I’ve personally been in a long-distance relationship before and I understand that despite efforts that can be made to keep in touch with your partner, it’s never the same as having the person with you and by your side.
Over the years, Lawyers and solicitors have submitted several Spouse visa applications to the Home Office on behalf of clients, and every time that positive result comes through, they would catch a re-occurring ignition of excitement in the voices or on the faces of the clients.
Mostly, the excitement springs out of the long wait to finally have your partner join you legally and permanently in the UK—and to share a common home as well as work together towards your dreams.
In 2017, spouse visa application took just 14 working days to be granted under the priority service. Even that, the wait is unnerving. Sometimes, the same spouse application can take up to 3 months or even more—depending on several factors including if you know what you are doing.
The United Kingdom recognises a right to family life and it’s the spirit of the law that couples who meet certain requirements can live in the UK legally and pursue their dreams together, including starting a family if they wish.
However, bringing your spouse from abroad to settle with you in the UK involves long convoluted processes and understanding of the applicable Immigration rules/requirements—which I intend to summarize for you.
Who Qualifies for UK’s Spouse Visa/Settlement Visa
UK’s spouse visa falls under the settlement visa category and this is available to those married to persons settled in the UK or British nationals. If your spouse is a British Citizen, holds Indefinite Leave to Remain or Permanent Residence or an EU Citizen with Pre-Settled or Settled status, then you qualify for this type of visa.
The Most Important Requirements to Meet
The requirements for obtaining a UK spouse visa are outlined in the Immigration Rules Appendix FM. Though the Immigration Rules may seem complicated to comprehend, basically, for you to qualify for a spouse visa, you need to meet the following requirements:
You and your spouse must be 18 years old or over.
You must have met each other and be legally married
The marriage between both parties must be valid and legal
You must intend to live together permanently
The relationship must be both genuine and subsisting
You must have enough money to support yourselves (and any dependents) without obtaining public funds.
Your sponsoring partner must earn more than £18,600 per year or have enough savings to be able to sponsor you. If you intend to come to the UK with a dependent child, then the minimum financial requirement is higher than £18,600 a year.
There must be suitable accommodation for you in the UK
You must satisfy the English language requirements
And if you are coming from certain countries such as Ghana and Nigeria, you are required to take a Tuberculosis (TB) Test.
Important Evidence/Supporting Documents Required
The Home Office/UK Visas and Immigration does not give any claim without evidence a proper legal recognition. Therefore, all UK visa applications including spouse visa applications are evidence-based. If you state that you are married, you must present an acceptable/recognizable marriage certificate to confirm your statement.
Apart from marriage certificates, applicants are required to convince the Entry Clearance Officer that their marriage to their sponsors/spouses is genuine—and that they are in a subsisting relationship. Here, presenting a marriage certificate and a couple of photos is not enough.
You must show that, even with your spouse living far across the ocean, there is regular or constant communication as would be expected of all genuine couples.
The Process and the Visa
An application for a UK spouse visa is complicated. The spouse who is based abroad mostly presents her passport and the completed online application form to the local British High Commission or a stated UK visa center via an appointment. The foreign spouse’s fingerprints are captured during this presentation.
And then all the supporting documents are sent to the Home Office in Sheffield via uploads or scan, depending on which country the foreign spouse resides.
A spouse visa is 2.5 years per grant subject to renewal in the UK. When an application is successful, the applicant is given a 30-day or a 90-day entry visa/spouse settlement visa vignette to come to the UK and pick up a biometric residence card valid for the first 2.5 years at a chosen Post Office.
Common Reasons for Refusals
While failure to meet any of the requirements outlined in Appendix FM of the Immigration Rules and its related legislation would result in a refusal, some of the common reasons why applicants are refused spouse visas are:
Failure to meet the Financial Requirement or provide the required Financial Evidence
Inability to demonstrate that the claimed relationship/marriage is genuine and subsisting
Inability to meet the English Language and Tuberculosis Requirements
Cost/Fee of the Application
The UK spouse visa fee is current at £1,538 per application. On top of this, an applicant is required to pay an Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) of £1,872.
Considering the high cost of a spouse visa application, the length of wait, and its complication in relation to the documents necessary to satisfy the requirements, it’s always prudent to consult or rely on a UK Immigration Law expert who has done this several times and understands the requirements of each person’s case.
Remember that no two cases are the same.
Once an application is refused, you do not get the paid £1,538 back. Though you have a right to appeal when refused, an appeal is also complex and it can take up to a year for your case to be heard—that’s if you have good grounds to stand on for an appeal.
An appeal can cost you between £1,800 to £3,000.