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Spouse visa to the UK

International marriages are no longer a fad, as in this age of open borders and social media, it is possible to meet your soul mate anywhere in the world. Many people choose to marry in the United Kingdom. And then there are questions. If a couple plans to live in the UK, do they need to get married? If yes, where and how can the relationship be registered? What kind of British visa is better for those who plan to get married? Where to apply for it? What documents should be submitted? Does the visa further opens the possibility of obtaining a residence permit? We will tell you about all this in detail in our article.

Spouse visa: what prospects does this document offer?

A spouse visa is an authorisation document that gives a foreign national the right to join his or her partner who lives in the UK and is a British citizen or holder of a permanent residence permit. Marriage to a foreigner does not in itself mean that the British citizen will automatically be granted the right to reside in the UK.

This prospect is offered by the spouse visa, which is only granted once the legal wife (or husband) of a British resident has applied for it. You will be able to apply for a UK spouse visa if you are married to a British citizen or permanent British resident. More specifically, your adult partner who is resident in the UK must fall into one of these categories:

  • Has British citizenship acquired by birth or naturalisation;

  • He’s in Britain as a refugee;

  • Permanently resides in the British Isles on an indefinite leave to remain (ILR) or on one of 2 special immigration statuses for EU citizens – pre-settled and settled;

  • Resides in the British kingdom on a visa for Turkish businessmen.

If the partners live outside the marriage, then they need to prove the existence of a relationship (the couple must have lived together for at least two years).

In addition, in order to be considered for an application, there must be an intention to live together in Britain and after the move.

Having a spouse’s visa opens many interesting opportunities. For example, you can get a job or go to school in Britain. And after 5 years of living together with your partner, you can get citizenship.

Requirements for a spousal visa applicant

The UK Immigration Service assesses spouse visa applicants against a number of criteria. An adult applicant can apply for this immigration category if they are:

  • Married to a British national or permanent resident, or lived with their civil partner in the UK for at least two years without registering their marriage;

  • Has a serious intention to live together with a British citizen, or with a British permanent residence permit holder. In other words, you should gather evidence of the sincerity of your close relationship with your UK partner;

  • Willing to be tested for tuberculosis (requirement applies to citizens of only certain countries);

  • Possesses at least an elementary level of English A1. The applicant will have to take a test to prove his/her skills. In some cases, a spouse visa applicant is exempted from taking the test (see below).

Let’s look at some of the listed requirements for UK spousal visa applicants in more detail.

English language proficiency

A prospective spouse visa holder needs to prove to immigration that they have at least a basic level of English. This can be done in three ways.

Citizenship of an English-speaking country

If you are a citizen of a country where most people speak English, you do not need to take a language proficiency test. This includes countries such as: Canada, USA, Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada, Australia, and a number of other English-speaking countries.


The minimum acceptable level of proficiency corresponds to the A1 level according to the European classification. According to immigration rules, the results of the English language test are valid for 2 years for use in the immigration application.

After 2.5 years, when you renew your immigration status, you will be required to pass a language test at a higher A2 level. This will show that you are improving your language skills and that you are committed to living in Shakespeare’s homeland for the long term.

What if the applicant has a better command of English than is required for a spouse’s first visa? In this case, the applicant has the option of taking a more difficult test. For example, he or she may choose to take an A2 or B1 proficiency test appropriate to his or her background. The results of this test can be used for future applications, for example when the spouse visa needs to be extended. In any case, the results of this test must be up to date at the time of your first visa application.

Academic or scientific degree

If you have a UK bachelor’s, master’s or PhD degree, you are exempt from the language test. If your academic or research degree was awarded in another country but you were educated in English, it is important that it meets the standards recognised in the UK.

To qualify for an exemption from the test, you must have your qualification validated by an Ectiss Education Centre.

The exam is also not taken by individuals:

  • Aged 65 years or older at the time of visa application;

  • Incapacitated adults travelling to the UK under the care of a relative;

  • Applicants who have lived in the UK on a spouse visa for at least 5 years and who intend to extend their immigration status;

  • Those with a confirmed psychiatric diagnosis that makes it impossible to complete the exam, as well as learning English;

  • Also exempt from testing are those who have physical ailments that make it difficult to speak: dumbness, deafness, or severe speech impediments.

Separate consideration is given to exceptional circumstances that prevent an applicant from taking the test before entering the UK.

