FLR M Visa 2021 Guidance: Spouse Visa Extensions & Renewals

Our 12-Step Guide You Can Follow To Process Your Own FLR(M) Visa

Want the latest COVID-19 updates as they relate to UK partner visas?

We discuss this in detail in our Partner & Spouse visa Coronavirus (COVID-19) update article.

You or your partner want to apply for a FLR (M) visa, right?

Well, good news! Our qualified immigration lawyers have created this FREE detailed guide.

We will help you find out:

1. Whether YOU meet the FLR M requirements; and

2. How YOU can apply for a FLR M visa (otherwise known as a spouse visa from inside the UK) without spending hundreds of pounds on immigration lawyers.

So let’s start!

step 1

Check that the FLR(M) visa is right for you and your partner 

What is a FLR (M) visa?

A FLR(M) visa is essentially a spouse visa UK application that is being made from inside the UK.

If you want to submit a spouse visa UK application from outside the UK, have a read of our Spouse Visa UK 2021 Guidance.

Here are some facts about FLR(M) visas.

#1 A FLR (M) visa allows the person applying (the “applicant”) to REMAIN with their UK partner (the “sponsor”) in the UK for 30 months.

In other words, a FLR (M) application can only be submitted by those who are already inside the UK.

If applicants want to make a spouse visa application outside of the UK, check our spouse visa uk guide.


#2 A FLR M visa will allow the applicant to work in the UK.

Please note that if an applicant is currently on a UK fiance visa and is applying for a FLR M visa, they will not be allowed to work up until the point in which the applicant receives notification from the Home Office that their FLR M application has been granted.


#3 A FLR M visa can lead to Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) as well as British Citizenship.

Generally speaking, the applicant will need to be granted two spouse/FLR M visas.

This is because, for most applicants in the UK on a partner visa, the Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) application will require 5 years of being legally resident in the UK on a partner visa.


#4 A FLR M visa will not allow an applicant to claim most benefits, tax credits or housing assistance that are paid by the state.

Technically, those who are in the UK on a FLR(M) visa will not be able to receive ‘public funds‘.

‘Public funds’ are defined in paragraph 6 of the Immigration Rules and includes:

  • Disability living allowance;
  • Attendance allowance;
  • Housing benefit;
  • Carer’s allowance;
  • Income support;
  • Council tax benefit;
  • Child tax credit;
  • State pension credit;
  • Working tax credit;
  • Severe disablement allowance;
  • Many aspects of Universal Credit;
  • Jobseeker’s allowance;
  • Personal Independence Payment; and
  • Council tax reduction

Who can apply for a FLR M visa?

In order to apply for a FLR(M) visa, the applicant (the person applying) will need to be in a relationship with:

  • A British person;
  • A person who has Indefinite Leave to remain (ILR) or Permanent Residency under EU law;
  • A person who has been granted Pre-Settled Status under the EU Settlement Scheme; or
  • A person who is in the UK with refugee leave or with humanitarian protection.

In addition to this, the relationship must fall within one of the following in order to apply for a FLR(M) visa:

  • Married partners (including those who were recently granted a fiance visa UK);
  • Civil partners (including those who were recently granted a proposed UK civil partnership visa)
  • Unmarried partners (who have lived with each other in a relationship akin to a marriage or civil partnership for at least two years prior to submitting the FLR(M) online application.

Therefore, the following are the typical types of FLR(M) visa applicants:

#1 A person who has been previously been granted a spouse visa where they first applied outside the UK.

This includes same-sex couples and applicants who apply as unmarried partners.

If you want to submit an unmarried partner visa application from outside the UK, our Unmarried partner visa UK 2021 guidance will be of better help.


#2 A person who is in the UK on a non-partner visa who is married or in a civil partnership with a person who is British OR ‘present & settled’ OR has Pre-Settled Status under the EU Settlement Scheme OR is in the UK with refugee leave or humanitarian protection. 

Those currently in the UK on the following non-partner visas can consider applying for an FLR(M) visa:

  • Tier 1 visas
  • Tier 2 visas
  • Tier 4 visas
  • Tier 5 visas

If you are in the UK on one of the above visas and apply for a FLR(M) visa, this is technically known as ‘switching’ into the partner visa category.

It is important to note that if you switch into a ‘FLR(M) visa’, the 5-year Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) qualifying period will reset.

Switching from a Tier 2 (General) visa example

Jess, a Nigerian national, was issued a Tier 2 (General) visa in 2018.

In 2018, however, she married her British husband and is now wondering whether to apply for a FLR(M) visa or not.

She can either:

  • Wait until she has been in the UK for 5 years on a Tier 2 (General) visa and then apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain; or
  • Make an FLR(M) application under the partner visa route.

If Jess goes down the FLR(M) visa route, she will then have to wait another 5 years in order to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain.


“What are the advantages of switching into the partner visa category using an FLR(M) visa?”

The biggest consideration for those switching is that they no longer have to abide by the requirements and conditions of their current non-partner visa.

Continuing from the above example, Jess will no longer have to limit her employment to companies who are able to sponsor her (which is a Tier 2 (General) requirement).

In light of the current COVID-19 pandemic, this may be a welcome relief.



#3 A person who has previously applied for a FLR M visa and is seeking to extend their FLR(M) visa

Before you submit your FLR(M) application, you should check whether you are eligible for Indefinite Leave to Remain.

