Updated 6 July 2021
I hope you and your family are safe and well in these rather unprecedented times.
This article will discuss the latest Home Office guidance regarding the COVID-19’s impact on the partner visa application process & Immigration Rules.
This article is discussed in three parts:
|Part 1 – Partner visa requirement FAQs|
|Part 2 – In-country partner visa application FAQs
|Part 3 – Out-of-country partner visa application FAQs
Partner Visa Requirement FAQs
#1 “I meet all of the partner visa requirements. How does the recent Home Office COVID guidance affect me?”
The recent COVID guidance does not affect your application if you meet the standard requirements.
Rather, the recent COVID guidance simply provides a greater degree of flexibility in specified limited situations.
For more information about the partner visa requirements, feel free to read the following visa guides:
- UK spouse visas (that are being submitted from outside the UK);
- FLR(M) visas (a spouse visa being submitted from inside the UK);
- UK fiancé(e) visas; and
- UK unmarried partner visas.
#2 “Will I still need to pass an English language test?”
As we make clear in our visa guides, there is an English language requirement that must be met.
This English language requirement can be met by one of several ways, including:
1) By being a national of a majority English speaking country
2) By being aged 65 or over at the date of application
3) By proving exemption from the English language test due to a physical or mental disability
4) By proving exemption due to ‘exceptional circumstances’
5) By having an academic degree from a UK university in the UK
6) By having an academic degree from a university outside the UK
7) By passing a Home Office approved Secure English Language Test (SELT) at an approved English language test centre.
Whilst English language test centres have already starting to open (with good test availability in the UK), the recent Home Office guidance states that:
Please note that this should not be read that you do not have to take an English language test simply due to COVID-19.
Rather, you need to ensure that you have checked that there are no available tests in the applicant’s country of residence.
Please check each of the following websites to check availability of the Home Office approved English language test providers:
- IELTS Life Skills test– Speaking and listening by IELTS SELT Consortium: https://www.ielts.org/book-a-test/find-a-test-location
- Graded Examinations in Spoken English (GESE) test by Trinity College London: https://seltbooking.trinitycollege.co.uk
- LanguageCert International ESOL SELT test by LanguageCert: https://www.languagecert.org
- Pearson PTE Home test by Pearson Education Ltd: https://pearsonpte.com
- Skills for English UKVI A1 test: https://skillsforenglish.com
#3 “I have been furloughed. Can I still meet the financial requirement?”
First, it is important to note that those who have been furloughed are still considered to be employed.
Therefore, this will not affect the length of employment, which is a consideration whether one would apply under Category A, B, F or G.
Second, the Home Office have recently said that:
Therefore, this means that:
- For those who have been furloughed and are in salaried employment, it is clear that the relevant financial period of 6 months under Category A can change from the 6 months prior to submitting the online application to the 6 months prior to being furloughed; and
- For those who have been furloughed, the Home Office caseworker will calculate the employment income as if the person was earning 100% of their ‘salary’.
However, due to the vague and limited wording of the recent Home Office guidance, there raises some questions, including:
“How does this affect those applying under Category B?”
This is still vague because of the inclusion of the wording in the Home Office guidance which states “provided the minimum income requirement was met for at least 6 months immediately before the date the income was lost”.
As we discuss in our spouse visa UK financial requirement article, the relevant financial period for Category B is based on 12 months, rather than 6.
In light of the above, and although it would be unlikely that those who are applying under Category B would be disadvantaged in such a situation, I’d recommend:
i) Emailing the COVID-19 helpline at [email protected] to get written clarification on how this provision affects the Category B calculation; and
ii) Including a copy of the email response (assuming that it supports your application) as supporting evidence.
#4 “I have recently lost my job. How does this affect the financial requirement?”
As we discuss in our spouse visa financial requirements for 2021 article, in order to include employment income under Category A or B, the person must be employed when the online application is submitted.
The recent Home Office guidance does not make it absolutely clear as to whether they will exercise leniency for those who have recently lost their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic, as it only states:
Whilst many will argue that a reasonable interpretation of this is that:
“if you have experienced a loss of income [due to losing your job during the COVID-19 pandemic], we will consider the period immediately before the loss of income due to coronavirus, provided the minimum income requirement was met for at least 6 months immediately before the date the income was lost”…
…it is frustrating that the Home Office guidance does not explicitly state this.