Marriage requirements

To obtain entry documents for a foreign husband or wife, an international married couple must meet a number of requirements:

  • You must have a real family relationship. Your English spouse and you should aim to continue it;

  • It is not permissible for spouses to be in a prohibited degree of consanguinity;

  • All previous formal marriages must be dissolved.

Let’s dwell on each point in more detail.

The authenticity of the relationship

Your application will be refused unless you can prove that you have an authentic relationship with a British national. You will need to provide a range of evidence.

How do you confirm the truth of a relationship? There are six ways:

  1. You can show your correspondence history, photos of you together, and testimonies from friends. Show receipts for purchases for common use, documents that prove the fact of living together or the intention to move in together. Cover letters from parents or other loved ones attesting to the authenticity of the relationship will also work;

  2. Provide photos of you and your partner together. This includes photos from trips you’ve taken together, family events you’ve attended, and your wedding. By showing photos from a longer period of time, you are showing that you are in a relationship. When submitting your application, it is a good idea to tell the story behind the photo, i.e. when and where it was taken;

  3. Evidence of travelling together, such as itinerary sheets or hotel bookings, will also help establish that there is a genuine relationship between you. Providing copies of documents from joint trips or meetings to see each other will help the British visa officer to properly assess the authenticity of your family relationship. Don’t forget to include relevant photographs of you travelling together with your visa application;

  4. If you and your partner have children together, it is recommended that you include their birth certificates with your application. This way you can demonstrate the length of your relationship and the long-term commitment;

  5. Evidence of joint financial obligations can also be used to prove a real relationship. Such documents can include joint bank statements, joint utility bills, joint insurance, etc;

  6. Unmarried partners must have been in a relationship for at least two years. The couple must live together. Those who are legally married do not need to prove the length of the relationship.

In addition, it is recommended that you write a special letter. This document gives detailed information about the circumstances in which you met your British partner and how your relationship has developed. A letter of support will help you to understand how serious your intention to continue living together with a British person in the territory of his/her country is.

It is a good idea to write such letters to your friends and family members. The letters should be sure to include information about how they are related to you and your spouse, describing your relationship and the circumstances under which they found out about it. They need to be convincing to prove that the couple is in a true romantic union.

Lack of kinship between the spouses

The requirement of an inadmissible degree of consanguinity deserves special attention. It means that you and your chosen person are not related in any of the following categories:

  • Adopted child;

  • Adoptive mother or father;

  • A native child;

  • A child who was once adopted;

  • A parent who used to be a foster parent;

  • Parent;

  • Brothers or sisters;

  • A nephew or niece;

  • Grandmother or grandfather;

  • Grandson or granddaughter.

In the list above, the category “brothers or sisters” includes both siblings and half-brothers or sisters.

Marriage between the following categories of persons is also prohibited:

  • Ex-wife’s mother. The union is not possible until the ex-wife and her father have passed away;

  • Ex-husband’s father. The marriage cannot be concluded while the ex-husband and his mother are alive;

  • The daughter’s ex-spouse while both the daughter and her father are alive.

No unfinished marital relationship

It is important for the British Home Office to check that neither the applicant nor his/her British partner is legally married to anyone else. All information about previous marriages that have been dissolved must be up to date at the time of the spouse visa application.

If you or your English partner have been married in the past, you must show proof that the relationship has ended. If the divorce took place in the UK, it must be confirmed by a civil court judgement. If the divorce took place in another jurisdiction, you will need to provide the authorities with a certificate of termination.

Financial requirements

Before a residence permit can be granted in England, the foreign spouse must prove through documents that they and their British partner have enough money to live in the country and will not apply for financial support from the state authorities.

The minimum annual income of the sponsor, i.e. the UK spouse, must be at least £18,600. One alternative option to show that your family is financially sound is to show that you have personal savings of £62,500 or more. The recognised minimum must have been in the possession of one partner for at least six months prior to the date of the visa application.

The financial requirements for a spousal visa applicant become stricter if there are children in the family (however, in this case children with British or Irish citizenship are not counted). The sponsor’s income increases in direct proportion to the number of children:

  • The UK partner, who will have one dependent child with a foreign nationality, must earn £22400 a year;

  • With two children, it’s £24800;

  • With three, £27200.