When you are issued your spouse visa or FLR(M) visa, you will normally receive a decision letter stating whether you were granted a visa on the 5-year route to Indefinite Leave to Remain or the 10-year route to Indefinite Leave to remain.

“What does the typical route to Indefinite Leave to Remain for partners look like?”

Generally, an Indefinite Leave to remain application is made after:

  1. An out of country spouse visa UK application (which is normally valid for 33 months) + a FLR(M) visa (which is normally valid for 30 months); OR
  2. Two FLR(M) visas.


“When will I be granted a partner visa on the 10-year route to indefinite leave to remain?”

It is usually the case that partners who were granted a partner visa on the 10-year route did not meet all of the requirements in a previous application.

Usually, they overlooked a financial requirement or were granted a visa on the basis of their private or family life.


Please also note:

Partners who have submitted a spouse visa extension too early may have to make a third spouse visa application in order to meet the 5-year qualifying period.

We discuss this in step 3 below.



#4 A person who entered the UK on a fiancé or proposed civil partner visa.

It should be noted that time spent in the UK on a fiancé visa does not count towards the 5-year qualifying period for ILR.


How much will a FLR M visa really cost?

#1 The FLR M Home Office fee is £1033. 

This increased by £40 on 6th April 2018. The fee has not changed since.

For a more detailed account of the FLR(M) spouse visa extension fees and costs in 2021, check this article here.


#2 The cost of the Immigration Health Surcharge is £1,560.

This is a compulsory fee that provides applicants with access to the National Health Service (NHS) for the duration of their FLR M visa.


#3 You will also have to pay £19.20 to give your biometric information.

Providing biometric information involves the following:

  • have a digital photo taken of your face
  • put your fingers on a glass screen to be scanned
  • give your signature, or say why you cannot give it

This normally takes only a few minutes and is something that must be done in order for your visa to be processed.


#4 The average immigration lawyer fee varies between £750 and £2,000+. 

We charge a fixed fee of £1,850 for full legal representation.

Ed Lowe, provides this service, and previously worked in the heart of the Home Office (in his position as a senior Home Office executive).

For those who want to apply for the FLR (M) application themselves, we offer a unique DIY Application Pack service for £285.

Our DIY Application Pack service will provide you with a clear and detailed document checklist that has been created by one of our immigration lawyers.

This document checklist, as well as the professionally written letter templates that we will also provide, will be custom tailored according to the information you provide us.


#5 If you would like the ‘priority’ decision service, this will cost an extra £500. 

The priority service will reduce the amount of time that you are expected to wait in order to process your visa from 6-8 weeks to 5 working days.


#6 If you would like the ‘super-priority’ decision service, this will cost an extra £800. 

The super-priority service will normally provide you with a decision the next working day after attending the visa appointment


How long will a FLR M visa take?

 

#1 Collecting all of the required documents required can take some time – often longer than expected!

This is especially the case with financial documentation and is something that should be planned well in advance.


#2 Once received, the Home Office generally take between 6-8 weeks to process FLR(M) visa applications.

Although the Home Office can often take an incredibly long time to decide, applicants do not have to worry about their current visa expiring and becoming an overstayer – as long as the applicant submitted the application before their current visa expires. This is because of section 3C of the Immigration Act 1971.

Not sure which visa is best for you?

Check out our post “Which Settlement or Partner Visa UK is best for me?”.

step 2

Read the FLR M ‘Suitability’ requirements

Checking these requirements will only take you 2 minutes and can save you from making a doomed application (and £XXX in the process!)

#1 An applicant has been given a DEPORTATION ORDER.

#2 An applicant has been convicted of an offence for which they have been sentenced to JAIL for a significant amount of time. For more information on this point, check S-LTD.1.3 & S-LTD.1.4 of Appendix FM.

#3 An applicant’s previous BEHAVIOUR makes it undesirable to grant them a spouse visa. For more information on this point, check S-LTD.1.5 & S-LTD.1.6 of Appendix FM.

#4 An applicant has failed without reasonable excuse to comply with a requirement to-
(a) attend an interview;
(b) provide information;
(c) provide physical data; or
(d) undergo a medical examination or provide a medical report.

#5 An applicant’s permission to remain in the UK is deemed to be bad for the public good because of reasons relating to the Refugee Convention. For more information on this point, check S-LTD.1.8 of Appendix FM.

#1 An applicant’s application has previously included FALSE INFORMATION, REPRESENTATIONS or DOCUMENTS or did NOT include IMPORTANT FACTS.

#2 A maintenance and accommodation undertaking has NOT been provided

#3 An applicant has a bad CRIMINAL HISTORY

#4 An applicant has failed to pay LITIGATION COSTS awarded to the Home Office

#5 An applicant has NOT paid NHS charges that exceed £500

Now, let us get on to the requirements that apply to most applicants!


step 3

Make sure you know when to submit the application

Knowing when to submit the FLR(M) application is something that is very important to know.

Not knowing can lead to your application being refused and it can cost you several thousand £s extra in Home Office fees.

The ‘date of application’

Before discussing this in more detail, you need to know what the ‘date of application’ means, which is the date that you pay for the Home Office fees on the online FLR(M) application website.


#1 The date of application for your FLR(M) application must be before the expiration of your current UK visa.

Remember, not all UK visas allow you to submit a FLR(M) application.

If your current UK visa does not allow you to submit a FLR(M) application (such as a UK visitor visa), then you must return to your home country and make an application from outside the UK.

