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Guide To The UK Spouse Visa

Introduction: What is a spouse visa?

The Spouse visa is a family based visa category that allow the spouses of British Citizens or those with indefinite leave to remain; to enter, remain and eventually settle in the UK

The route is open to all Non-EEA nationalities, providing they are married to a British Citizen or a person whom holds Indefinite Leave to remain status. The is also a visa for those who are planning to marry known as the Fiancée visa and those couples whom would like to apply as unmarried partners (providing they have lived together for 2 years or more)

How long is the visa issued for?

Applications to switch to a Spouse visa or to extend an existing spouse visa are issued for a period of 2.5 years (30 months). Applicants whom are applying to enter the UK for the first time as a spouse are issued with a period of 33 months.

How long does it take to get Indefinite Leave to remain?

ILR, sometimes referred to as Permanent residence can be applied for after having held the Spouse visa for a minimum period of 5 years.

ILR can be applied for at the earliest opportunity 28 days before the 5 year period is complete.

When can you apply for British Nationality?

How soon you can apply for British nationality depends on if your sponsor is British or not. If they are then you can apply as soon as you have obtained your ILR and lived in the UK for a minimum of 5 years. If your sponsor is not British but just has ILR then you need to wait a further 12 months after your ILR was granted before you can apply.

What are the requirements of the initial visa?

There are 5 main requirements of this visa which we will break down in more detail below:

  1. Financial
  2. Adequate Accommodation
  3. English Language ability
  4. Genuine relationship
  5. Tuberculosis screening (if applicable) 

Please note that this guide does not deal with issues around general grounds of refusal, as such if you have an entry ban or suspect you may be refused for general grounds of refusal such a criminal record, please contact us for further advice.

Financial Requirement

1.1 How to meet the Financial Requirements

The Financial Requirement of the visa application tend to be the most complex and document heavy. It is critical for applicants to meet the minimum income threshold and provide the exact corresponding evidence in order to satisfy this requirement. For the purpose of this guide we will go over some of the common ways to meet the financial requirements, if you do not meet examples below please consult with us as it is likely that there still is a way for you to meet the financial requirement

Firstly a calculation needs to me made on what the minimum income shall be, the starting point is always £18,600.

This value will increase if you wish to include any children whom are under 18 and are not;

  • British Citizens, or
  • Hold Indefinite Leave to remain, or
  • Are EEA nationals

If the are not then the minimum income will increase by;

  • £3,800 for the first child included, and
  • £2,400 for each additional child thereafter.


Mary is applying for a spouse visa together with her two sons Max and Joe who are US nationals, the minimum income that their sponsor must show would therefore be £24,800.

£18,600 for Mary + £3,800 for child 1 and + £2,400 for child 2 = £24,800

1.2 Who’s income can be used for the application?

As a general rule of thumb if applying for entry clearance (I.e you are applying from outside the UK)           then only the sponsor can show their income. If applying to vary your visa or extending your current     spouse visa then both the sponsor and the applicant can show their income.

What sources of income are accepted?

The accepted sources of income can be broken down in to 5 broad groups:

  • Salaried or non-salaried employment income
  • Self-employed income or income as a Director from a UK company
  • Cash Savings
  • Non-employment income (eg property rental income from shares or interest from savings)
  • State or private pensions

each on of the above groups have their own specific sets of rules and required documentation.    Furthermore not all income sources may be combined with each other; eg Self-employed income cannot be combined with cash savings.

Furthermore it is noted that the following categories can only be shown by the sponsor unless the applicant also has permission to work in the UK:

  • Salaried or non-salaried employment income
  • Self-employed income or income as a Director

1.3 What income cannot be used?

The following types of income are not accepted as valid income for the Spouse visa application:

  • Financial support from third parties such as family or friends (child maintenance and gifts of cash savings that meet the savings requirements may be accepted)
  • Credit or other types of loans
  •  Income assessed benefits such as; Housing benefit, Jobseekers’s allowance and Income Support etc
  • Child benefit, Child Tax credit, Universal Credit or other similar types of benefits
  • Any other income source not part of the five approved income sources

It is noted that receiving these benefits does not stop you from sponsoring your partner, it just means the money that you receive is not counted towards the minimum income you receive.

