Which Settlement or UK Partner Visa Is Best For Me?

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 want to know two things.

1. WHAT partner visa is best for you and your partner; and

2. HOW to get that visa (as quickly and as cheaply as possible).

This guide will help you with both – for free.

So let’s start!

Spouse visa DIY Application Pack

Lets first quickly talk about….

 “What are the different UK partner & settlement visas?”

 

Spouse visa

A UK spouse visa is a type of settlement visa that will allow you to join your husband or wife in the UK.

Your partner must be British or ‘settled’.


FLR M visa

An FLR M visa will allow you to extend your UK visa whilst already being in the UK.

Your partner must be a British citizen, or have Indefinite Leave to Remain or Permanent Residency.


Fiancé(e) visa

A Fiance visa UK will allow you to enter the UK for 6 months.

During this time, you will be expected to marry.

Your partner must be a British citizen, or have Indefinite Leave to Remain or Permanent Residency.


Unmarried partner visa

An unmarried partner visa will allow you to stay in the UK if you have been living with your partner (who is British or has Indefinite Leave to Remain or Permanent Residency) for two years.

This application can be made inside the UK or outside the UK.


Marriage visitor visa

A marriage visitor visa will allow you to enter the UK for 6 months. You will be expected to marry your partner during these 6 months.


Standard visitor visa

This is not a typical partner visa but this is something you can consider.

A standard visitor visa will normally allow you to enter the UK for 6 months.

This is not a long-term visa (you cannot extend your visa when you are inside the UK) and there will be many things you are not allowed to do.

united kingdom

“Do you want to apply inside or outside the UK?”

 

We want to apply INSIDE the UK

You can apply for:

  • An FLR M Visa

You cannot apply for:

  • A Fiancé(e) visa
  • A Marriage Visitor Visa
  • A Standard visitor Visa (not a typical partner visa but something you can consider)

We want to apply OUTSIDE the UK

You can apply for a:

  • Spouse visa
  • Fiancé(e) Visa
  • Marriage Visitor Visa
  • Standard visitor Visa

You cannot apply for:

  • An FLR M Visa

 

visa approved

“How do I get Indefinite Leave to Remain or Permanent residency?

If you want to race to Indefinite Leave to Remain as fast as possible, you should know which partner visas would be the fastest.

You should also know which do not lead to Indefinite Leave to Remain.


Spouse Visa (outside UK application)

A UK spouse visa can lead to Indefinite Leave to remain (ILR) after 5 years.

Typically, an applicant will apply for:

  • An out of country spouse visa (which will last for 33 months)
  • An FLR M visa (which will last for 30 months)
  • Indefinite Leave to Remain (SET M application)

FLR M visa (inside UK application)

A FLR M visa can lead to Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) after 5 years.

Typically, an applicant will apply for:

  • An FLR M application (which will last for 30 months)
  • A second FLR M application (which will last for another 30 months)
  • Indefinite Leave to Remain (SET M application)

Fiancé(e) visa

A fiancé visa can lead to Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) in a little over 5 years.

Typically, an applicant will apply for:

  • A fiancé(e) visa (which will last for 6 months)
  • A FLR M application (which will last for 30 months)
  • A second FLR M application (which will last for another 30 months)
  • Indefinite Leave to Remain (SET M application)

Unmarried partner visa

An unmarried partner visa can lead to Indefinite Leave to remain (ILR) after 5 years.

For those who apply outside the UK under the unmarried partner route, an applicant will generally apply for:

  • An out of country unmarried partner visa (which will last for 33 months)
  • A FLR M visa (which will last for 30 months)
  • Indefinite Leave to Remain (SET M application)

For those who apply inside the UK under the unmarried partner route, an applicant will generally apply for:

  • An FLR M visa (which will last for 30 months)
  • A second FLR M visa (which will last for 30 months)
  • Indefinite Leave to Remain (SET M application)

Marriage visitor visa

Time spent in the UK on a marriage visitor visa does NOT count towards the 5-year qualifying period for Indefinite Leave to Remain or Permanent Residency.


UK visitor visa

Time spent in the UK on a visitor visa does NOT count towards the 5-year qualifying period for Indefinite Leave to Remain or Permanent Residency.

Finances

“What are the partner visas’ financial requirements?

Let’s quickly have a look at the financial requirements for each of these visas:


Spouse visa UK (application made outside the UK)

  • UK partner to earn £18,600 annual income is generally required
  • £18,600 requirement can be lowered if you or your partner have substantial cash savings or if the UK partner receives a certain UK ‘permitted’ benefit.