In such a case, this guide here will be more relevant to you.

“Does my appointment at the visa centre have to be before my visa expires?”

No.

As long as you submit and pay the Home Office fees on the online FLR(M) application before the expiration of your current visa, then your appointment at the visa centre can be one, two or even three weeks after the expiration of your visa.

This is because the ‘date of application’ will be before the expiration of your visa.

There is no strict time limit with regards to the date of your appointment at the visa centre, although we would recommend not leaving it too long.


“What if my visa expires whilst I am waiting for the Home Office to make their decision?”

As long as you submit and pay the Home Office fees on the FLR(M) online application before the expiration of your current visa, then this is not something that you should worry about.

This is because of this law called ‘section 3C leave’ which will extend your current visa until your FLR(M) application has been decided (or is withdrawn).



#2 If you are currently in the UK on a spouse visa, the date of application should not be more than 28 days before your current spouse visa expires

This is because if you apply earlier than this (e.g. you apply on the 1st November when the spouse visa expires on the 31st December), then it is possible that you will have to submit another (unnecessary) FLR(M) visa in order to reach the 5 year qualifying period.

The 5 year qualifying period (which is essentially 2 spouse visas) is the amount of time that is required in order to make the application for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR), assuming that in those two applications, all of the requirements are met.

I like to use this website to calculate days between dates.

I would also suggest treating the 28-day rule as a 26 day rule (just so you are on the safe side in the unlikely event of a miscalculation).


#3 If you are currently in the UK on a UK fiancé(e) visa or on another type of visa (i.e. Tier 2 (General) or a General student visa (Tier 4), the date of application can be at any time before the expiration of your current fiancé(e) visa

This is because these visas (including fiancé(e) visas) do not count towards the 5 year qualifying period that is required to obtain Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) under the partner route.

step 4

Make sure that you meet these FLR M relationship requirements

#1 The applicant and UK partner must have met in person.


#2 Both the applicant and UK partner must be aged 18 or over at the date of the application.


#3 Both the applicant and UK partner must intend to live permanently in the UK together. 


#4 The UK partner must be one of the following:

  1. A British Citizen in the UK; or
  2. ‘Present’ and ‘Settled’ in the UK; or
  3. Someone who has been granted Pre-Settled Status under the EU Settlement Scheme; or
  4. In the UK with refugee leave or with humanitarian protection.

If the UK partner has indefinite leave to remain (ILR) and resides in the UK, or if he/she is an EEA national or non-EEA family member with a permanent right of residence in the UK (or has been granted Settled Status under the EU Settlement Scheme), the UK partner will be considered as being ‘Present’ and ‘settled’.

“Hold on, does ‘present’ mean that the UK partner/sponsor have to be inside the UK when the application is made?”

Not necessarily.

As stated by Home Office guidance, ‘present and settled’ means that the sponsor is either:

-settled in the UK and, at the same time that an application under the Immigration Rules is made, is physically present in the UK; or,

-is coming to the UK with or to join the applicant and intends to make the UK their home with the applicant if the application is successful.



#5 The applicant and UK partner must not be in a relationship that is not allowed by the Home Office.

The Marriage Act 1949

The Marriage Act 1949 prohibits marriages between the follow relationships:

Prohibited relationships for a man:

  • Mother;
  • Daughter;
  • Father’s mother;
  • Mother’s mother;
  • Son’s daughter;
  • Daughter’s daughter;
  • Sister;
  • Father’s sister;
  • Mother’s sister;
  • Brother’s daughter; and
  • Sister’s daughter.

Prohibited relationships for a woman:

  • Father;
  • Son;
  • Father’s father;
  • Mother’s father;
  • Son’s son;
  • Daughter’s son;
  • Brother;
  • Father’s brother;
  • Mother’s brother;
  • Brother’s son; and
  • Sister’s son.

The Marriage (Prohibited Degrees of Relationship) Act 1986

The Marriage (Prohibited Degrees of Relationship) Act 1986 prohibits the following relationships, up until both parties are aged 12 are over, and provided that the younger party has not at any time, before attaining the age of 18, been a child of the family in relation to the other party:

  • Daughter of former wife;
  • Son of former husband;
  • Former wife of father;
  • Former husband of mother;
  • Former wife of father’s father;
  • Former husband of father’s mother;
  • Former wife of mother’s father;
  • Former husband of mother’s mother;
  • Daughter of son of former wife;
  • Son of son of former husband;
  • Daughter of daughter of former wife; and
  • Son of daughter of former husband.

The Marriage (Prohibited Degrees of Relationship) Act 1986 also prohibits a marriage between the following:

  • Mother of former wife, until the death of both the former wife and the father of the former wife;
  • Father of former husband, until after the death of both the former husband and the mother of the former husband;
  • Former wife of son, until after the death of both his son and the mother of his son;
  • Former husband of daughter, until after the death of both her daughter and the father of her daughter.[/toggle]

#6 The relationship between the applicant and UK partner must be ‘genuine’ and ‘subsisting’.

The Home Office caseworker will make this decision in light of all of the circumstances.

To satisfy this requirement, we recommend submitting documents relating to you and your partner’s relationship.