1.4 How long do I have to be earning  the required amount?

  • For salaried and non-salaried income:
    • if you have been in your job for longer than 6 months then you only need to show the equivalent value over the last 6 months .
    • If you have been in your job for less than 6 months then you need to show that you earned the minimum amount over the last 12 months
  • For Savings you need to show that you held the funds for a minimum period of 6 months (see the cash savings section below for further details)
  • For Non-employment, you would need to show the last full tax year
  • For Self-employed and Income as a Director, then you would need to show the most recent completed tax year or the average over the last 2 financial years.
  • For Pensions an annual amount can be used providing it has been in receipt for at least 28 days.

1.5 What if my sponsor is currently living outside the UK?

If you are living with your partner outside the UK and you plan to re-enter the UK together then the rules vary. You can still rely on all five of the income sources mentioned earlier however for salaried and non-salaried employment the rules are different as it would require the sponsor to have a job offer in the UK.

Only the salaried or non-salaried income of the sponsor will be counted, there is a two step process to meet in order to satisfy the requirement;

Step 1: the Sponsor would demonstrate their current employment income meet the minimum income requirement, either over the last 12 months if they have been in their job for less than 6 months or just the last 6 months if they have been in their job for more than 6 months.

Step 2: The Sponsor would need to show that they have a job offer in the UK, which would give them an income reaching the minimum income requirement. This job would need to start within 3 months of their entry to the UK.

For example:

Chris is the sponsor and has been living in Japan. He has been receiving income via salary which is equivalent to £20,000 per year. As Chris as no other source of income once he leaves his job, he would need to show that he has a job offer starting within 3 months of him entering the UK with his partner in order to meet the financial requirement.

1.6 How does cash savings work?

Yes, savings held in the name of the sponsor, the name of the applicant or jointly between the two can be used. Savings can be used fully satisfy the income requirement or to cover any short fall in your income.

Please note that only cash savings are accepted, this means that property or assets are not recognised unless they are sold and held as cash.

It is not however as simple as just providing the missing amount from your income as the exact cash amount. The calculation is as follows:

(Required Income total minus actual income) x 2.5 (the length of the visa) + £16,000 = Savings total required.


Samir is applying for a spouse visa, however his sponsor Jenny only has an income of £14,000 per year so they would like to cover the rest of the income using their savings. The calculation above would therefore look like this:

Step 1: As there are no kids involved the required total is £18,600.
Step 2: Take away Jenny’s income which is £14,000 leaves a sub-total of £4,600
Step 3: £4,600 multiplied by 2.5 gives us a sub-total of  £11,500 
Step 4: £11,500 plus £16,000 gives us a final value of £27,500

Therefore Jenny and Samir would need to have cash savings of £27,500 to cover for the £4,600 shortfall in Jenny’s income. Furthermore using the same formula, if Jenny had no income at all Samir could still meet the financial requirements if they had savings of £64,500.

Please note that cash savings must be held in cash at the point of application, the cash must have been held as a minimum balance

Accommodation Requirement

The second requirement of the visa is that you can demonstrate that there is adequate accommodation for you, your sponsor and any children in the UK.

For this requirement you must first demonstrate your right to reside in the specified property, this may be because:

  • You or your partner own the property
  • You or your partner are renting the property
  • You are staying with friends and family whom have a big enough property

The property itself must not be deemed as overcrowded, this is based on the Housing Act 1985 and depends on the number of rooms in the property compared to the number of people living in the property. A room does not specifically need to be a bedroom, so long as it is not a Kitchen or Bathroom.

Here is a quick guide to overcrowding:

Number of Rooms Maximum number of people that can live in the property
1 2
2 3
3 5
4 7.5
5 10

For any properties of more than 5 rooms, an additional 2 persons per room can reside in the property. Children under 12 months are not included as a person and children between 1 and 10 years are considered half a person.

English Language Requirement

All applicants must be able to demonstrate their ability to speak English. This can be done in three ways:

a. Citizen of a majority English speaking county;

If you are from one of the following countries then your passport will automatically prove your English language ability:

  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Australia
  • The Bahamas
  • Barbados
  • Belize
  • Canada
  • Dominica
  • Grenada
  • Guyana
  • Jamaica
  • New Zealand
  • St Kitts and Nevis
  • St Lucia
  • St Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • USA

b. Having an undergraduate degree or higher

If you have passed an Undergraduate Degree, a Masters or a PhD from a UK colleague or University then this can be used to demonstrate your English language ability.

