Applying For A Spouse Visa UK: Everything You Need To Know
Moving to the UK is a complicated process. And once you’re here, bringing your family with you can be even more complex. That’s why you need to understand how to apply for a visa for your spouse if they’re planning to move to the UK too.
UK spouse visas are part of a group of immigration documents called family visas. You and your spouse both need to meet certain eligibility criteria to apply for a spouse visa in the UK. In this article, you’ll learn:
- Who can apply for a spouse visa
- Costs and timescales for spouse visa applications
- How to apply for a spouse visa in the UK.
Looking for another type of visa? Learn about all the types of UK visa available.
Is your spouse eligible for a UK visa?
You can only apply for a spouse visa if you and your partner are both eligible. That means you must both:
- Be 18 or over
- Intend to live together permanently in the UK.
The partner who is already living in the UK (or can move to the UK without a family visa) must also meet at least one of the following criteria:
- You’re a British or Irish citizen
- You have settled status, permanent residence, or indefinite leave to remain in the UK
- You’re from the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein and started living in the UK before 1st January 2021
- You’re in the UK on a Turkish Businessperson visa or Turkish worker visa
- You have refugee status in the UK.
If at least one of these conditions applies to you, your spouse can apply for a family visa to join you in the UK.
How much does it cost to apply for a spouse visa in the UK?
The cost depends on whether you’re applying from outside the UK or inside the UK.
As of August 2022, applying from outside the UK costs £1,538. Applying from inside the UK costs £1,048. So it’s usually cheaper to apply if your spouse is already in the UK on a temporary visa.
Bear in mind that the application fees won’t usually be refunded if your application is unsuccessful. So make sure you’re eligible and have all the right documents in place before you apply.
Are there any other charges?
Some family visa applicants need to pay a healthcare surcharge, which covers any medical care you need while you’re in the UK.
You won’t need to pay this if you’re applying for a visitor visa, or indefinite leave to remain in the UK. But it might be required if you’re applying for a family visa that:
- lasts longer than 6 months (if you’re applying from outside the UK), or
- lasts any length of time (if you’re applying from within the UK).
How long does it take to get a UK spouse visa?
Spouse visa application decisions are usually made within:
- 8 weeks (if you apply from within the UK)
- 24 weeks (if you apply from outside the UK)
If you need a decision quickly, you can pay for super priority processing. This involves providing your fingerprints so your application can be fast-tracked. Super priority processing costs an additional £500-800, and a decision will usually be made within 1-5 working days.
If you need to attend an interview, or there are complications in your application, there may be delays. So it’s a good idea to submit your application well in advance of your visa expiry date.
If your application is successful, your spouse can stay in the UK for up to 2 years and 9 months on a family visa.
Can I apply as a fiancé or fiancée?
Yes. If you’re engaged, you can still apply for a spouse visa. But you’ll need to provide extra evidence that shows that any previous marriages or civil partnerships have ended, and that you intend to get married within 6 months of arriving in the UK.
Fiancés and fiancées can only apply for a family visa for up to 6 months. When you’re married, you can apply to extend your visa.
My spouse is already in the UK. Can they extend their visa?
Yes. Each extension adds another 2 years and 9 months to your spouse visa.
You should time your application carefully. Up to 28 days from your existing visa can be added to your new visa. So if you apply too soon, you’re effectively cutting your current visa short. But if you apply too late, you may not have your new visa before your existing visa expires.
You should aim to renew your visa 10-14 weeks before it expires. You’ll pay the same fee to renew your visa each time it expires (£1,048 if applying within the UK).
My spouse is already in the UK, but not on a family visa. Can they switch to a family visa?
In some cases, yes — as long as they meet all the criteria above.
However, your spouse can’t apply for a family visa if you’re in the UK on a temporary basis. This includes being in the UK on a work, tourist, or student visa. But your spouse might be able to apply to join you temporarily as a dependant.
How to apply for a spouse visa in the UK
1. Ensure you have proof of eligibility
You’ll need to supply documents to prove your spouse visa eligibility. This usually includes a marriage or civil partnership certificate. If you’re not yet married, you can also provide proof that:
- You’ve lived together in a relationship for at least 2 years
- You’re engaged, and intend to get married within 6 months of arriving in the UK.
You’ll also need to prove that you have a good knowledge of English — such as by taking Secure English Language Test, or SELT — and can financially support yourself and your family.
2. Apply online
You must apply for a family visa online. There are 2 routes, depending on whether you’re applying from inside or outside the UK:
- Use this form if you’re applying from within the UK
- Use this form if you’re applying from outside the UK
It’s important to have all your eligibility documents scanned and ready to upload. You can also take photos of them using your phone, as long as the text and information is clear.
3. Pay the application fee
You’ll need to pay your visa fee when you submit your application. The same fee applies if you're renewing your visa. If you can’t afford the fee, you may be able to waive it.
Fee waivers are only usually available in exceptional circumstances. For example, if you have refugee status, or paying the fee would mean you’re unable to buy essential items for your children, you could be exempt. Learn more about requesting a fee waiver on the gov.uk website.
4. Wait for a decision
You’ll receive an email and/or letter with the outcome of your application a few weeks after your application is submitted. This will tell you what rights you now have to enter and stay in the UK. It will also tell you the start and end date of your spouse visa.
Learn more about life in the UK
Getting permission to move to the UK is just the beginning. Once you’re here, there’s plenty to learn as you settle into your new home.
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- UK Credit Scores: The Complete Guide For New UK Residents
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