FLR M visa DIY Application Pack

step 5

Make sure that you meet the English language requirement for FLR M visas in 2021

#1 Where the applicant is from any of the following countries, they will just need to include their passport to meet the English language requirement:

  • Antigua and Barbuda;
  • Australia;
  • the Bahamas;
  • Barbados;
  • Belize;
  • Canada;
  • Dominica;
  • Grenada;
  • Guyana;
  • Jamaica;
  • Malta;
  • New Zealand;
  • St Kitts and Nevis;
  • St Lucia;
  • St Vincent and the Grenadines;
  • Trinidad and Tobago; or
  • the United States of America.

The reason for this is that applicants will be deemed to be a national of a Home Office-designated majority English-speaking country.


#2 Where any of the following apply, applicants will NOT have to take the English language test:

i) If the applicant is 65 years or over at the date of application; OR

ii) If the applicant has a disability (either physical or mental) that stops them from taking the English language test; OR

iii) If the applicant has exceptional & compassionate circumstances that stops them from satisfying the English language requirement.


#3 Where an applicant has an academic English-taught degree, Master’s degree or PhD from a UK university inside the UK, this degree certificate will satisfy the English language requirement.


#4 Where an applicant has an equivalent to a Bachelor’s, Master’s degree or PhD that was taught in English outside the UK, this can be used to meet the English language requirement.

However, unlike degrees that were obtained from UK universities in the UK (discussed at #3 above), you will also need to accompany this with documentation from UK NARIC.

With this being said, most partners prefer just to sit the English language test as opposed to going through the UK NARIC process.

#5 If none of the above apply, applicants must pass an approved English language test.

This test must be on the list of Home Office Approved Secure English language tests (SELT) in 2021.

First-time partner visa applications

For partners who are applying for leave to remain for the first time as a married, civil or unmarried partner, the test must be at least A1 level of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR).

Example

Asia is currently in the UK on a Tier 5 (Youth Mobility Scheme (YMS)) visa.

Asia recently married Steven, a British national.

Since this will be the first time she is applying for leave to remain ‘as a married partner’, the required level of English test she will need to meet is the A1 level.



Spouse visa extensions

For partners who have already been granted a UK visa as a partner and are extending it after 2.5 years, the test must be at least A2 level.

Example

Hussain is currently in the UK on a UK spouse visa.

The first UK spouse visa application was made from outside the UK.

Hussain was successfully granted a UK spouse visa 2 years and 3 months ago.

By the time Hussain will want to submit his application (within 28 days of his current UK spouse visa expiring), he will technically be extending this visa after 2.5 years.

Like many partners who apply for their UK spouse visa, Hussain passed an A1 English language test for his first spouse visa.

However, Hussain will need to pass an A2 test before he submits his FLR(M) application.



Fiancé(e) -> FLR(M) visa applications

For married partners who are currently in the UK on a fiancé(e) visa and are applying for a FLR(M) visa, the same English language test (at A1 level or above) can be used – you do not have to sit another English language test for this application.

Example

Jum was granted a UK fiance visa 3 months ago and is currently in the UK.

As she is not from a majority English speaking country, she sat the A1 test in order to meet the requirements for her UK fiancé(e) visa.

Jum can use the same A1 test that she used in her fiancé(e) visa application – she does not need to sit another English language test for this application.

step 6

Gather the documents relating to the FLR M accommodation requirement  

The documents that you will need to submit in order to meet the FLR(M) accommodation requirement depends on you and your partner’s accommodation circumstances.

Our FLR(M) DIY Application Pack service tend to break this down into four categories:

i) Partners who rent the UK accommodation where they live/intend to live;

ii) Partners who own the UK accommodation where they live/intend to live;

iii) Partners who live at a family or friend’s UK accommodation which is rented; and

iv) Partners who live at a family or friend’s UK accommodation which is owned.

It is important to note the following two things regarding the accommodation requirement:

i) It’s important that you provide evidence that you have a legal right to reside in the accommodation that you choose to rely on.

ii) Accommodation must be ‘adequate’.

Accommodation will not be adequate here if it is either ‘overcrowded’ (as defined by the Housing Act 1985) or if it does not meet public health & safety regulations.

step 7

Make sure that you meet the FLR M financial requirements in 2021

The spouse visa UK financial requirement in 2021 is, unfortunately, the biggest cause of refusal for FLR(M) applications.

Because of this, we have recently created an article that focuses more on this in (even) greater detail here.

It is first important to note four things: 

i) In a FLR M visa, the applicant can include their income towards meeting the financial requirement.

ii) The applicant does NOT necessarily have to meet the financial requirement via their income alone. It is fine if the UK partner meets the financial requirement alone.

iii) Likewise, the sponsor does NOT have to meet the financial requirement alone. It is fine if the applicant meets the financial requirement alone.

iv) It is also fine if the financial requirement is met via combining the applicant and sponsor’s income. On this point, as we discuss here, certain incomes cannot be combined.


You should ask yourself these five questions: 

#1 What is the required total annual income amount that needs to evidenced?   

The applicant and UK partner will need a total gross annual income of £18,600, unless:

i) The UK partner (or child) is in receipt of any of the following benefits: Disability Living Allowance; Armed Forces Independence Payment or Guaranteed Income Payment under the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme; Severe Disablement Allowance; Industrial Injury Disablement Benefit; Attendance Allowance; Carer’s Allowance;) Personal Independence Payment; Attendance Allowance;  or Constant Attendance Allowance, Mobility Supplement or War Disablement Pension under the War Pensions Scheme.

This is because the adequate maintenance requirement will apply instead.