The total income of such a family may include various sources of financial income:

  • Income in the form of a partner’s and/or applicant’s salary (where the applicant is already in the UK and has the relevant work permit);

  • Income derived from renting out accommodation;

  • Dividends from shares held by the applicants and/or the UK partner;

  • UK partner’s and/or applicant’s cash savings of more than £16 000 held by the partner and/or applicant (e.g. in a deposit bank account) for at least six months prior to the date of the visa application;

  • Partner’s and/or applicant’s pension;

  • The partner’s and/or applicant’s income from self-employment, or the salary of a director or employee of a UK registered limited company. If the applicant’s income is considered, he/she must be legally present in the country and have an official work permit).

A different list of documents must be used for each type of income. In addition, some types of income are combined and some are not. The following are some of the types of documents that can be used to prove sources of income:

  • Bank statements;

  • Payslips and P60 forms;

  • Letters from employers;

  • Work contracts;

  • Business-related documents and tax payment information.

It is also worth listing those sources of income that will not be counted:

  • A grant or financial support from a third party (this does not include child support, educational grants/scholarships, or gifts of money);

  • Income from other persons living in the same household (the exception is the applicant’s dependent child who is 18 years of age or older);

  • Credits;

  • Housing Benefit;

  • Pension Credit;

  • Employment manual/job seekers’ handbook;

  • Incapacity Benefit;

  • Municipal tax credit or support;

  • Child Benefit;

  • Working Tax Credit;

  • Child Tax Credit;

  • Universal Credit;

  • Various benefits: unemployment, reduced occupational standard, disability (under the military pension system).

Income verification is not required for recipients of incapacity benefits in Britain. Also, the requirements do not apply to categories of citizens receiving:

  • Disability Benefit;

  • Military disability pension in accordance with the Military Pension Scheme;

  • Police Injury Pension;

  • Disability allowance due to work injury;

  • Childcare allowance;

  • A manual for carers.

This means that sponsors will not have to prove that they earn £18,600 or more. It is also important to note here that even if a partner claims exemption for one of the above reasons, they still have to prove that they have sufficient funds to support themselves in Britain. They must also prove that they have a suitable home (they do not have to apply for public funds).

Requirements for the place of residence

Prospective spouse visa holders must prove to immigration authorities that they will have somewhere to live in the UK. Mandatory requirements for accommodation:

  • The accommodation must be owned or rented and will only be occupied by the UK partner, the visa applicant and their family members;

  • The house/flat must have sufficient floor space for living;

  • Your accommodation must be fully compliant with the UK health authorities, i.e. not overcrowded.

So, in order for you to be granted a spousal visa and allowed to move to the UK, it is imperative that you confirm:

  • That you and your companion have enough money to not have to turn to the state for help;

  • That you will have somewhere to live and the accommodation is fully suitable for a family. Whether you own a flat or house in Britain or are only a tenant, show documentary evidence of your right to occupy the accommodation.

What should I do if the requirements are not met?

If you do not meet the immigration requirements, you may still be able to apply for a spouse visa in certain cases:

  • If you are the parent of a child who has British citizenship, or Irish citizenship, or has been resident in the UK for the last 7 years and it would be highly undesirable to take them out of the country;

  • If you and your UK partner have serious obstacles that cannot be overcome by living outside the UK;

  • If the prohibition to move to the country or your deportation from the country would violate your fundamental rights as an individual.

The circumstances listed above will allow you to apply for a spouse visa even though you do not meet some of the requirements.

Required documents

You will need to send a whole packet of documents along with your spouse visa application:

  • Proof of payment of visa fee;

  • A valid passport;

  • All previous passports;

  • Marriage certificate;

  • A divorce certificate if you were previously married;

  • Birth certificate if you have children;

  • Evidence of the truth of your relationship;

  • Proof that you have a sufficient command of English (e.g. a certificate with the result of a language test);

  • Proof of financial solvency (e.g. bank statement or UK partner’s salary reference);

  • Details of other visa applications (if any);

  • Criminal records;

  • National Insurance Number (if available);

  • Proof that you have accommodation in the UK;

  • Biometric data of the applicant: fingerprints and a digital photograph.

You must provide all the documents required by the UKVI immigration system in order for your spouse application to be successful. Incorrect documentation or inaccurate translations may result in the refusal or delay of your application for entry clearance. All foreign documents must be provided with a certified English translation.

What is the correct way to apply for a spouse visa?

The application for a spouse’s visa is made online on the UK Home Office website. The algorithm of the procedure is as follows:

  • Check if there is an option to apply for a spousal visa;

  • Prepare the documents that will prove your eligibility for a visa of this category;

  • We fill out the questionnaire in an online format;

  • Pay the application fee;

  • Upload to the immigration website the documents required to approve your application;

  • Next, the applicant is given an appointment at one of the visa centres where he/she submits biometric data;

  • The visa applicant attends an interview, (if invited).