If you have obtained a degree from a non-British institution but the course was taught in English then your qualification may still be accepted, however you need to obtain a certification from UK NARIC, an organisation which will check if your degree is the equivalent of a UK degree.

  • Taking an English Test

The final way you can prove your English language skills is by passing an approved English language test. Only specific types of test providers, test types and test centres are accepted, as such it is important to double check that you are taking the right test.

The approved test list can be found here

The required test categories are only Speaking and Listening at level A1 or higher. As such the most popular test to take is IELTS Life Skills A1, A2 or B1. There is no minimum mark to achieve on these test as they are only pass/fail.

Although IELTS for UKVI General training or Academic is accepted they are not necessary for this visa category.

It is noted that the applicant must have passed the test before they submit their visa application

However If you are not from a majority English speaking country then there are two ways to prove your skills;

Genuine Relationship

This section of the application requires the applicant and sponsor to show that they are in a genuine ongoing relationship as husband and wife. What this means is that you will need to prove that you have legally married, but most importantly you must show that your relationship is genuine and on-going as would be expected from a husband and wife.

This means that you should demonstrate using documents that you have met, that you still meet when possible, that you communicate regularly and in some cases share responsibilities. The longer your relationship has been going the more documentation you should have.

Migrants whom have been married for a short period of time or have for cultural or religious reasons are not barred from applying, instead this needs to be carefully explained to the Home office together with sufficient evidence of a genuine relationship.

  • Tuberculosis Test

If you are applying from a country that is listed on Appendix T as a country where TB is at high risk, the applicant must obtain a certificate from an approved test center to confirm they are free from TB. Before applying.

What can you do on a spouse visa?

Holders of a spouse visa are able to reside in the UK with a few to settlement after 5 years. Spouse visa holders have the right to work or study without restriction and full access to the NHS.

What can you not do on a spouse visa?

You are not able to sponsor family members whom are not your own children under the age of 18, unless there is serious and compassionate circumstances.

Although the sponsor can the migrant is not able to receive any benefits during the time they are on the visa. The migrant is also not able to continue residing in the UK if the relationship with the sponsor breakdown and is unable to be resolved. In this case the migrant would need to switch to another visa category or leave the UK.

How much does a Spouse visa cost?

Visa fees are dependent on if you are applying from inside or outside the UK, furthermore the Home office fees change on a yearly basis. The latest fees can be found using the Home office fee calculator

How long does it take for a Spouse visa to be granted?

Processing times vary from country to country and time of year.

Generally speaking from inside the UK there is a 24 hour priority service or a normal postal service which takes 8-12 weeks Internationally processing times can range from 4-16 weeks. Some countries have priority services which can reduce the time to between 2-6 weeks.

How do you apply for a Spouse visa?

The process will vary depending on if you are in the UK or outside the UK.
Generally speaking the first step is to submit an online application form with your details. Once you have done this you can pay to finalise your application and book a face-to-face submission appointment.

During your face-to-face submission appointment you will give your biometric information and in some cases provide your original documents. In some case you may need to post the documents to a specific location. Once you have had your biometric appointment and submitted your documents then the processing of your visa will begin by the Home office.

What happens after the visa is granted?

The applicant will receive their passport with a 30 day entry visa. It is important to enter the UK within this time period as the full visa is issued on a Biometric card that can only be picked up in the UK. Once the Biometric card has been collected then you are free to enter and exit the UK as you please.

What happens if my application is refused?

Firstly don’t panic, obtain a copy of your refusal letter as it will be very important in order to work out what went wrong and how it can be fixed.

Visas can be refused for several reasons including user error or even Home office error.  Speak with an Immigration lawyer about the case to work out what the best way forward would be. The likely outcome would be either:

  1. You address the issues raised in the refusal letter and re-apply, or
  2. You challenge the issues raised in the refusal letter via an appeal

The best choice depends on the circumstances of the refusal as well as the facts of your case. For instances if you have failed to include the correct supporting documents then a re-application may be best. On the other hand if you supplied the right documents but you now no longer qualify because you left your job in anticipation of getting the visa, or if there is a claim on the genuineness of your relationship then an appeal would probably be the best strategy to resolve the matter.

Westkin Associates

5th Floor, Maddox House,
1 Maddox Street
United Kingdom
0207 118 4546

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