OR

ii) The applicant or UK partner have £16,000 or more in cash savings that have been in the applicant’s or UK partner’s control for 6 months or more, at the date the application is submitted. If the amount of cash amounted to £62,500 or higher, this meets the financial requirement alone. If there are cash savings of less than £62,500 (but more than £16,000), this will reduce the amount of annual income required.

Click here for our detailed cash savings guide.

Where the applicant or UK partner only have dependent children that are below the age of 18 and are British or are EEA nationals with the right to remain:

A gross annual income of £18,600 is required, unless:

i) The UK partner receives any of the following benefits: Disability Living Allowance; Severe Disablement Allowance; Industrial Injury Disablement Benefit; Attendance Allowance; Carer’s Allowance;) Personal Independence Payment; Armed Forces Independence Payment or Guaranteed Income Payment under the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme; or Constant Attendance Allowance, Mobility Supplement or War Disablement Pension under the War Pensions Scheme.

This is because the adequate maintenance requirement will apply instead.

OR

ii) The applicant or UK partner have £16,000 or more in a bank account that have been in their control for 6 month or more, at the date the application is submitted.

If the amount of cash amounted to £62,500 or higher, then this meets the financial requirement alone. If there are cash savings of less than £62,500 (but more than £16,000), this will reduce the amount of annual income required.

Where the applicant or UK partner are applying with dependent children who are below the age of 18 and are NOT British nor are EEA nationals with the right to remain:

An annual income of £22,400 (plus £2,400 for any additional child to the first) is required, unless: 

i) The UK partner (or child) receives any of the following benefits: Disability Living Allowance; Severe Disablement Allowance; Industrial Injury Disablement Benefit; Attendance Allowance; Carer’s Allowance;) Personal Independence Payment; Armed Forces Independence Payment or Guaranteed Income Payment under the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme; or Constant Attendance Allowance, Mobility Supplement or War Disablement Pension under the War Pensions Scheme.

OR

ii) The applicant or UK partner have significant cash savings

Click here for our detailed cash savings guide.

That is great – this can certainly make meeting the financial requirement easier for partners. This article discusses how cash savings can be used in order to meet or reduce the financial requirement.

If the UK partner receives any of the following permitted benefits, then the minimum income threshold of £18,600+ does not apply:

  • Disability Living Allowance;
  • Personal Independence Payment;
  • Armed Forces Independence Payment or Guaranteed Income Payment under the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme;
  • Severe Disablement Allowance;
  • Industrial Injury Disablement Benefit;
  • Attendance Allowance;
  • Carer’s Allowance;
  • Constant Attendance Allowance;
  • Mobility Supplement or
  • War Disablement Pension under the War Pensions Scheme.

The lower standard of ‘adequate maintenance‘ applies in its place.


#2 What sources of income can be included towards the financial requirement? 

The financial requirement can be met using 6 different sources of income. They are the following:

Salaried employment is usually paid at a minimum fixed rate amount annually and is contracted to a minimum amount of hours that has to be worked.

Non-salaried employment is usually paid at an hourly or other rate, or paid a fee which differs depending on the word undertaken. Unlike that of someone in salaried employment, the number and/or pattern of hours required to be worked may vary.

It is open for cash savings to contribute towards the financial requirement when £16,000 has been held in the applicants or UK partner’s bank for longer than 6 months.

Note: It is not possible for cash savings to be combined with the gross annual income received from self-employment.

We have made a separate post about cash savings here.

“Which employment income category?”

In order for you to ensure that you meet the financial requirement via employment income, you need to know which Category you will be including it after.

Getting this wrong can result in refusal because:

  • The calculation of the gross annual income is completely different;
  • The supporting documents are completely different; and
  • Some categories of income will allow you to combine certain income sources whilst others do not.

Employment income can be included under four categories – categories A, B, F and G.

To find out exactly what income you should rely under, read our article Category A or B, F or G? [UK Visa Financial Requirements Guide].

Self-employment under the Immigration Rules specifically relates to those who are self-employed as a sole trader, as a partnership or in a franchise.

Self-employment income is not the same as income from a company that you or a family member owns

This is incredibly important to know and is a common mistake that results in refusals.

Check our Specified Limited Company Guidance [Sole Directors, Owners and Employees] article which discusses this in more detail.

More information about pension income can be found in our spouse visa UK financial requirement in 2020 guidance article.

A comprehensive step-by-step account of the adequate maintenance requirement can be found in our Adequate Maintenance Guidance for UK visas [2020 REQUIREMENTS] article.

You can also include certain “non-employment” income under Category C

This includes:

  • Income from investments, stocks and shares, trust funds or bonds
  • Maintenance payments from former partners
  • Undergraduate or postgraduate maintenance stipends or grants
  • Property rental
  • Interest from savings
  • Ongoing royalty payments, insurance payments and payments from a structured legal settlement
  • UK maternity Allowance, Widowed Parent’s Allowance, Bereavement Allowance and Bereavement Payment
  • Payments under the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme, the Armed Forces Attributable Benefits Scheme & War Pensions Scheme

#3 What is the relevant time period that the above amount needs to be earned? 

 

This depends on how the applicant and/or UK partner meets the financial threshold.

You absolutely need to know if the employing company is a specified limited company or not – more information on this can be found here.

Income from a ‘specified limited company’

The relevant financial period will be the ‘last full financial year’, which is the year the company prepares the accounts that get submitted to the HMRC and Companies House. It is also the same period as covered by a form CT600, which corresponds to the 12-month accounting year of the UK partner’s company.