In light of this, you may decide to:
i) Email the COVID-19 helpline at [email protected] with your individual circumstances and see if you can get written confirmation that the provision applies to those who have lost their job due to COVID-19; and
ii) Include a copy of the email response (assuming it states that it is fine if employment was lost due to COVID-19) as supporting evidence in your application.
#5 “There has been a temporary loss of income due to coronavirus up to 31 October 2021. What does the recent Home Office guidance say about this?”
If this was due to COVID, this temporary loss of income will be disregarded as long as the financial requirement was met based on the 6 months immediately before the date the income was lost.
For a comprehensive overview of the financial requirements, check this article.
#6 “I am self-employed and have experienced a loss of income due to COVID-19?”
The recent Home Office guidance regarding this states:
As much as we would like to read the minds of every Home Office caseworker and how they would interpret this, this is far from clear.
This is unclear because the relevant financial period for those self-employed as a sole trader, as a partner or as a franchise AND those who receive employment and/or dividend income from a specified limited company’s relevant financial period is 12 months.
Accounts tend to reflect the whole 12-month period as a whole rather than segmenting the information into quarterly periods.
Therefore, from the standard documents submitted in support of the above sources of incomes, it will be unclear as to whether the income did drop between 1 March 2020 and 31 October 2021.
Whilst we are awaiting further clarification form the Home Office regarding this, one possible approach that you may like to consider is to ask an accountant to provide estimated figures for the period of lost income between 1 March 2020 and 31 October 2021, as well as an explanation as to how these figures were arrived at in a covering letter (whilst referencing the accounts submitted).
In any event, I would recommend:
i) Emailing the COVID-19 helpline at [email protected] with your individual circumstances and asking them what the best approach will be
ii) Adopt the approach suggest and include a copy of the email response as supporting evidence in your application
#7 “I’m having difficulty obtaining the required partner visa documents because of COVID-19?”
It has long been the case that the Home Office have adopted an incredibly strict stance that:
- Certain documents must be submitted (or applications faced being refused); and
- Certain documents must comply with document specific rules (or applications faced being refused.
Fortunately, the Home Office have recently stated that “evidential flexibility may be applied where an applicant or sponsor experiences difficulty accessing specified evidence due to COVID-19 restrictions”.
#8 “I want to speak to the Home Office about COVID-19 and my visa?”
If you have immigration queries related to the impact that coronavirus on your application, you have two options.
The first option is to email the Coronavirus Immigration Help Centre at [email protected]
Normally, email responses are made within 5 working days.
If you do email, the email must be in English.
The second option is to phone the help centre by calling 0800 678 1767.
The phoneline is open Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm.
If you call this number within the UK, the gov.uk website states that the call will be free of charge.
Calls to this number are free of charge within the UK.
Out of the two options, we would recommend emailing rather than phoning because of two reasons.
The first reason is that you will be able to submit a copy of the email response as supporting documentation in your application.
The second reason is that all emails and e-forms sent and received will be logged on the Home Office casework system.
In-country Partner Visa FAQs
#1 “When should I submit a partner visa application from inside the UK?”
If you want to apply for a partner visa (or extend your current partner visa), you should first seek to submit the application in accordance with the principles we discuss here.
#2 “Are UK visa centres now open?”
The vast majority of UK visa centres have now re-opened.
#3 “I have submitted the online application, but I am worried about my documents expiring?”
Fortunately, this is not a valid concern.
The relevant date that the documents must comply with is the date that the Home Office fees are paid on the online application – not the date at the visa centre appointment.
#4 “Will I have to attend a UK visa centre?”
If you have not been informed that you are eligible to use the UKVCAS Identity Verification (IDV) app (as is most likely), then yes, you will have to attend a UK visa centre.
On 24 September 2020, UKVCAS announced that the UKVCAS Identity Verification (IDV) app is only for use by Tier 4 students.
#5 “Can I apply for a FLR(M) visa if I am inside the UK on a UK visitor visa?”
The guidance now states that this is now not possible:
This is because there is no provision in the Immigration Rules for making an FLR(M) application whilst in the UK on a visitor visa (or leave as a non-visa national).