Fees: how much do I have to pay?

So what is the cost of a spouse visa to the UK?

The fee is £1048 if the application is made in the British Isles.

You pay £1846 if you are applying from outside the UK.

You will also need to pay an IHS (Immigration Health Surcharge). This costs about £1035 a year for each adult applicant.

Application processing time

It is impossible to say exactly how long it will take you to obtain a spouse’s visa to Britain. Much depends on the complexity of the case and the individual nuances.

If you apply overseas, it usually takes no more than 24 weeks for a decision.

Can I shorten my spouse’s UK spouse visa application period? Yes, you can. The principles change for applications created both inside and outside the UK.

For those applications made outside the UK, you can purchase a Priority Service for settlement. This costs £500. This can be purchased from a visa application centre.


  • This service is not available in all countries;

  • There is no guaranteed turnaround time, your application is placed at the beginning of the queue and further processed as possible.

If you apply while in the UK, your application will take 8 weeks to be processed (if using the standard service). Domestically you can purchase a Priority visa for £500 and receive a decision in 5 working days or a Super priority visa for £1000.

The decision on the visa, if you have purchased the Super priority visa service, is made within one working day following the day of biometric data submission. If you submitted biometrics on a weekend, the visa application will be answered in 2 working days.

The services listed are not available to applicants who are adults who are being cared for by a relative.

Duration of visa validity

The validity of the first spouse visa is 2.5 years. For those who applied abroad, the first spouse visa is granted for 2 years and 9 months.

When your first visa expires, you should extend your immigration status (if the marriage between a foreign national and a British citizen will still be valid). Apply early while your spouse’s visa is still valid.

Visa extension

In order for you to be able to extend your spouse’s visa, you should fulfil the requirements of the British authorities, namely:

  • Continue to live together and have a real family relationship with a British partner (as with the first time, evidence will be required in the form of photos, correspondence, receipts for joint purchases, etc.);

  • Have the required level of income or savings (relevant documents should be attached to your application);

  • Live as a family in a house or flat that fully satisfies Home Office requirements.

A new set of documents must be attached to the application for visa extension. It is also necessary to confirm your higher level of English (A2 and above) by means of a test. The test may not be taken by persons over 65 years of age and those who have medical contraindications due to physical or mental illness – in this case a document confirming the fact of the disease will be required.

Action Algorithm:

  • Collect a new set of documents + English exam results;

  • Apply online and pay visa fees;

  • Upload copies of all documents online;

  • Take biometrics.

Next, the application for the extension of the spouse’s visa is reviewed. If a favourable decision is made, the foreign spouse is granted a visa for 2.5 years.

Once you have applied and paid the visa surrender fee you will not be able to leave the country until a decision has been made on your application, as under current legislation, the application is automatically withdrawn when you leave the UK. Whilst you are waiting for your visa you still have the right to work and study in the country.

In case of extreme situations, as an applicant, you can request the Home Office to expedite a decision or leave the country. To do so, you will need to provide documentation that supports this need.

Granting indefinite residence permits to spouse visa holders

Permanent residency or ILR in the United Kingdom is a cherished dream of many inhabitants of our planet. The spouse’s visa provides an opportunity to obtain this status and open new horizons before you. With ILR you can not only study, work and reside in the British Kingdom indefinitely, but also apply for benefits.

Here’s what spouses of British residents will need to get ILR:

  • Continue to live together with an English partner since the last visa was extended;

  • Being in a genuine and long-term family relationship with a British spouse;

  • Have intentions to remain married after the application for PML has been granted;

  • Live in a compliant house or flat;

  • Have sufficient funds at your disposal;

  • Successfully pass the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) level B1 English test and the Life in the UK test;

  • To pay the fee to apply for permanent residence in the UK – £2,885.

If your English partner passes away, it will be possible to apply for ILR straight away.

If your application is successful, you will be able to use the UK for permanent residence. However, if the Home Office decides that you do not fulfil the key criteria, consideration will be given to your continued residence.

For what reasons can a visa be refused?

You may be refused a spouse’s visa if:

  • The applicant is subject to a deportation order at the time of application;

  • The Secretary of State will decide that the applicant’s removal from Britain will only benefit the public;

  • The applicant failed to appear for a scheduled interview, failed to provide all required information, or failed to pass a medical examination;

  • Permission to enter is undesirable due to health reasons;

  • IHS fee has not been paid and other mandatory payments have not been made;

  • There is insufficient information on the condition of the dwelling;

  • Bad crime story.