The term ‘last full financial year’ here means the most recent year. It does NOT mean the ‘last full financial year’ that is required to submit by UK tax law. Therefore, the UK partner may be required to submit the accounts earlier than he or she necessarily would have otherwise done.


Income from a non-specified limited company

i) Where the applicant or UK partner have been employed for 6 months or longer

That person can choose to base their gross annual income over the past 6 months (under Category A), or over the past 12 months (under Category B).

ii) Where the applicant or UK partner have been employed for fewer than 6 months

That person MUST base their gross annual income over the past 12 months (under Category B).

The difference between Category A and B is discussed in detail here.

That person must have met the financial requirement either in the last full financial year (under Category F), or in the last two full financial years (under Category G).

The relevant financial year(s) will be that covered by the self-assessment tax return and in the UK this runs from 6 April to 5 April the following year.

More information about including income from self-employment can be found here.

The ‘last full financial year’ will be the relevant time period.

This is the year that the company submits the accounts to Companies House and HMRC.

It is also the same period as covered by a form CT600, which is the same period as the 12-month accounting year of the applicant’s or UK partner’s company.

The term ‘last full financial year’ in terms of the Immigration Rules means the most recent year.

Contrary to popular belief, it does NOT mean the ‘last full financial year’ that is required to submit by UK tax law.

The result of this is that the applicant or UK partner partner may be required to submit the accounts earlier than he or she necessarily would have otherwise done.

More information relating regarding this can be found here.

The cash savings must have been held for a period of 6 months. During this 6 months, the cash savings must NOT drop below the required amount.

This depends on what sources of income is being relied on to meet the adequate maintenance test.


#4 How do the Home Office calculate the gross annual income?

The methods differ according to the applicant’s or UK partner’s employment status.

Salaried employment is paid at a minimum fixed rate (usually annually) and is subject usually to a contractual minimum number of hours to be worked.

Income from a ‘specified limited company’

The gross annual income will be the gross total of the salary and/or dividends received in the company’s last full financial year, or, if the applicant/sponsor prefers, the ‘mean’ average of the last two full financial years.


Income from a non-specified limited company

There are two options that the applicant or UK partner can choose from.

Option 1 (Category A)

They multiply the lowest level of annual salary received in the 6 months prior to the date of application.

This is the income from salaried employment that can be counted towards the financial requirement.

Option 2 (Category B)

Here, the financial requirement must be met and evidenced in two parts.

Part 1: Your gross annual salary, when you submit the application, must be higher than the financial requirement that applies (usually £18,600).

  • If the salary is received every month, they multiply the last salary received by 12
  • If the salary is received every week, they multiply the last salary received by 52
  • There is no required period for this current employment

Part 2: The applicant or UK partner must have received, in the past 12 months prior to the date of application, more than the financial requirement that applies.

This is the income from salaried employment that can be counted towards the financial requirement.

Income from a ‘specified limited company’

The gross annual income will be the gross total of the salary and/or dividends received in the company’s last full financial year, or, if the applicant/sponsor prefers, the ‘mean’ average of the last two full financial years.

Income from a non-specified limited company

Here, the financial requirement must be met and evidenced in two parts under Category B.

Part 1: Your gross annual salary, when you submit the application, must be higher than the financial requirement that applies (usually £18,600).

  • If the salary is received every month, they multiply the last salary received by 12
  • If the salary is received every week, they multiply the last salary received by 52
  • There is no required period for this current employment

Part 2: The applicant or UK partner (combined) must have received in the past 12 months prior to the date of application more than the financial requirement that applies to them.

This is the income from salaried employment that can be counted towards the financial requirement.

Non-salaried employment is generally paid at an hourly or other rate, rather than an annual rate. The amount in which he or she will receive will differ depending on the amount of work undertaken. Unlike that of salaried employment, the number and/or pattern of hours required to work will differ.

Income from a ‘specified limited company’

The gross annual income will be the gross total of the salary and/or dividends received in the company’s last full financial year, or, if the applicant/sponsor prefers, the ‘mean’ average of the last two full financial years.


Income from a non-specified limited company

If you choose to base the application on 6 month’s employment earnings (under Category A):

#1 They combine up all the gross (before tax) income from employment in the 6 months before the application is submitted

#2 They then divide this total by 6

#3 They will then multiply this number by 12.

This amount is the income from non-salaried employment that can be counted to meet the financial requirement.

If the company that employs the applicant or UK partner IS owned by either the UK partner, the applicant or by the UK partner or applicant’s family AND any remaining shares are held by fewer than five other persons

The gross annual income will be the gross total of the salary and/or dividends received in the company’s last full financial year, or, if the applicant/sponsor prefers, the ‘mean’ average of the last two full financial years.

If the company that employs the applicant or UK partner is NOT owned by either the UK partner, the applicant or by the UK partner’s or applicant’s family

There are two requirements that need to be met under Category B.

Requirement 1: Your ‘annualised average’ for non-salaried employment must be higher than the financial requirement that applies (normally £18,600).

In order to calculate the ‘annualised average’, Home Office caseworkers do the following:

#1 They combine up all the gross (before tax) income from employment in the period prior to the date of application for which employment has been held

#2 They then divide this total by:

i) the number of months that the person has worked there (if payment is received on a monthly basis); or

ii) the number of weeks the person has worked there (if payment is received on a weekly basis); or

iii) the number of days the person has worked there (if payment is received on a daily basis).