FLR M visa (application made inside the UK)

  • £18,600 annual income is generally required
  • Income from the applicant and sponsor can usually be combined
  • £18,600 requirement can be lowered if you or your partner have substantial cash savings or if the UK partner receives a certain UK ‘permitted’ benefit.

Fiancé(e) Visa

  • UK partner to earn £18,600 annual income is generally required
  • £18,600 requirement can be lowered if you or your partner has substantial cash savings or if the UK partner receives a certain UK ‘permitted’ benefit.

Marriage visitor visa

  • You must show that you can support yourself without working or without help from UK benefits
  • You must show that you are able to pay the costs of the flights (including a return flight)
  • The UK partner can help with this – they can promise to support you with finances and accommodation
  • The Home Office do not provide specific figures as to how much money you need to show – common sense rules generally apply.

Unmarried partner visa

  • UK partner to earn £18,600 annual income is generally required
  • £18,600 requirement can be lowered if you or your partner have substantial cash savings or if the UK partner receives a certain UK ‘permitted’ benefit.

Spouse visa DIY Application Pack

partner visa uk fees

“How much are the partner visa fees?

Visa Home Office fee Immigration Health Surcharge Total
Spouse Visa (out of country) £1,523 £1,872 £3,395
FLR M £1,033 £1,560 £2,593
Fiancé visa

 

£1,523 0 £1,523
Unmarried partner visa (applying inside the UK) £1,033 £1,560 £2,593
Unmarried partner visa (applying outside the UK) £1,523 £1,872 £3,395
Marriage visitor visa £93 0 £93
UK Visitor visa £93 0 £93

Note regarding Fiancé(e) Visas

You have to bear in mind that the Fiancé(e) visa is only valid for 6 months.

Before the 6 month Fiancé(e) visa expires, you will have to extend the visa with a FLR M application.

The FLR M application fee will be £1,033 and it will be at this point that you will need to purchase the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) for £1,560.

Therefore, the total will be £4,116 (£1,523 for the Fiancé(e) visa. £2,593 for the FLR M visa).

calculating visa fees

“How much does it cost to get Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) & British Citizenship via the partner visa route?

The below figures are based on the current Home Office fee and Immigration Health Surcharge figures only.

As we discuss in our 2020 spouse visa uk fees article, there are some other costs that partners initially overlook.

Therefore the actual figure is likely to be higher.

Partner visa route Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) British Citizenship
Spouse visa (first application submitted from outside the UK) £8,377 £9,707
Spouse visa (first application submitted from inside the UK) £7,575 £8,905
Fiancé(e) visa £9,900 £11,230
Unmarried partner visa (first application submitted from outside the UK) £8,377 £9,707
Unmarried partner visa (first application submitted from inside the UK) £7,575 £8,905
Marriage visitor visa N/A – A marriage visitor visa does not lead to Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) or British Citizenship N/A
Standard visitor visa N/A – A marriage visitor visa does not lead to Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) or British Citizenship N/A

 

intention to live in the uk

“Do you and your partner intend to make the UK your permanent home?

Yes. We intend to make the UK our permanent home

The following are suitable visas for you:

  • Spouse Visa (if you want to apply outsidethe UK)
  • FLR M (if you want to apply insidethe UK)
  • Fiancé(e) Visa
  • Unmarried partner Visa

A marriage visitor visa is probably not the best visa for you, because:

  • It only lasts for up to 6 months
  • You will have to return back to your home country before the 6 months
  • You will not be able to extend your visa in the UK

A UK standard visitor visa, if you can put together a strong application, may be a good idea in some situations, such as:

  • You want to experience life in the UK before committing to things such as getting married or committing to spending thousands of pounds on a UK settlement visa
  • You do not currently meet the requirements for a spouse visa
  • You would just like a 6 month break in the UK

No. We do not intend to make the UK our permanent home

The following visas are not suitable for you because they have a requirement of you intending to make the UK your permanent home:

  • Spouse Visa (if you want to apply outside the UK)
  • FLR M (if you want to apply inside the UK)
  • Fiancé(e) Visa
  • Unmarried partner Visa

As stated a few paragraphs above, a marriage visitor visa or UK standard visitor visa may be good choices.


“Do you want to work?