This is not the entire list of grounds for refusal. There are much more mundane reasons:

  • Providing inaccurate information;

  • Not all required documents have been submitted;

  • There are inconsistencies in the information in the questionnaire and financial statements;

  • Incorrectly executed or translated documents;

  • The income of the sponsor or family is less than £18,600 per annum;

  • The couple has failed to prove that they are in a sincere and long-lasting relationship;

  • You have a suspiciously large number of people living in your house;

  • Provided inaccurate information about the termination of a previous relationship;

  • Incorrectly drafted letter from the owner of the home the applicant or spouse is renting;

  • Unlawful entry or stay in the United Kingdom beyond the prescribed period;

  • The UK spouse is documented as an “employed worker”, although he is self-employed;

  • Incorrect type of visa for a child;

  • The English proficiency test was taken at a centre that is not recognised by the British authorities.

What should I do if a refusal has been received?

Don’t panic, because it doesn’t mean you will never be able to apply for a spouse’s visa again. Use the following recommendations:

  • Read the letter of explanation for the refusal carefully. The reason for the refusal must be explained in detail. Do not throw away the envelope with the letter of refusal. It is an important document because it bears the date of posting;

  • Contact a knowledgeable immigration lawyer. They can help you assess the reasons for the refusal and develop further steps;

  • If the staff made a mistake in dealing with your application, you have the right to appeal to the Immigration Tribunal. Note the time limits. You have 14 calendar days from the date of the decision to refuse your application (if it was made in the UK) and 28 calendar days if you applied outside the UK;

  • If the decision is correct, and it is based on the documents and information that you submitted with your application, it makes sense to reapply, correcting all the deficiencies. The optimal solution in this case will be to seek the assistance of experienced immigration lawyers. The involvement of professionals will almost completely eliminate errors at the stage of collecting supporting documents and drafting a second application for a spouse’s visa.

It is important to remember that the appeal process can take a long time (from 9 months) and the result can be anything you want it to be. We recommend that you contact the experts at Imperial & Legal. Our professional lawyers will be happy to represent your interests and will approach the issue with expertise: they will prepare documents taking into account all the nuances of immigration law and will provide all the necessary legal support in obtaining permanent residence and citizenship of Great Britain.

Questions and answers on the topic of spouse’s visa

Will the British authorities recognise my marriage as valid?

The Union will be recognised by the UK Home Office if the following conditions are met:

  • Marriage is considered valid in the state in which it was contracted;

  • The union fulfils all the requirements and laws of the country where it was concluded;

  • All prior marriages are permanently dissolved;

  • The laws in the visa applicant’s country of residence do not prevent the union from being recognised as valid.

It is also worth considering the requirements regarding age, ineligibility and divorce from previous spouses. But in most cases, if the country where your marriage was registered has recognised it as valid, the UK authorities will consider the union to be valid.

Can a British spouse provide for his/her foreign wife if he/she is not working?

The sponsor does not have to be employed. A bank account, investments or rental income, savings, or income from your own business can fulfil the requirements.

How long can I stay outside Britain with a spouse's visa?

United Kingdom immigration rules do not limit the length of stay of persons outside Britain who hold a spouse’s visa. However, in the event of a prolonged separation, suspicions may arise as to the truth of the relationship. This, in turn, jeopardises both the extension of the visa and the application for permanent residence.

Can I work in England if I have a spouse's UK visa?

Yes, you can. Spouse visa holders are entitled to be employed in the UK on either a full-time or part-time basis.

Can I claim benefits from the government with my spouse's visa?

You do not have this option. Spouse visa holders are not entitled to receive state benefits or housing allowances and tax credits.

Where do I apply for a spousal visa to the UK?

If you do not live in the UK, you can apply at your nearest visa application centre, for example in the country where you are currently legally resident. More specifically, you have the right to reside in that jurisdiction for at least 6 months. You do not have to be a citizen of that country.

If you are in the UK with a residence permit (i.e. you have permission to stay in the UK for more than six months), it will be possible to apply to move into the spouse immigration category locally. Consult your immigration solicitor for details.

If you only have a UK visitor visa that is no longer than 6 months, you will need to leave the country first and only then apply for a spouse visa from another state.

Can I get a refund if my visa application is refused?

Partially. The medical immigration fee is refundable, but the visa fee is not.

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