#3 If the above number was divided by the number of months, they will then multiply the result by 12.

If the above number was divided by the number of weeks, they will then multiply the result by 52.

If the above number was divided by the number of days, they will then multiply the result by 365.

This amount is the ‘annualised average’ from non-salaried employment that must be higher than the financial requirement that applies.

Requirement 2: In the past 12 months prior to the date of application, the income recieved must be higher than the financial threshold that applies to the application.

The total income that can be used towards the financial requirement will be the gross taxable profits from the share of the business in the relevant financial year(s).

It is important to note that neither the applicant or UK partner can include any expenses, deductible allowances or liability that may be applied to the gross taxable profits in order to establish the final tax liability.

Make sure that this is clarified with an accountant.

The gross annual income will be the gross total of the salary and/or dividends received in the company’s last full financial year, or, if the applicant/sponsor prefers, the ‘mean’ average of the last two full financial years.


#5 What financial documents have to be submitted?

The financial documents that you are required to submit depends entirely on how you meet the financial requirement.

Not only does the source of income determine the required documents, but there are also certain peculiarities that can completely change the documentation that the Home Office state that you ‘must’ submit.

Example

A common example that is commonly overlooked is that of employment income where shares of the employing company are held, either by the applicant, sponsor or  by a member of the applicant or sponsor.

This is because of paragraph 9 of Appendix FM-SE which states that where income is included from a ‘specified limited company’, specific documentation about the employing company must also be included in the application.

Not only this, but this will completely change the way in which the financial requirement is calculated.

So when will this be relevant to you?

The answer is found in paragraph 9(a) which defines a ‘specified limited company’ as one in which:

#1 Shares are held (directly or indirectly) by either the applicant, the sponsor, or by any ‘family members’ of the applicant or sponsor; and

‘Family members’ here are listed as parents, grandparents, children, stepchildren, grandchildren, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, nephews, nieces and first cousins.

#2 The remaining shares are held by fewer than five other persons.

If you are unsure whether the remaining shares are held by fewer than five other persons, you can normally get this information by searching the Companies House register here. Otherwise, the best person to ask would be the company’s accountant.

For private limited companies, there are two main documents that are filed that will state the number of shareholders, being ‘Annual returns’ and ‘Confirmation statements’.

For public limited companies, shares will almost always be held by more than five other persons.

Nevertheless, we would strongly recommend including evidence to show this in your application. There tends to be an abundance of documentation filed on the Companies House regarding public limited company shares, such as the SH01 form (‘Return of allotment of shares’).

“How do I find out what documents I need to include?”

There are two main Home Office documents that absolutely should be read.

Reading these documents will not only tell you what financial documents you need to submit, but it will also tell you the rules that apply to each of these financial documents.

Since the main cause of partner visa refusals is not including the correct financial documents, but in fact the financial documents not complying with specific supporting document rules, it is incredibly important that you read Appendix FM-SE, Appendix FM 1.7. & Appendix FM 1.7a (if the adequate maintenance test applies) in detail.


What is Appendix FM 1.7?

Appendix FM 1.7. is a document published by the Home Office that discusses the financial requirement as it applies to FLR(M) applications (as well as out of country spouse visa applications).

This is where you will want to start, because it is phrased in much more understandable language when compared to Appendix FM-SE.

Appendix FM 1.7. will discuss two important aspects of the financial requirement:

  1. Financial documents that should be submitted; and
  2. Specific rules regarding financial documentation.

Where the information in Appendix FM 1.7. is different to Appendix FM-SE, it is the rules in Appendix FM-SE that will be applied in your application.


What is Appendix FM-SE?

Appendix FM-SE is part of the Immigration Rules, which is why what is said here will override any inconsistencies between this and Appendix FM 1.7.

This is the most important material that discusses the financial requirements of FLR(M) visas that are expected to read.

Similarly to Appendix FM 1.7, Appendix FM-SE talks about:

  1. Financial documents that should be submitted; and
  2. Specific rules regarding financial documentation.

What is Appendix FM 1.7a?

With regards to the financial requirement, Appendix FM 1.7a is only relevant to your application if the UK partner receives one of the following benefits:

  • Disability Living Allowance.
  • Severe Disablement Allowance.
  • Industrial Injury Disablement Benefit.
  • Attendance Allowance.
  • Carer’s Allowance.
  • Personal Independence Payment.
  • Armed Forces Independence Payment or Guaranteed Income Payment under the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme.
  • Constant Attendance Allowance, Mobility Supplement or War Disablement Pension under the War Pensions Scheme.

This is because, where one of the benefits is received, the minimum income threshold (£18,600+) no longer applies and instead the relevant test is the ‘adequate maintenance’ test.

step 8

Write supporting letters for your FLR (M) visa

You should absolutely write supporting letters and include these in your application.

There are two main benefits of writing comprehensive supporting letters.

i) It provides an overview of how you meet the requirements (which makes the Home Office caseworker’s job easier); and

ii) Supporting letters will allow you to provide relevant information and elaborate on your FLR(M) application form answers.