The following partner visas allows you to work in the UK:

  • Spouse visa UK (if you want to apply outside the UK)
  • FLR M (if you want to apply inside the UK)
  • Unmarried partner Visa

The following partner visas would not allow you to work in the UK:

  • Fiancé(e) Visa
  • Standard visitor Visa (this is not a typical partner visa but something you can consider)
  • Marriage Visitor Visa

For those considering the Fiancé(e) visa route, note that a Fiancé(e) visa does not allow you to work in the UK.

However, once you extend your UK visa into a FLR M visa, you will be able to work.

questions

“What is your English language ability?

If your English language ability is at a beginners level, you may find it difficult to meet some partner visa English language requirements.

Spouse visa UK (if you want to apply outside the UK)

The current English language requirement for spouse visas (if you apply outside the UK) is a minimum of A1 level of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR).

This text must be taken at an approved Home Office test centre and the test must be of a kind that is specifically approved by the Home Office.

Some people however are exempt from the English language test. For more information, click here.

Note: If you go down this route, you will have to extend your UK visa before your visa expires (after 33 months).

You will then have to pass an English language test at A2 level in order to do this.

For this reason, it is generally recommended for those who are able to do so to sit the A2 (or even B1 for British citizenship) English language test when they apply for an out of country spouse visa, as this will save you time and money (only if you pass of course!).

When the time comes to extend your visa (after 33 months), you will be able to use the same certificate to meet the requirement.


FLR M (if you want to apply inside the UK)

The current English language requirement for spouse visas (if you apply inside the UK) is a minimum of A2 level of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR).

This is slightly higher level than if you applied for a spouse visa outside the UK.

This text must be taken at an approved Home Office test centre and the test must be of a kind that is specifically approved by the Home Office. For more information, click here.


Fiancé(e) Visa

The current English language requirement for fiancé(e) is a minimum of A1 level of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR).

Since, however, you will have to make a FLR M application within 6 months of being in the UK in order to extend your visa, it is generally recommended to take the A2 level English test to save you time and money.

When the time comes to extend your visa (within 6 months), you will be able to use the same A2 certificate to meet the requirement.

This text must be taken at an approved Home Office test centre and the test must be of a kind that is specifically approved by the Home Office.

Some people however are exempt from the English language test.


Marriage Visitor Visa

Unlike other partner visas, there is no English requirement for a marriage visitor visa.


Unmarried partner Visa

The English language requirement for unmarried partner visas depends on whether you are making an unmarried partner application inside or outside the UK.

If you are making the application inside the UK, the English language requirement will be at A2 level, although some people are exempt from this.

If, you are making the application outside the UK, the English language requirement will be at A1 level.

If you make the unmarried partner application outside the UK, it is generally advised to take the A2 level test, as this can be re-used when you renew your UK visa after 33 months.


Standard visitor Visa

There is no English language requirement for a UK standard visitor visa. Woohoo!

tuberculosis requirement

“Is it easy for you to take a Tuberculosis Test?

Tuberculosis is a terrible infectious disease that generally affects the lungs.

Since it is highly contagious, some partner visas require you to prove that you do not have it.

This may be a consideration because for some people, it is really difficult to get a tuberculosis certificate for reasons of practicality.

This is because Tuberculosis tests have to be taken at a Home Office approved clinic, and these clinics for some are difficult and costly to go to.


If you are from any of these listed countries, you will generally have to get a tuberculosis (TB) test if you are applying for one of the following visas:

  • Spouse visa UK (if you want to apply outside the UK)
  • Fiancé(e) Visa
  • Unmarried partner Visa (if you apply outside the UK)

You will generally not have to get a tuberculosis (TB) test if you are applying for any one of the following visas:

  • FLR M Visa
  • Unmarried partner Visa (if you apply inside the UK only)
  • Marriage Visitor Visa
  • Standard visitor Visa

“Should I risk applying for a UK visitor visa?

We have noticed that applicants who have already been refused a UK visa find it more difficult to be granted UK visas after the refusals.

This is therefore very important to bear in mind when you think about submitting a standard UK visitor visa application instead of a partner visa.


We always stress two main points:

  1. Do NOT make a visa application unless you have confidence that it is likely to succeed
  2. If you do decide to submit a second application after being refused, you SHOULD address the refusal reasons in the new application.



Case study/Example:

Jack and Palinee want to be together in the UK. What is the best visa route for him?

  • Jack is a UK national.
  • Jack met his Thai girlfriend, Palinee, 2 years ago when he was on holiday in Thailand. They are in a genuine relationship.
  • Palinee is 23 years old, has no job and has no family in Thailand.
  • Palinee has never applied for a UK visa before.



