specific circumstances.

Other requirements

Everyone’s circumstances are different. Not all applicants will need to provide the same evidence. There may be other requirements that need to be addressed beyond the basics of finance and language, such as proving the genuineness of a relationship.

Can spouses and partners only be sponsored by British citizens?

It is not just British citizens that can sponsor their spouses and partners. You can also sponsor a spouse or partner if you:

  • hold indefinite leave to remain or the right of abode;
  • hold settled or pre-settled status issued under the EU Settlement Scheme;
  • hold refugee or humanitarian protection status; or
  • are an Irish citizen
  • If you hold a different type of visa, such as a Skilled Worker visa, you will be able to sponsor a spouse or partner as your dependant under a slightly different visa route.

Can I visit the UK as a tourist and apply for a spouse visa while I am here?

Visitors cannot “switch” to a spouse or partner visa from inside the UK. Other longer-term visa holders can “switch” but not visitors. Visitors must return to their home country before making their visa application.

Spouse visa processing time

Applications made inside the UK usually take around eight weeks for a decision, according to UK Visas and Immigration’s currently published timescales for in-country applicants. It is possible to pay for a “super-priority” service at the time of application to obtain an expedited decision. This can result in a decision within around one to two working days.

Applications made outside the UK usually take around twelve weeks for a decision, according to UK Visas and Immigration’s currently published timescales for out-of-country applications. It is possible to pay for a “priority” service to shorten the wait time to around thirty days.

How long is a spouse visa valid?

A standard spouse or partner visa is valid for an initial period of thirty-three months (two years and nine months) if you obtain it abroad. If you obtain it in the UK, it will be valid for thirty months (two years and six months). A fiancé or proposed civil partner will only be granted an initial period of six months.

Spouse visa extension

After spending your first thirty months in the UK on a partner or spouse visa, you must apply to extend it. If your partner/spouse visa extension application is successful, you will be granted a second period of thirty months of limited leave to remain.

The same financial requirement rules apply, and if you are not exempt from the English language requirement, you will need to show progression to at least a level A2 UKVI-approved English speaking and listening test.

After a total of sixty months (five years) of continuous residence in the UK as a holder of leave to remain as a partner or spouse, you will be eligible to apply for indefinite leave to remain (ILR), which is a type of permanent residence. ILR is a necessary stepping stone to British citizenship.

Do I need a lawyer?

You do not need a lawyer to make a spouse visa application. If you feel confident reading and understanding the rules and guidance yourself, the system is designed so that you can apply without a lawyer or representative. However, having an experienced lawyer by your side can remove a lot of the time, worry, and stress involved in the process. Planning a relocation to a new country is difficult enough without worrying about whether you will even be allowed in. We recognise that the process is already very costly and instructing a lawyer is a luxury for many, but with our experience and expertise we can remove as much of the stress and worry as possible to ensure a smooth visa process.

How can Shepherd and Wedderburn immigration experts help?

Our solicitors are experienced in dealing with family migration issues. We have acted in hundreds if not thousands of spouse and partner visa cases.

Where appropriate, our specialist immigration lawyers offer full legal representation to prepare and submit your visa application to UK Visas and Immigration. With this option, we will be named on your application as your legal representatives.

You can expect:

  • clear advice on rules and procedure;
  • a bespoke document list of all mandatory and recommended evidence for your application;
  • assistance with drafting supporting statements or letters;
  • a thorough review and feedback on all your documentation and evidence;
  • a tailored covering letter from your lawyer that addresses any complexities specific to your case; and
  • assistance with completing and submitting your online application forms and digital evidence

For those who prefer to prepare their own applications, we may be able to offer a document checking service to review your application bundle and provide constructive feedback.

If you just want to ask questions about the rules, requirements, and procedures, we can also offer a one-off consultation session via video call.

To arrange a one-off consultation, full representation service or application checking service please contact Kerry Adams at kerry.adams@shepwedd.com or use our website enquiry form.