The Reality of Applying for a UK Spouse Visa
As you’re travelling to the UK on a work visa, legal advice can make a huge difference in keeping your family together. Here’s what to expect with a spouse visa.
If you’re living in the U.K. for work, you’ll undoubtedly want to take steps to bring your spouse over to live with you.
Yet, what should be a relatively straightforward procedure is becoming increasingly challenging to navigate. As such, marriages around the world are feeling the strain of being kept apart.
Steps to apply for and obtain a spouse visa are multi-layered and full of regulatory policies that often serve to convolute the process.
Today, we’re taking a look at what’s really involved in the application procedure. We’ll also discuss why solid legal advice and counsel is more important now than ever before.
Ready to learn more? Let’s get started!
Applying for a Spouse Visa: A Basic Overview
Before we delve too deeply in how new policies are adding to the challenge of obtaining a spouse visa, let’s take a look at some of the application basics:
Key Terms and Timeframe
If you’re legally allowed to live in the U.K. permanently, you’re known as the “sponsor.” Your spouse or partner is referred to as the “dependent.” Though the visa is commonly referred to as a “spouse visa,” if you currently reside outside of the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland, it’s correct title is a “family of a settled person” visa.
These terms will be used throughout the application process so it’s important to become familiar with them.
If your spouse seeks to live with you for more than six months, he or she will need to apply for a spouse visa. If the desired timeframe is shorter, a “visitor visa” will suffice, though visitor visas are often refused unless a valid reason can be provided as to why your spouse is not intending to stay in the UK longer.
Once your family is ready to initiate the application, it will need to originate with your spouse, from outside of the U.K.
If you’re in a circumstance that requires you to complete the application for your spouse, you can do so. Yet, your spouse will need to visit a Visa Application Centre to have his or her biometrics (fingerprint and photograph) taken as part of the process.
The application process can be lengthy and intricate. As such, it can be difficult to ensure every step is completed accurately. Yet, this review is essential — if your spouse visa is rejected, the repealing process could take between six to nine months.
To this end, many opt to hire an immigration consultant when preparing their visa applications, to ensure total, correct completion.
The Fine Print: Key Criteria to Meet
Before you can move forward with a spouse visa, you’ll need to make sure you meet a few basic criteria. These include:
- Meeting the age requirement. You and your spouse must be 18 or older to apply.
- Meeting the required income. If you’re just seeking to bring over your spouse, you must make £18,600 per year before taxes. If you seek to also bring over a child, that level rises to £22,400 per year, plus £2,400 per year for each additional child. These income requirements came into effect in July 2012.
- Prove the authenticity of your relationship. You’ll need to show evidence that you actually are espoused or engaged as you say. This could be in the form of papers that show you’re living together, that you have kids together, or that you own a joint bank account.
- Prove your commitment and resources. You must prove that you plan to live together after your spouse arrives in the U.K. You’ll also need to show evidence that you have a place for you and your spouse to live.
- Demonstrate knowledge of English. Your spouse will be tested to demonstrate that he or she has a solid understanding and use of the English language.
Complications and Hold-Ups Cause Family Frustration
The above steps are only a high-level overview of the application to apply for a spouse visa.
In reality, the process is more detailed, with multiple considerations that make it difficult for families to be together. A few of these include:
Poor Processing Times
Though the average processing time is around 60 days, it can take between three and five months for the U.K. Visas and Immigration Office (UKVI) to process the applications of persons from the United States or Canada.
During this time, the spouses are separated from their family, with no passport or means by which they can visit.
Hefty Administrative Fees
If an applicant wishes to email the UKVI at any point to check on the status of an application, they can do so — at a price.
The UKVI now charges around £6 to receive customer service inquiries via email. This adjustment is a result of a contractor change within the Home Office. It recently transferred the handling of such correspondence to an external contracting firm.
Along with the added fees, the new contractor also changed the opening hours of the inquiry service and reduced the number of languages that services were provided in. These changes can make the application process much more difficult, depending on where the inquiry originates.
Difficulty Meeting Financial Requirements
Another issue creating frustration are the income levels required to be met before a spouse visa will be accepted.
As these requirements do not take into account the revenue earned by the applicant, they place the brunt of the financial burden on the spouse living in the U.K.
From students who can’t afford to work full-time while pursuing their studies to spouses whose current career simply doesn’t afford them that level of income, many U.K. residents are falling short of this monetary precondition.
As a result of this law, BBC News reports that at least 15,000 children are currently split apart from their families.
Some are making use of an alternative route, known as the “Surinder Singh Rule” as a workaround.
In short, this rule allows U.K. residents to work in another country within the EEA for about three months to change their residency qualifications. During this time, their spouse can join them. After at least three months in another EEA country (such as France), they can move to the U.K. together, as a couple.
Yet, for this to be an effective option, both residents must be able to prove to the Home Office that they did indeed move to the EEA location for valid, professional reasons — and didn’t simply relocate there temporarily to bypass income level laws.
The Visa Help You Need: Legal Advice You Can Trust
If you’re currently living in the U.K. and wish to bring your loved one over, or if you’re someone wishing to immigrate into the U.K., we’d love to make the legal process easier on you.
We’re a private immigration consultancy firm offering the sound advice you need as you take one of the most important steps of your life.
We’re dedicated to making the immigration process as smooth and seamless as possible, reuniting families and helping jumpstart your new life in the U.K.
For more information, feel free to contact us. We look forward to going on this journey with you!
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