OPTION 1: Apply for a standard UK visitor visa

Likelihood of successful visa: LOW-MEDIUM

Since Palinee is a young woman who has a lack of ties to her home country of Thailand, her risk of a UK standard visitor visa refusal is relatively high.

If Palinee’s visa is refused, any UK visas applied for after the refusal may be more difficult to obtain.


OPTION 2: Apply for a Fiancée visa/Spouse Visa

Likelihood of successful visa: HIGH

Providing Jack puts together a well-organised application that meets all of the requirements, the likelihood of success should be high.

The emphasis in this kind of case is usually placed on the relationship evidence – does the application include several photos & statements from friends and family, for example?

If, however, Palinee first applied for a UK visitor visa and was refused, the likelihood in reality will be lower.


OPTION 3: Apply for a UK marriage visitor visa

Likelihood of success: MEDIUM

The likelihood of success here will potentially be higher than if Palinee applied for a standard visitor visa.

With this being said, this is entirely dependant on the relationship evidence that they put together.

Simply put, Palinee will have to persuade the Home Office that Palinee will return to her home country before her visa expires (after marrying) and that the Marriage visitor visa has not been made just so she can hide in the UK and overstay her visa (sad, but this is how the Home Office thinks!).

partner visa relationship requirement

“Would it be easier if we get married?

 

In some ways, the answer to this is yes.

For instance, if you are applying as an unmarried partner instead of as a married partner, there will be a lot more documents that you will need to submit.

For a spouse visa application, a marriage (or civil partnership) certificate, combined with relationship supporting documents (like photos & chat logs) is usually enough to show that you are in a genuine relationship.

However, for unmarried partners, not only must they submit these relationship supporting documents, they must also submit documents that they have been living together ‘akin to a marriage or civil partnership’ for two years before the application.

With all being said, with a good set of supporting documents and well put together application, there should not be much to worry about.


“How will previous UK visa refusals affect my partner or settlement visa application?

This depends. If you were previously refused for the same kind of visa you are applying for, then yes, it will likely be more difficult.

This is because applicants who have previously been refused tend to face much more scrutiny in their subsequent applications and decisions often seem to be more harsh.

So, if you have been refused before, what should you do?

The answer to this is two-fold:

  • Make sure that you have put together a really strong application; and
  • Write about your previous refusal in a covering letter and explain that that refusal reason does not apply to your current application.

partner visa documents

“What are some things I should know about partner visa documents?

The documents required for the different partner visa documents will be different, but a few very important rules apply to all of them. They are:

Documents that you submit must no longer be originals

It used to be the case that the Home Office asked for originals of many of the important documents (such as marriage certificates & payslips).

However, since November of 2018, this is no longer the case – generally speaking, at least.


Documents not in English or Welsh must be translated

When documents are not in English or Welsh, you must get a translator to translate the document.

You must then submit the document and the full translation that also includes:

  • The translator’s credentials,
  • The date and
  • The translator’s signature, and
  • A confirmation that the translation is an accurate translation.

“What are the partner visa UK application forms called?

The partner visa application forms are different depending on the type of visa you decide to apply for.

Spouse Visa (applying outside the UK)

The spouse visa UK online application form in 2020 is submitted online. In this article, we discuss how you can ensure that you use the latest application form.


FLR M (applying for a spouse visa inside the UK)

The Home Office have done away with the old 100~ page FLR(M) form. The application form is now online. Click here if you would like to find out which form you should use.


Fiancé(e) visa

The UK fiancé(e) visa application form, for the vast majority of applicants, is an online application.


Unmarried partner visa (applying outside the UK)

The UK unmarried partner visa application is submitted online. In this article, we discuss how you can ensure that you use the latest application form.


Unmarried partner visa (applying inside the UK)

The application form is now online. Click here if you would like to find out which form you should use.


Standard Visitor Visa

The UK visitor visa application form is an online application, as we discuss here.


Conclusion

So, what partner or settlement visa sounds best for you?

For more information on specific visas, check out our visa guides:

 

Want some help?

We are fully qualified and experienced OISC regulated immigration advisors that process partner visas for a living.

If you would like us to deal with your partner case from start to finish, we offer Full Legal Representation for a fixed fee of £1,850.

For those who want to receive a custom tailored document checklist and letter templates for £285, our DIY Application Pack Service may be perfect for you.

Spouse visa DIY Application Pack

 

 

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