In these support letters, among other things, applicants and UK partners can write about the following:

  • How the financial requirement is met
  • How the accommodation requirement is met
  • How the relationship requirement is met
  • The development of the applicant and UK partner’s relationship

If you would like to save time and receive professionally written supporting letters, these are included in our DIY Application Pack service.

step 9

Start completing the online FLR M application form

The latest online FLR(M) application form will be found under the headings ‘How to apply’->’In the UK’ on this page here

FLR M online application linkPaper forms should only be used if you are requesting a fee waiver for yourself or any dependent children that are applying with you.

step 10

Make sure you submit the right supporting documents – The FLR M document checklist for 2021

The good news is that the online application website, as you progress through the application, will provide you with a list of documents that can be submitted in the application.

However, the biggest mistake that partners make is to simply provide these documents without doing reading into Appendix FM 1.7. and Appendix FM-SE.

Not reading Appendix FM 1.7. and Appendix FM-SE before submitting your application is taking a huge and unnecessary risk for two reasons.

Reason 1 – The FLR(M) document checklist given to you on the online application website is not always comprehensive.

Since the document checklist is not an exhaustive list, in some instances, it will not list documents that will be required.

Additionally, it will not always list documents that should be submitted in order to have the strongest application possible.


Reason 2 – The FLR(M) document checklist given to you on the online application website does not inform you of the rules that apply specifically to certain documentation.

It is unfortunate that the Home Office have such strict rules regarding specific documents.

It is for this reason why we would strongly recommend reading Appendix FM 1.7 and Appendix FM-SE in detail.

“Can you tell me what documents I should submit based on my circumstances, as well as the specific rules that apply to the documents I have to submit?”

We do just this in our FLR(M) visa DIY application pack service.

With this service, we will provide you with a detailed document checklist (& set of letter templates that you can use) based on the information you provide us.

Our professionally written document checklist and letter templates are clear, comprehensive and have been relied on successfully in thousands of applications.

step 11

Pay the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS)

The Immigration Health Surcharge is a compulsory fee (i.e. this must be paid) and amounts to £1,560.

immigration health surcharge payment

 

step 12

Submit (& pay) for the FLR M application

After payment has been made, you will then be sent to the Sopra Steria website which will allow you to book your appointment to attend the visa centre in person.

For more information about this process, check out our article “UKVCAS / Sopra Steria Guidance [STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE FOR 2021]“.

At this visa centre appointment, you will provide your biometric information.

“How do I submit the supporting documents?”

There are two options.

Firstly, you can choose to upload the supporting documentation online, via the official website.

Secondly, you can choose to scan the supporting documents at the UK visa centre for an added fee.

Out of the two options, I’d recommend the second – scanning the supporting documents at the UK visa centre.

The reason for this is that the new online application website is still buggy and is often somewhat frustrating and stressful to use.


“Do we get to keep our original documents?”

Fortunately, yes.

Gone are the days that you have to lose possession of your original documents, which is a huge relief as the Home Office have been known to lose thousands of partner visa’s original documentation in the past.

Despite the fact that you will normally be able to keep your passports whilst the Home Office process the visa, the applicant in particular should avoid travelling as this may result in the FLR(M) application being withdrawn.


“How long will I need to wait to get a decision?

This depends on whether you choose to pay for the priority or the super priority service.

If you do opt for the standard service, you should expect to hear back from the Home Office within 6-8 weeks.

If you pay an extra £500 for the priority service, you will normally get a decision within 5 working days.

If you pay an extra £800 for the super priority service, the expected time frame depends on whether your visa centre appointment is on a weekday or weekend.

If your visa centre appointment is on a weekday (Monday-Friday), you should hear back from the home office by the end of the next working day.

If your visa centre appointment is on a weekend, you should hear back from the home office within 2 working days.


“What will happen after the visa appointment?”

Once a decision has been made, the Home Office will sometimes send you an email (to the same email you provided on the online application form).

Regardless of whether you get an email or not, you will get a decision letter in the post that will look something like this: 

page 1 FLR M decision letter

page 2 FLR M decision letter

page 3 FLR M decision letter

At or around the same time of receiving the decision letter, you will also probably receive a letter notifying you that your Biometric Residence Permit (which is essentially your visa on a purple plastic card) will normally be sent to you within 7-10 working days of the date of decision (which can be seen on the decision letter that was sent to you).

The standard BRP notification letter looks like this:

page 4 FLR M decision letter

page 5 FLR M decision letter



Frequently Asked Questions

What FLR(M) visa requirement causes the most difficulties?

It is the financial requirement that is the biggest cause of FLR(M) visa refusals. Because of this, you really must take the time to learn the relevant Immigration Rules as they apply to your application (our free guides will certainly help with this).

Is an immigration lawyer required to submit a FLR(M) visa application?

No – an immigration lawyer is not required. With this being said, you need to make sure that you are fully aware of the relevant FLR(M) visa requirements (which is discussed in detail on this website).

Is original supporting documentation required?

The good news is that recent changes in the Immigration Rules mean that original supporting documentation is not required for the majority of applications. Rather, you are perfectly able to submit copies of supporting documents in your application.

How are the supporting documents submitted?

There are normally several options that are presented to you. Most commonly, you will be able to choose to upload the documents via the online application website or use the Assisted Document Scanning service at one of the UK visa centres.

flr m grant

Need any help?

We hope you found our guide helpful!

If you would like an immigration advisor to help you with your case, from start to finish, we charge £1,850 for our full legal representation service.

If, on the other hand, you want to deal with your application yourselves, our DIY Application Pack Service is currently priced at £285.

uk spouse visa full legal representation

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