This is made even more clear in that the following paragraph was recently deleted from the gov.uk page:
Out-of-country Partner Visa FAQs
#1 “I have paid for the online application, but I cannot book an appointment?”
This is generally because of the temporary closure of some overseas centres.
If the visa centre that you are applying from is based in Europe, Africa and parts of the Middle east, your visa centre will most likely be serviced by TLS. Check this website and select the country for which you are applying from for updates.
If you are applying from anywhere else, your visa centre will likely be serviced by VFS. Check this website and select the country for which you are applying from for updates.
You should also check the appointment booking system every now and then to look for appointments.
#2 “Is there a change in how documentation is submitted?”
There have been no announcements regarding a change in the way that documents are submitted.
Therefore, the methods that we discuss here still apply.
#3 “Does the applicant have to attend the visa appointment?”
There have been no announcements regarding changes to the out-of-country visa application process yet.
Therefore, at this point in time, you should assume that the applicant will have to attend the visa appointment.
#4 “When will my visa centre open?”
It is not down to the Home Office when the overseas visa centres open – this completely depends on the local restrictions in that area.
If the visa centre that you are applying from Europe, Africa and parts of the Middle east, your visa centre will most likely be serviced by TLS. Check this website (after selecting the country that the applicant is submitting the application from) for updates.
If you are applying from anywhere else, your visa centre will likely be serviced by VFS. Check this website (after selecting the country that the applicant is submitting the application from) for updates.
If you are not sure if your visa centre is serviced by either TSL or VFS, check both websites as only one will list the country that you are applying from.
#5 “Will I get a 30-day or 90-day entry clearance vignette?”
We have seen that partners have recently been getting 90-day entry clearance vignettes.
This is a welcome change as this used to be 30 days.
Note: those granted a UK fiancé(e) visa are not granted entry clearance vignettes. They will be issued a 6-month fiancé(e) visa and will be expected to enter the UK during those 6 months.
#6 “What if I have been granted a 90 day entry clearance vignette but I am not able to travel to the UK in this time?”
Whilst it used to be the case that the Home Office offered replacement visas free of charge (until the end of 2020), they now state that a fee of £154 must be paid for a replacement.
The link for the online form can be found here.
#7 “What if I have not been able to collect by biometric residence permit?”
The Home Office have made it clear that those who are not able to collect their Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) will not be penalised while coronavirus measures are in place.
#8 “If I submit an application, what will the application processing time be?”
The spouse visa uk 2021 processing time is rather unpredictable at the moment. We are seeing that some standard partner visa applications are be processed within weeks whilst others are taking in excess of 3 months.
“What about the priority decision making service?”
We have seen that the optional priority decision making service is now available in some countries.
#9 “I want to make an out-of-country UK spouse visa application but the visa centres in my country are still closed. Can I arrange an appointment at a visa centre that is not my country of nationality or residence?”
If the visa centres in your country are still closed due to COVID-19, you will be able to book an overseas visa centre appointment in any country in the world.
At this visa centre appointment, you can submit both of your supporting evidence as well as biometrics.
There are a few important things to note about this, however.
i) Most obviously, the applicant will need to be able to enter that country.
Therefore, please ensure that the applicant will be able to satisfy the other country’s entry requirements.
ii) If the applicant wants to submit their application and biometrics at a visa centre that is not in their own country, this country must be selected at the start of the online UK spouse visa application.
If you have already submitted your online UK spouse visa application form (by paying the Home Office fees) but want to change the location of the visa centre appointment, you will need to:
i) Cancel your application;
ii) Request a refund of the Home Office fees; and then
iii) Submit a new application (if they want to take change the country where the visa centre appointment will take place).
Obviously, this changes the ‘date of application’ of the application, which will mean that your financial documents in particular will need to be renewed.
We hope that you found this article useful.
If you would like us to help you with you and your partner’s application, as an OISC registered immigration law firm, we provide a range of legal services.
Our most comprehensive service is full legal representation, where we will handle your case from start to finish. This service costs £1,850 and is handled by our Head of Immigration, Ed Lowe, who has more than many year’s experience working as a senior Home Office executive.
We also offer a DIY Application Pack service where we can provide you with an in-depth custom-tailored document checklist and letter templates. We are so confident, based on the results of our clients that this service, includes a 100% money-back guarantee.